Simon Thacker’s Ritmata

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (music): Simon Thacker’s Ritmata at Summerhall(Venue 26). Review by Jim Gilchrist.

You could call it soul music, though not in any conventional sense. As eclectically-inclined classical guitarist Simon Thacker explained, the aim of his Ritmata quartet is to take music from various parts of the globe, strip it down to essentials and render it new, sometimes echoing ancestral beliefs and emotions. This they do with surprising, often spectacular, results.

Take, for instance, the two 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria, devotional songs from a Spanish-Moorish world which in itself was cross-cultural, reflected by Ritmata’s genre-bashing approach, which saw the first cantiga delivered with percussive punch, but with guitar and piano still carrying the liturgical line, and with a degree of polyphonic harmony, while the second was informed by Thacker’s interest in Indian music, with its ruminative solo guitar prelude in the manner of the alap which opens a raga.

Part of the Fringe’s Made in Scotland showcase, Ritmata sees the classical guitarist in the company of three highly regarded Scottish-based jazz musicians; pianist Paul Harrison, Mario Caribe on double bass and Stu Brown on drums. It’s an unusual combination but an impressively tight one, as demonstrated by lighting unison runs on guitar, keyboard and bass in the second cantiga, or in the concert’s newest piece, the powerful Asuramaya, which drew on south Indian rhythms and which saw further cascades of piano and guitar between explosively slamming chords.

The breathless whirl of an Azerbaijani folk song provided another opportunity for Brown to let rip on drums, while Roberto Baden Powell’s Afro-samba Berimbau brought things to an infectiously rhythmic conclusion, with Harrison cutting loose on piano and Thacker imitating the Brazilian percussion instrument of the title apparently without serious injury to his guitar.

Until 23 August. 21 August 9:30pm, more info.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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