Pixie Vision Productions
Victory Gardens Biograph presents Guitarra Azul "Oasis"
I love theater! I enjoy going to live theater 4-6 nights every week. Once in awhile, we do an Opera, or a ballet or a Symphony or perhaps an evening at Ravinia, but tonight I was invited to The Victory Gardens Biograph theater for the release of a new CD by one of the most exciting Latin bands I have ever heard Guitarra Azul a very "hot" "Hip" Chicago based Latin band, playing their mix of Contemporary Latin, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern music led by Stefano, a brilliant Flamenco guitarist and composer "Oasis" is a wonderful CD, 12 amazing pieces with sounds that are romantic, fiery, exciting and a pleasure to listen to... This band is a treat to hear and tonight I was even more fortunate as I was able to see them perform LIVE David Chiriboga has magical fingers on his guitar, Antonio on bass and the three percussionists Miguel, Javier and Ruben (who did a stirring "duel" with Flamenco dancer, par excellence" Edwin Suarez are amazing. Add in the bass sounds by Antonio and of course, the brilliant Stefano and we were witness to a night to remember. After leaving the Biograph, we put our new CD into the car system for the short ride home. I figured two tracks and we would be in the garage, but we were soon entranced by the sounds, we took a detour allowing us to hear five more tracks before pulling into our space. What a wonderful sound and what a wonderful experience. It was wonderful to see The Biograph theater almost filled to capacity on a Monday night a mixture of ages from 3 years old to 93 skins of all colors and I would have to think all religions as well. This was a true "theatrical experience" as well as each song tells a story and the musicians and the dancers (in particular the dancers) express themselves in the telling of this story with their hearts and souls- no words. The stories they told were beautiful and their ability to convey them to us was mystical and made for a feel good evening.
theater/music writer and critic
When Chicago based recording artists Guitarra Azul received dual first-ballot Grammy nominations in 2007 for their debut album, Mariposa, I must confess I was surprised. However, my surprise was only at the wisdom demonstrated by the nominating committee, never about the superb musical and recording quality of the disc itself, which I reviewed here in Chicago Jazz Magazine. Such accolades make for a tough act to follow and begs the question, Could the band produce other CD’s that would live up to so much promise? With their new album, Oasis, Guitarra Azul has answered with a fashionable, “Yes, we can!”
The all-original music of Guitarra Azul is hard to compartmentalize, but perhaps is best described as Rumba Flamenco and Latin Jazz with many international influences. Rumba Flamenco retains the heart of more traditional Spanish flamenco music, the flamenco guitar, yet shows a world influence by adding the use of bass, drums, and a variety of percussion instruments. On the song “Tizi Melloul”, the band incorporates elements of flamenco guitar, Latin percussion, Indian classical percussion, Arabic percussion, and some funky American bass for a true international/multi-cultural mix.
Oasis is like a musical snapshot, showing the direction of the band’s artistic journey during the year since the release of Mariposa. So much so, that even some of the songs (“Katerina’s”, “La Tasca”, “Tizi Melloul”,) are named after venues where Guitarra Azul has performed.
Like a master chef carefully trying new ingredients to improve an already acclaimed signature recipe, Stefano, the band’s lead guitarist and composer of all of the band’s original music, has incorporated new musical elements into Oasis. These include hand clapping (“Vino Tinto”), voice as musical instrument (“Tizi Melloul”), the use of a violin, viola, cello string section formed by guest artists (“Oasis”, “Un Beso Mas”, “Bajo las Estrellas”, and “Ojos Gitanos”), and my favorite, the delightful blending of flamenco with tango (“Tango Azul”).
I previously likened Mariposa to an airplane flight to a mythical Spain. Oasis is a return flight there. But with an Arabic/Spanish/Mediterranean feel to this CD, our plane has taken on some new and provocative international passengers for us to become acquainted with on this trip. If you are a fan of this style of music or are interested in becoming one, give Oasis a listen. To top it off, the recording quality of this disc equals that of any audiophile CD I have ever heard.
Chicago Jazz Magazine
Being involved with the guitar most of my life, I can appreciate the dynamic music emanating from the music of Guitarra Azul. His music and musicianship transcends almost all of the recorded artists of the day. He demonstrates the finesse that is shown in the works of the Romero family, of John Williams and Andre Segovia. It was a suprise to find this group and hope they continue a successful career.
Mariposa and Oasis
I was looking for some music to ride my Spanish horse to and came across these two albums lucky me and lucky him! They conjure the very essence of Spain with beautiful guitar and percussion. Hardpressed to choose a favourite track but Tizi Melloul is hauntingly beautiful. I can't recommend both albums enough.
Passionate and Romantic
Passionate and Romantic Stefano works magic with his guitar and I find myself basking in a romantic mood that makes me think of exotic Spain. Each member of Guitarra Azul contributes unselfishly to a beautiful blend of music that is soulful, passionate and sensual. The music created by these excellent artists can so easily soothe or awaken the fire of anyone’s soul. With both CD’s, Oasis and Mariposa at my fingertips, the wonderful and exhilarating experience of seeing Guitarra Azul perform for the first time, is kept alive and fresh! This music is indeed a constant Oasis to my soul. Oh Yeah!!
