03 June 2017 (released)
16 November 2017
As November slips into its latter half and winter bites at our heels, the time comes to curl up in the warmth of the home with hot drinks and still, pensive music. The rain (or snow depending on your location) sets in and there is a quiet that returns to life. For myself, it invokes fond memories of waking up early in my grandmother's house in a tiny mountain town, high up in the Rockies. We'd clamour from our heavily blanketed beds to light the wood stove to heat the home for the family for the rest of the day. We'd have toast with incredible homemade raspberry jam and listen to amazing classical pieces on the CBC. Outside, the sharp mountain air and wall of snow were daunting but inside we had all we needed. They seemed to rarely play full symphonies and seldom quartets. The solo pieces seemed to perfectly reflect the calm and remoteness of those memorable winter mornings.
Though released earlier this year in June, Steven Allen Gordon's All Over the Map seems perfectly suited to these hibernating months. Gordon trades off between viola (his lifelong main instrument) and guitar, both steel and nylon string with an astonishing ease. As one would expect he knows the viola inside and out but when he switches over to the six-string, he fully adopts the personality of the instrument, not shying away from bends of the steel string or beautiful ringing harmonics on the nylon.
The first half of the album is dominated by the 5 movements of Bach's 'Suite in D Minor for Solo Viola (Originally for Cello)' which Gordon tackles with the precision and vigour becoming of a seasoned veteran who has worked with all of contemporary classical's heavy hitters. What sets this album apart and lifts it out of being simply an exposition of playing studies are the passionately executed guitar sections. The moaning bends on 'Breaking Point' juxtaposed with the free-flowing undercurrent make this song a definite highlight. Showing off his dexterity with the classical guitar as well, Gordon takes Heitor Villa-Lobos' 'Prelude in E Minor' and makes it sing with gorgeous chiming harmonics and an ocean wave like delivery.
All Over the Map shows a musician very much at the top of his game, taking the time to play around for fun, exploring new instruments and textures to create a sonically stunning piece. We have a long way to go to make it through this winter but with this warming, pensive record, it may just be the stuff of memories.