Uneasy listening from a master of mood, sound, and texture.

David Torn, Tim Berne, Ches Smith

Sun of Goldfinger

When David Torn and saxist Tim Berne hold long, screaming high tones together in the early passages of “Soften the Blow,” the 23-minute improvisation that concludes this three-tune album, it feels like trepanning. In a good way. They open a hole in the sonic universe that expels the toxins of convention and predictability. The other tracks feature the group's core trio of Torn, Berne, and percussionist Ches Smith, joined by guitarists Mike Baggetta and Ryan Ferreira on Torn's composition "Spartan, Before It Hit," with equal combustion.

This is a hell of a recording, packed with high-risk playing that thumbs its nose at label ECM Records’ history of mostly mellow guitar exploration with raging, careening soundscapes colored by extreme dynamics, a difficult but dedicated romance with harmony, and the wildfire spread of ideas from player to player. If the notion of soaking in the sounds of a construction site (via Smith’s nearly industrial playing) while feedback clouds float by and a sax sonorously summons falcons, is appealing, Sun of Goldfinger nails it.

Must-hear tracks: “Soften the Blow,” “Spartan, Before It Hit”


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When the great Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes passed away earlier this year, I thought a lot about Johnny Marr. Marr was moved deeply by the girl groups of the ’60s—their positivity, energy, and the convergence of ecstasy and melancholy in the music. He was even fired up by the audaciousness of their style: The impressive beehive hairdo worn by Spector’s bandmate Estelle Bennett famously inspired the jet-black pile Marr wore at the height of Smiths fame.

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See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

Marty Stuart

Submit your own artist pick collections to rebecca@premierguitar.com for inclusion in a future gallery.

How does a legacy artist stay on top of his game? The pianist, hit singer-songwriter, producer, and composer talks about the importance of musical growth and positive affirmation; his love for angular melodicism; playing jazz, pop, classical, bluegrass, jam, and soundtrack music; and collaborating with his favorite guitarists, including Pat Metheny and Jerry Garcia.

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