Album: ANDREW McKENNA LEE – Gravity and Air (New Amsterdam NWAM013 2009)


Andrew McKenna Lee is a classical guitarist and composer from Charleston, South Carolina. His works have been performed by ensembles such as the New Jersey Symphony and the Brentano String Quartet, but Gravity and Air also highlights his skills as a performer. Nine of the ten tracks on the album are solo guitar pieces, and it can be split into three very distinct parts.

The first six tracks are variations of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude for Lute in D Minor, BWV 999”. The first is a straight rendition, whereas the following five are “refractions” that use the compositional and harmonic structure of the original as a launchpad. These range from the flamenco-tinged “Variation”, to the brilliantly moody “Fantasy” and the placid and evocative “Nocturne”.

The final trio of pieces comprise the Scordatura Suite – scordatura being the Italian for mistuning. Each uses a different, unorthodox tuning that gives it a dissonant quality. The method is similar to that sometimes used by Sonic Youth, although McKenna Lee is not so reliant on the use of discordant chords (can you have discordant chords?). The results aren’t too far off some of John Fahey’s later work, although far less minimalist. Together they make an interesting and challenging threesome.

Sandwiched between the two solo suites, the fourteen minute “the dark out of the nighttime” is a work for guitar, flute, harp and viola. It has a playful quality, but also moments of reflection. For the much of the work, the guitar takes a back seat to the other instruments, providing a steady backbone around which they perform a flighty dance.

Gravity and Air is an eclectic work that is far more than just a showcase for some exemplary playing. The Scordatura Suite, in particular, is hugely impressive.

1. Prelude in D Minor, BWV 999 1:23
2. Variation 1:48
3. Fixation 2:20
4. Fantasy 6:10
5. Nocturne 4:15
6. Toccata 7:11
7. the dark out of the nighttime 14:17
8. Arabescata 4:56
9. Gravity and Air 5:52
10. Dizzying Array 5:45



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