Bert Lams & Tom Griesgraber Unravel 18 String Contrapuntal Conundrums
Written by John Diliberto, August 29, 2016
It’s a meeting of strings past and present when Tom Griesgraber & Bert Lams mount the stage. Bert Lams is best known as one third of the three-headed guitarist, The California Guitar Trio. He plays an instrument whose essential form dates back centuries. Griesgraber plays the Chapman Stick, an instrument whose ancestry began about 5 decades ago. Both artists are jacked in with loops and electronic processing that alters their sound.
At their August 27th show at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square, PA, they played most of their impressionistic album, Unnamed Lands. Sometimes they played relatively “straight” string timbres with little processing. The interwoven lines of tracks like “Don’t Look Back” revealed a grace and elegance that can’t be overstated. But they could crank it out as they did on “Unearthly Scream”, which they realize with Lams playing a Hendrix-like solo of distorted “acoustic” guitar while Griesgraber tapped searing ebow-like sustained leads. The California Guitar Trio often sounds like one super-guitarist, but Lams & Griesgraber, even without loops, sound like a bigger group, between Griesgraber’s 10 fingered tapping on this 12 strings and Lams’ classical finger-style approach.
Some pieces tracks sound like a Renaissance ensemble sent through a time warp, while others are epic journey’s, full of the twists and surprises. The joyfulness of “Pacific”, the closing track of the Conestoga trek that inspired Unnamed Lands, is palpable..
Tom Griesgraber & Bert Lams create a beautiful, post-modern chamber music. It’s a rarefied sound that entrances with it’s technical virtuosity and emotional depth.