Words that came to mind as I played Johannes Linstead’s Tales of a Gypsy
as loud as I could stand it while driving on the Oregon Coast yesterday: Wow! Fun! Alive! Exhilarating! Joyful! Exotic! Exciting! A few of the pieces are on the more serious, melancholy side, but this is mostly good time, mood-elevating music. While strongly Latin-influenced, there are many other musical and cultural styles present that make this a true world-fusion collection of original guitar ensemble pieces. Linstead has been in the top-tier of world/new age guitarists for quite a few years now, and this album clearly demonstrates why. Seeking to unify people from around the world through their similarities rather than separating them by artificial boundaries, Linstead communicates with a musical language understandable by all. This timeless music incorporates traditional and contemporary styles into a distinctive Linstead sound. In addition to Linstead’s guitars, keyboards, and hand percussion, he is joined by a colorful group of musicians from around the world on drums, oud, guitars, percussion, violin, pan pipes, and accordion.
Tales of a Gypsy
begins with “Jungle Love,” a lively and fun-loving piece that features Nicholas Gunn on pan pipes as well as the sounds of exotic birds. If you can keep your toes from tapping on this one, there is a serious problem! “Noche de la Juerga” has a playful, festive feeling enhanced by the violin work of Vasyl Popadiouk. “September Remembered” is one of the slower, more subdued pieces - it is also one of my favorites. Written at the time of the 9/11 attacks, there is only light accompaniment behind this soulful mostly solo guitar piece. “La Lunada” picks up the tempo again with a buoyant bit of guitar intensity and excitement. “Vagabond Stomp” features Jordan Abraham on accordion and zips us right into Cajun/Creole territory. “Bella! Bella” has a lighthearted, infectious gypsy-swing interplay between Lindstead’s guitar and Popadiouk’s violin. “Sosua Bay Sunset” sways gently as it expresses feelings of calm and contentment. The title track begins with a fiery intro that immediately grabs you. It then becomes poignant, telling a different tale altogether. Throughout this quiet section, there is an underlying tension that can ignite at any time. The middle movement features some searing violin work with the gypsy-jazz rhythm keeping it grounded. Lindstead’s magic fingers do some real flying on this one, too! The third movement returns to the intro and develops it. Sometimes gently sensual and sometimes exploding with passion, this is an amazing piece! Linstead says of “Flows Like Water”: “I tried to capture a zen-like sound of serenity and tranquility.” Graceful and gently rhythmic, I’d say he succeeded well! “Caravan of Desire” closes the album with a rhumba flamenco piece that captures both the mood of gypsies traveling and the sensuality of a love affair.
Tales of a Gypsy
is truly outstanding! If you love virtuoso guitar that blurs cultural lines and goes deep, this is a great choice! It is available from johanneslinstead.com
, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!