Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Robert Fripp & The League Of The Crafty Guitarists - 1986 "Live!"

Guitar Craft (GC) was a series of guitar and personal-development classes, founded and often presented by Robert Fripp, who is best known for his work with the rock band King Crimson. Guitar Craft courses introduced students to the New Standard Tuning and ergonomic playing with the plectrum (pick), often using steel-stringed, acoustic, shallow-body guitars from the Ovation Guitar Company.
By 2011 three-thousand students had completed the courses. Students who continue to practice Guitar Craft playing have been called "crafties". Notable crafties include Trey Gunn and the California Guitar Trio (all four of whom, with Fripp, constituted The Robert Fripp String Quintet) and Markus Reuter. Crafties have recorded several albums under the name of "Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists", for example.
After 25 years, the Guitar Craft movement transformed its activities into Guitar Circles, which offer introductory courses and performances in Europe and the Americas. Guitar Circles meet in many cities; in particular, Seattle's Guitar Circle meets for practices and performances and also sponsors a school.

A guitar teacher, Fripp assembled this group of seventeen acoustic guitar players from his students and played shows doing his instrumentals. It takes that many guitars, playing the same parts, to recreate the volume, sustain, and fullness Fripp usually gets by using a couple of electric guitars himself (and there's also some electric music to prove that point). But the tone achieved by the acoustics is unique and as tense as Fripp's music usually is, this record is also surprisingly vibrant.

The League of Crafty Guitarists is a group which includes players from all over the world.
The group performs on acoustic steel string guitars tuned in Guitar Craft Tuning, which extends the sonic range of the traditional guitar tuning.
Its repertoire is constantly evolving and is open to all styles. The music remains true to a common conceptual approach, and includes a rich variety of original compositions. A characteristic and outstanding part of the repertoire are improvised and/or written group compositions, known as Circulations.
The LCG was founded in 1986 under the direction of Robert Fripp and toured worldwide until 1991. During this first period of activity several albums were released: “Live 1″, “Get Crafty”, “Live 2 – Live At The Victoriaville Festival”, “Show Of Hands” , “Live 3 – Intergalactic Boogie Express”.
The LCG returned to live performance in January 2002 under the direction of Hernan Nunez, and has toured Europe and Latin America since then. The release of a live album featuring the highlights of these tours is now in process.
Robert Fripp Soundscapes & The LCG toured Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and the US between June 2006 and August 2009.
The RF & The LCG albums “Live At The Bottom Line, NYC, 1990″ and “Live in Argentina 2007′ were released by DGM Records in 2010 and 2012.
The group performed in Argentina in April 2015 with the ‘Compañia De Danza Lucia and Valentina Fusari’ at Teatro Independencia, Mendoza, and is now preparing for a tour of Chile in November.

"The League of Crafty Guitarists Live" is the culmination of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft program. In these unorthodox classes, guitar experience wasn't even a prerequisite and some of the techniques pertained to housework and relaxation. After working with his students, Fripp took the group out on tour. While performed by a large group, the League of Crafty Guitarists enjoys that signature Robert Fripp sound. Most of the compositions are classically inspired guitar pieces. The challenging arrangements are mostly acoustic. Some of the songs feature blinding speed and six stringed accuracy. Others pieces create a dark and relaxed avant-garde soundscape. This group is significant in that it spawned a Guitar Craft movement. After the League had taken its course, Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya took this project to the next level and formed the California Guitar Trio. Newbies should check out "An Opening Act: On Tour With King Crimson." All in all, "The League of Crafty Guitarists Live" delivers a listen that is equally intelligent and enjoyable.

I bought this CD when it came out and still listen to it 3-4 times a year. The large guitar ensamble sounds great. The arrangements are simple, and that's appropriate for the unique recording situation -- not only was the recording a surprise but the concert itself. As a result, there's an urgency to the recording that keeps it fresh. Using a guitar class to render a cycle of songs was a risky move that allowed Fripp to also demonstrate the technique and tuning he developed and was advocating.

Superficially, background music. But only superficially. It might have something to do with some wiring in the background of the brain. Do all the flavors picked up by your tongue register at the tip? If you want to argue about it, in another way, think of Mozart, his mission, and the way he went about filling it. We now pretend that no good music is background music, but that means pretending there is no background.

I haven't counted the guitars. I would have said there were too many, if I hadn't actually heard the result. John McLaughlin would produce a mediocre result with six, in his Bill Evans album. Robert Fripp has used a large number, preposterously large, and not only gotten away with it, but done something memorable.

For those who started following Robert Fripp with King Crimson, the League of CG is a necessary part of the picture. An easier part than the soundscapes, and perhaps a necessary part of the preparation for them.

Tracks Listing

1. Guitar Craft Theme I: Invocation (5:18)
2. Tight Muscle Party At Love Beach (1:22)
3. The Chords That Bind (1:43)
4. Guitar Craft Theme III: Eye of the Needle (2:20)
5. All Or Nothing II (3:59)
6. Guitar Craft Theme II: Aspiration (3:58)
7. All Or Nothing I (4:44)
8. Circulation (3:54)
9. A Fearful Symmetry (3:24)
10. The New World (9:55)
11. Crafty March (3:15)

Total Time: 43:52

Personnel:

Acoustic Guitar: Robert Fripp, Andrew Essex, Bryan Helm, Claude Gillet, Curt Golden, Danny Howes, David Mazza, James Hines III, John Durso, John Miley, John Novak, Jon Diaz, Mark Tomacci, Mike Gorman (3), Roy Capellaro, Terry Blankenship, Tony Geballe, Trey Gunn

Artwork [Cover Photograph Of Robert Fripp] – Richard Haughton
Artwork [Photograph Of The Lcg At George Washington University] – Toyah Willcox
Cover – Bill Smith Studio

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