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Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions

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Album Review

Sharon Isbin's friends, a combination of old and new associates, are an eclectic lot on this album, and it may seem curious that a disc featuring jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan as well as rock guitarists Steve Morse, Steve Vai, and Nancy Wilson of Heart, not to mention new age saxophonist Paul Winter, would be slated for Billboard's Traditional Classical Albums chart instead of the Classical Crossover Albums chart. The reason is that Isbin has brought her guests into her world, for the most part, rather than venturing into theirs. One exception is a reading of Heart's "Dreamboat Annie," on which Wilson not only plays but also sings a few of the lyrics usually handled by her sister Ann. Morse and Vai bring their electric guitars along and wield them in characteristic ways on Joaquín Rodrigo's Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez and Agustín Barrios-Mangoré's Allegro, respectively, but their playing really just adds color, especially Morse, who only comes in around the nine-minute mark after an extensive interplay between Isbin and Romero Lubambo. Jordan also adapts himself to Quique Sinesi's Sonidos de Aquel Dia, even if the arrangement is his. Actually, a substantial part of the album belongs to Isbin alone, and it is dominated, as may already be apparent, by Spanish material, a point hinted at in the word "Passions" in the title. For example, Isbin takes on an arrangement of Isaac Albéniz's Asturias arranged by her old teacher, Andrés Segovia, and concludes with two parts of Mangoré's La Catedral. Her major partner is Lubambo, who also joins in on a version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Chovendo na Roseira." Still, the various guests add interesting flavors to this sampler, and an entire album with one of them might make for an interesting listen.


Born: 07 August 1956

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Described by Boston Globe's Michael Manning as a musician who plays "beyond virtuosity," guitarist Sharon Isbin has been a consistent challenge for critics, who struggle to find the right superlative that would do justice to her exquisite playing. "In her hands," wrote Anne Midgette in The New York Times, the guitar takes on the precision of a diamond, each note a clear, shining facet that catches, prism-like, a glimpse of the spectrum." In essence, a performance by Isbin is like a painting by Vermeer:...
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