MYSTICAL MAGICAL MUSICAL-ALCHEMY ON JIM STUBBLEFIELD’S
In a castle in ancient times, a magician studies his book of musical spells and imbues an acoustic guitar with magical powers. This scene is portrayed on the cover of the new recording, Guitare Mystique, by Jim Stubblefield, well-known for his guitar playing as a solo artist and with the popular touring and recording group Incendio that he co-founded.
“I enjoy fantasy entertainment in artwork, music, books or movies whether it is swords-and-sorcery, or pulp-era Conan the Barbarian tales, or books and films like Lord of the Rings,” explains Stubblefield. “So why not incorporate a little of that magic and mystical drama into my music and images? On the new album sometimes the guitar sounds are straight-forward, but other times I have fun with them by processing, delaying and changing them into something new and different...a little musical alchemy.”
On Guitare Mystique, which is French for “mystical guitar,” Stubblefield demonstrates his versatility as an acoustic and electric guitarist, composer and arranger. Guitare Mystique features plenty of the Latin-style nylon-string acoustic-guitar-playing that Stubblefield has always been known for on six previous solo albums and eight albums with his group Incendio. But on the new CD he continues his goal in recent years to stretch out and explore a variety of musical styles and flavors from around the world, not only from many Latin countries on either side of the Atlantic, but also introducing a little Middle Eastern or Arabic here and there, or progressive-rock and neo-classical in other places.
“On my solo albums,” explains Stubblefield, “I compose all the music so I like to explore a variety of musical styles that I am interested in and incorporate diverse elements. On Guitare Mystique I play not only nylon-string guitar, but also some steel-string and electric guitar, sometimes with an EBow, as well as keyboards and synthesizers. I also brought in some excellent guest musicians who help take the music in new and exciting directions. Even though I play guitar on every composition, on some of them I decided to feature the violin or viola playing the main melody or spotlight some female wordless vocalizing.”
On Guitare Mystique, Stubblefield is joined by Randy Tico (Strunz & Farah, Flora Purim & Airto) on bass, Novi Novog (David Arkenstone, Prince, Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa) on viola and violin, Ramon Yslas (Luis Villegas, Strunz & Farah, David Sanborn, Christine Aguilera) on percussion, and Moksha Sommer (a member of the neo-folk and world-rock group HuDost, she has also recorded with Jon Anderson) adding vocals on one song. Guesting on one tune each are guitarists Eric Hansen, Stephen Duros and Dan Sistos.
Guitare Mystique starts with a series of softer, slower tunes, builds with mid-tempo pieces, and ends with three energetic compositions. “Saint-Tropez” captures the relaxed mood of this French Riviera city with its sunshine, beach and harbor (“When I visited there, it was extraordinarily beautiful.”). Regarding “Caravan of Souls” which features a rhythmic groove, Stubblefield says, “In life and death, there is always a long line of people going somewhere. For the tune ‘Azure,’ I had Novi Novog’s viola take center-stage with all the guitars in a supportive role. A big part of my evolution as a producer of my solo projects is doing what is best for the composition and not feeling like I have to play a big guitar solo on every tune. On ‘Azure’ I played multiple clean electric guitars doing suspended chords and arpeggios in the background inspired by Andy Summers of The Police, Alex Lifeson of Rush, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree.”
According to Stubblefield, “‘Before The Storm’ is an atmospheric chill-out piece with the idea being that you prepare for the next storm in your life with some meditational time.” On “Café Café” he trades solos with Eric Hansen with whom he played a couple of shows as a duo in 2016. “It’s a tongue-in-cheek title because so many Latin-guitar rhumbas have been written over the years and used the word ‘Café’ in their titles.” “Voyager Aeternam,” which means “eternal voyager,” was written to acknowledge that “everyone is striving to have a good journey in life with happiness and self-satisfaction.” Stubblefield terms it “an atmospheric, space piece that marries Tangerine Dream-style keyboards with Novi playing both violin and viola, and I used an EBow device on an electric guitar to get more sustain.”
Stubblefield says that “Moonlight Requiem” is “for those times when someone dies which causes you to think about your own mortality and what you might leave undone.” The uptempo “Oculus Tempestatis” (Latin for “eye of the storm”) features Stubblefield on electric guitars, and has guest Stephen Duros (who played with Ottmar Liebert) on acoustic guitar as well as wordless vocalist Moksha Sommer. The furious, high-speed “Rumba Furiosa, Opus 2” (“another tongue-in-cheek title”) “features Dan Sistos, Christine Aguilera’s original guitarist, helping me meld rhumba guitars with neo-classical and heavy metal, plus there are chanting parts and harpsichord.” The recording concludes with the lovely, rhythmic, world-beat number “Sueño Pacífico” (“Pacific Dream” in Spanish) featuring what Stubblefield calls “a Santana-style electric guitar solo.”
Stubblefield was born and raised in Pasadena, California (and now lives about 30 miles north of Los Angeles). He started taking acoustic guitar lessons when he was eight-years-old and especially enjoyed playing songs by The Beatles. In high school he became enamored with British progressive rock bands such as Yes and Genesis, and heavy metal groups (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest), and at 17 started playing electric guitar. But Stubblefield also enjoyed the jazz-fusion stylings of guitarists such as Al Di Meola (“His blending of world-fusion and Latin-rock with improvisation was a huge influence”), John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny. While attending the University of Redlands in Southern California, where Stubblefield earned BA Degrees in both English and History, he played in a rock band that performed the hits of that era. In addition, Stubblefield took music classes and jazz guitar lessons. He took an intensive one-year program at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood where Al Di Meola gave a solo performance. “That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music.”
Stubblefield met Waleed Hamad from Kuwait, who played oud (a fretless Mid-Eastern lute) and who had performed with Ben Harper. Stubblefield and Hamad formed a duo, wrote their own material, and began gigging around Southern California. Stubblefield, at that point back on acoustic steel-string guitar, began absorbing the world music sounds of acts such as Shakti, Strunz & Farah, Paco de Lucia and artists from India and Northern Africa. “Audiences loved our sound and I realized there was a market for world-fusion music.” In 1995 he switched to nylon-string Spanish-style guitar as his primary instrument. “I loved the sound and I knew I needed to put my energy into it.” In late 1999 Stubblefield co-founded the Latin guitar-oriented world music group Incendio with bassist Liza Carbe and guitarist Jean-Pierre Durand. They soon became a best-selling recording act, a popular concert attraction, and a group whose albums hit the Billboard, NAV and CMJ charts.
Stubblefield’s solo recordings are November, Cities of Gold, Rhythm of the Heart, Guitarra Exotica, Inspiración, Encantado and Guitare Mystique. His albums with Incendio (incendioband.com) are Misterioso, Illumination, Intimo, Incendio, Dia Y Noche (also available as a DVD), Seduction, Vihuela and The Shape of Dreams. More information on Stubblefield is available at his website (guitarraexotica.com). His music -- CDs or digital download tracks from those recordings -- are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others. Encantado, which went Top 5 on both the international Zone Music Reporter and One World Music Top 100 charts, was voted by ZMR radio programmers one of the Top 5 Best World Albums of the Year and named by OWM one of the Top 10 Albums of the Year and a Top 10 Acoustic Instrumental Album too.
According to Stubblefield, “On Guitare Mystique I wanted to make an album that was different than anything I had ever done before, and I wanted variety including some downtempo stuff, some atmospheric, some textured and a few powerful upbeat pieces.”
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