This is the third CD that James Grace has released under his own label, Stringwise Records. Each of his releases focuses on a different aspect of the guitar repertoire, giving them an added advantage for lovers of guitar music. The first, Granada, concentrates on the music of Spain. The second, Portrait, is a somewhat more ‘serious’ recital programme, while his latest, Café Latino, is a delightful, relaxed and exotic journey through the music of Latin American composers from Cuba, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I settled down to listen to Café Latino, but imagine my surprise when I discovered some enchanting and irresistible music, which creates an exotic atmosphere, yet which seems rooted in the comfortable harmonic world of the romantic period. In fact, I’ve made some delightful discoveries listening to this new CD.

As with his previous two CDs, James Grace has achieved not only a sophisticated sound, courtesy of his recording engineer Duncan Mackay, but the entire package is elegant, with superb photography, design and sleeve notes. All credit to James for his meticulous personal control of all these aspects of Stringwise Records.

Music lovers are well aware of the musical and technical attributes with which James is blessed and these are very apparent in his playing on this album, which is sensitive, colourful, and elegantly phrased. It as a joy to listen to and I gather plans are already afoot for a fourth CD.
James Grace – Portrait

‘… This CD is one that demands the attention of the listener and, in the process, one is drawn into music making of the highest caliber.

‘The classical guitar is an instrument with an intensely intimate character, and if you have ever been to a recital given by Grace you will have noticed that he directs all his attention towards his instrument. From the moment he walks on stage, holding the guitar in a prominent position, to when he sits down to play, head bent down towards the guitar, he draws us into a world of sound, colour and concentration which, after all, a solo recital should be all about.

Those characteristics are apparent in the sound world created on his new CD. One senses that one is part of an intimate musical experience and that one must listen, rather than hear. Grace has opted for a closely recorded sound, as though he is in the room with you. On any other instrument, this could be a disaster. On Portrait, the effect is to concentrate the mind on the music.

The programme is pleasantly contrasted – from the exotic, colourful sound world of Pujol to the familiar territory of the Five Preludes by Villa – Lobos. Giuliani’s important Eroica Sonata receives a performance of character and technical flair, while James’s own arrangement of a Bach fugue astonishes with its contrapuntal richness.

The presentation of the CD is as elegant as the music making. Beautiful artwork distinguishes the cover and booklet in an uncluttered style. Praise must go to Duncan Mackay, the recording engineer for having produced such a warm and detailed music picture.

All in all, this is thoroughly enjoyable new CD from one of the country’s favourite artists.’

Written by : Bryn Hunter

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