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Guitar Duo by the La Vita-Williams is the debut recording by Bret Williams and Giacomo La Vita. Based in New York City, the duo specializes in compositions from Argentina, Spain, and other Latin countries.

Review by J. André Foisy

Guitar Duo by the La Vita-Williams is the debut recording by Bret Williams and Giacomo La Vita. Based in New York City, the duo specializes in compositions from Argentina, Spain, and other Latin countries. The presentation of the album did not indicate to me that this cd would pique my interest. Like many other recent classical guitar cds, the packaging was rather quotidian: a picture of the duo on the back of the cd with the track listing and, on the front, an image of a painting with the album information juxtaposed over the top. Despite the packaging, when this cd finally made it to my player, I was immediately taken with the energy of the compositions, the beautiful harmonies, the tasteful application of dynamic guitar techniques, and the energetic interplay of two expert guitarists playing fervently.

Lay listeners will find it difficult to believe that La Vita-Williams are able to produce such a range of sounds from just two guitars. The duo tricks the listener by employing varied techniques smoothly. The duo starts the cd strongly with Danza Espanola by Manuel de Falla. On this track, the two guitarists effortlessly create smooth, interesting melodies by taking full advantage of the range of natural tones that the guitar will produce. The speedy use of right hand harmonics in fast melody lines brings life to the melodies. On the second track, Jobiniana No1 by Sergio Assad, the duo mellifluously spits atmospheric harmonies at the listener while continuously trading melody lines between the two guitars.

The strongest aspect of this recording is the way that La Vita and Williams play off of each other. I find no times on this cd that either guitarist seems too overpowering. The third track, the first movement of a tango suite titled Deciso by Astor Piazzolla, begins with one guitar highlighting the melody while the other guitar utilizes the golpe technique—a technique often used by flamenco guitarists whereby the guitarist taps on the guitar—to function as percussion. Such instances demonstrate that the true magic of making an efficacious melody does not merely rest in the hands of the instrument playing the melody. Rather, La Vita Williams show that the rhythm instrument is just as important as the melody instrument in creating beauty in music. They bring out the emotion of a melody largely by utilizing the rhythm instrument to emphasize peaks and troughs in the melody guitar’s playing. Often some of the most interesting sounds on the cd are the most subtle. The eighth track, Isaac Albeniz’s Cadiz is a great example. On this composition, some of the most effective sounds are the quick flurries of notes accenting the melody in the background. La Vita Williams’ mastery of the rhythm instrument enables the listener to continually discover new sounds each time they listen to the cd.

It is apparent from this recording that La Vita-Williams enjoy playing and, more importantly, selflessly play with each other, resulting in an overall virtuosity and a magnificent cd. It is obvious that La Vita-Williams put a great amount of work and emotion into the music on their cd. It would benefit such musicians to put more work into their cd layout and packaging since their music would most surely make it into listeners’ cd players more quickly. That is not to say that packaging has to be expensive to be effective. However, I do find it contradictory that many classical musicians put so much effort and emotion into the music while so little time, effort, and emotion into the actual visual presentation of their music. La Vita-Williams are not alone in this aspect. Regardless of this one picayune critique, this offering from La Vita-Williams is a true work of aural beauty that I suggest to both fans of classical guitar and fans of Latin classical music. These songs are vibrant and powerful on cd and I suspect that they would be even better in a live setting. The duo has an active summer performing schedule and I suggest attending one of their performances if they are in your area. This cd is available for purchase on the band’s myspace page: