You could look at “Old Dance,” the title of the first track on Jenga, the new release from guitarist Sparky Quano, as a nod to the much-missed Michael Hedges, whose legacy, along with a nod to ZZ Top, is all over it, as it is on other tracks here as well. Ringing harmonics, body-knocks, and manic flurries of chords up and down the neck–they’re here in force. But this is not some sort of tribute album. Quano is a masterful player who has clear influences, but he’s also made his name for inventive looping techniques, and while this disc is meant to showcase his acoustic skills, that shows up on Jenga as well. Catch the whirling concentric circles of “Where Are You Going?” as Quano adds to a growing mix element by element, including a growling processed vocal. When he starts to shred in this one, it comes out with a serpentine Middle Eastern flair that will firmly ensnare you. “Mind” is another loop piece, complex and a little experimental–but again, the rush is in listening to Quano adding and managing those additional skeins he’s weaving. the majority of tracks, however, are more in line with the Hedges feel, and they’re rock solid. Try to picture the speed of Quano’s hands as he flicks and taps out the start of “Mission” and the flash-fire chords that follow. It’s pure technique, matched with passion. His bass-string work on the title track is a joy to feel. (More Hedges callouts–it reminds me of “Because It’s There.”) The final track, “Gairoju,” is an easy ballad that rings crisply in the air. There’s a beautiful break that Quano lays a little tremolo into as he fires off some fingerboard chords that make me catch my breath. Jenga does run the risk of getting a little same-sounding at times, but it’s a refreshing break if you’re looking for something outside electronic music and more stolid New Age guitar.
Available at Quano’s Sonic Bid site.