Paola Angeli

AnNa RER OA10/ALU 25

By Ken Waxman

A combination technician and savant, Paola Angeli is a Sardinian guitar virtuoso, the qualities of which he demonstrates on the 25 selections of this live two-CD set. Cello-size, with an extra bridge, pedal-operated hammers, additional criss-crossed strings plus pick-ups, his guitar is tuned from one-fourth or one-fifth below standard. With strings picked or bowed, the instrument can sound like a six- or 12-string guitar, amplified or acoustic, a balalaika or a double bass. Angeli’s facility is such that it often appears as if two guitarists are playing, feeding lines to one another. He also vocalizes at points, although his Mediterranean-Maghreb falsetto is more like another guitar add-on than a foreground trope.

Pizzicato, as on “Brida” he plays straight-ahead licks until buzzing variations and shading suggest he’s become an entire string band. Meanwhile his finger-picking on “S’Û” is so intricate, that after echoing two different lines, he slashes out arena-rock-like flanges before settling into calming tonality. Arco, as on “Baska”, he moves between lyrical violin-like sweeps to a chunky double-bass-style ostinato.

While other tracks have him take on the guise of a rural Appalachian picker (“Vlira”) or a Middle Eastern European dance orchestra player (“Primavera Araba”), his most profound showcase is a track like “Mascaratu”. Outputting melody and accompaniment simultaneously he leaps from Spanish-styled rasgueado to near-psychedelic pseudo-feedback, until the performance climaxes with clean “Reveille”-like strumming. Recorded at 12 concerts in six countries, Talea aptly defines Angeli’s talent and appeal.

-For The Whole Note February 2018