The guitar
Häpna H.3

Creating something different — not to mention memorable — with the world's most popular instrument, the guitar, often seems as unlikely as winning the national lottery. Yet young Swedish guitarist David Stackenäs has done so on this short, cunningly enigmatic disc.

Part of the Derek Bailey-inspired, non-vernacular school, Stackenäs, who concentrates on the acoustic axe here, unmistakably rejects both rock-inflected electric fusion bombast and the buoyant, swinging 4/4 pulse, both common jazz strategies: He'll never be mistaken for Pat Metheny or Jim Hall in a blindfold test. At the same time, he's unlike other microtonal string players who are so concerned with avoiding convention that they rarely hit the strings dead on or play two similar pitches one after another. Their work can sometimes be akin to observing colonic microsurgery, all consuming for the participants, but less than thrilling to view or hear.

Stackenäs sees — hears — the guitar differently. With a tough, consistent attack, he comes up with constantly flowing notes and tones. Often he'll concentrate on the highest sounds while weaving a countermelody with the lower strings. Probably realizing the listeners' patience limitations, he casts most of the tunes at a brisker pace than mid-tempo and doesn't get around to experimenting with singles notes and repetition until the final track. Occasionally, too, he'll use other parts of the instrument for percussive effects for some added zest.

One-third of the Scandinavian Improv group, TRI-DIM, and someone who has worked with the likes of British bass master Barry Guy as well as part of Swedish reed whiz Mats Gustafsson's larger projects, he's certainly smart enough to fashion an engrossing solo recital.

Confined for the most part to working in Europe, this six-string presentation will hopefully extend his reputation still further. It also makes one yearn to hear how he interacts with other exploratory players.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Plect-plucked 2. Nüsnose 3. Santa Coloma 4. Once around 5. Bauldi 6. Salbastia 7. The guitar 8. Hallo guitar 9. Zeromountain

Personnel: David Stackenäs (acoustic guitars)