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California Guitar Trio brings six-string chemistry to Yoshi's

California Guitar Trio
California Guitar Trio
California Guitar Trio

There is nothing particularly novel in hearing a musician speak of the chemistry that exists among members of his current group. From the classiest chamber ensemble to the angriest punk band, such emotional and musical connections are essential.
That said, it's hard not to be impressed when Bert Lams speaks of the California Guitar Trio's chemistry. Geography provides part of the reason, seeing as how the musicians hail from three distinct continents and cultures.
"That makes for an interesting chemistry and different influences that naturally tie into the music," the Belgian-born Lams told me in an interview a few years back. "Yet one of the elements that brought us together at the same time was our common love of classical music and classical arrangements."
From that background, the trio – Tokyo guitarist Hideyo Moriya and Salt Lake City's Paul Richards round out the lineup – has found an international audience for an acoustic sound that touches on everything from jazz and classical to contemporary pop.
The California Guitar Trio performs Wednesday at Yoshi's in Oakland.
The band’s latest album, “Masterworks” (2012), features legendary bassist Tony Levin on three tracks along with guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque on an arrangement of Vivaldi's “Winter.”
Lams, Moriya and Richards first met Levin – and each other – during the four years they spent in Seattle in the 1980s as part of King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists. When Fripp disbanded the collective, he encouraged his student-musicians to form their own groups. Lams, Moriya and Richards took him up on the idea.
"We pretty much stayed for a long period of time (in Seattle) and that was really our strong foundation," Lams told me. "We had no reputation but from one thing came another."
The trio released its debut album, "Yamanashi Blues," in 1993 and the years since have seen them issue both studio efforts ("Invitation," "Pathways," a holiday disc) and live shows (including a two-CD set from the Great American Music Hall). Lams noted that when it comes to performances, on-stage chemistry is only half the equation.
"A lot of it depends on the energy of the audience," he said. "We never know what to expect."

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