What a phenomenally executed piece of artistry. Hearing the recordings is almost as good as live, they never dull in the mind, because of the amazing balance of subtlety and complexity. Exotic, sexxxxy, exciting. Yet suitable for the office. Hmmmm. Must by Oasis.
As an avid world music fan, I am thrilled with the music of Guitarra Azul. The gifted musicians capture the essence of the definition of what world music is all about by transporting us on a journey around the world. One minute I'm in Spain and the next I could be in Africa. Their music is soulful, energetic, romantic, exotic and just plain fabulous! When seeing them in person, it is easy to see just how much they love playing their music. A joy for the eyes, ears and spirit!
FOR MARIPOSA & OASIS
I bought both Mariposa and Oasis and I have one word to say. MAGNIFICENT!! Every single song on both CD's are incredible! These are some of the most talented musicians in the world as far as I'm concerned. There is not one song on any CD that you would not enjoy. Every piece is exceptional and perfectly performed by Stefano.. ;) and Guitarra Azul.. "OH YEAH" ;)
Bold and Passionate
My strong, undeniable admiration and affection for Guitarra Azul's debut CD, Mariposa, was such that I was somewhat ambivalent about Oasis living up to my expectations. Well, rest assured, it has. Oasis stands on its own as a separate and sophisticated expression of Guitarra Azul's continued growth as international Latin/Rhythm artists. Thanks to creator, composer, producer, Stefano, Guitarra Azul has mastered blending Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Latin world sounds into a truly unique, genius follow-up CD. The bold, intricate percussion patterns led by Miguel, Ruben and Omar beautifully showcase multi-dimensional Stefano's brilliant, passionate and exceptional guitar rhythms. Individually, each song is an ambrosial journey. Collectively, they are a sumptuous affair. An amazing experience. Oh, Yeah!!!
This album is a fire that burns deep and clean... and it will set you ablaze. Just try to sit still and listen!
Imagine finding what love represents and expressing its value and presence with an object and music. Imagine El Jardin, thinking of Un Beso Mas, the romance it brings forth, the daring exploding percussions in Tizi Melloul, thoughts of different situations of our lives that is captured with each music and encapsulated with Vino Tinto. It's here, all in the Oasis album. The Mariposa album brings beauty and peace to ones soul, music that captures you to wake up after a sense of loss or loneliness, leading to seek renewal in life. If Mariposa were written as a book, Oasis continues to bring us through a beautiful journey, a time to celebrate life. Words are not enough to express how I personally feel passionately, romantically and lovingly towards each song. It's magnificent!
I confess, whilst searching for a particular arrangement of a traditional Cuban song on iTunes, I stumbled across Mariposa by Guitarra Azul. Must have been my lucky day! The sample tracks had me rushing to find your your website. Bought a copy of Mariposa immediately. Whilst delivery followed swiftly, I'm afraid I simply couldn't wait and also downloaded from iTunes! I have played Mariposa morning, noon and night... to be thruthful, more times than I can count! These beautiful compositions, played with flawless precision transport me to a place I long to be. Thank you so much for getting me part of the way there. How Guitarra Azul will ever improve on this disc, I really don't know. Why Guitarra Azul are not already playing the world stage is a complete mystery to me. I can feel a holiday to Chicago coming on!
Angela London, UK
GUITARS CENTER STAGE by Robert Silverstein
My family is from Nashville, Tennessee, where everyone picks a guitar. I was guitar playing in bands since I was 11 Years old, and singing in my church choir. One fateful Easter Sunday, a Classical Guitarist Played a solo Recital at my church, and I was really excited to hear a guitar sound like that. After his program, my mother asked about lessons, and he introduced me to his teacher Leon Borkowski, guitar Professor at De Paul University in Downtown Chicago, who was my mentor. I was awarded a scholarship to the University at age 18 and during those years I had the opportunity to learn from some great musicians playing in blues bands, wedding orchestras, and side gigs with some of the university faculty. I had a brief stint with Dave Mason, played with jazz pianist George Shearing, and blues legend Buddy Guy, and performed in concert with violin virtuoso Gidon Kremer and Flamenco great Carlos Montoya. I had the opportunity to take Master classes with Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, and Denis Azabagic. During my University days I went on a couple of trips to Europe to play concerts as a soloist with Orchestra and with the Edwards/Simmons Guitar Duo. After graduating I have had the opportunity to compose Music for Live Theatre and a few Film Scores, as well as playing tons of gigs.
My new project Guitarra Azul and Recording our first CD Mariposa has been a Great experience. It has given me the chance to combine classical & flamenco guitar playing with composing, which I really love, and I get to work with some incredibly talented people in a band setting. The Idea for the group came from my experiences playing hotel gigs with percussionist Miguel Cascio & my bass player Antonio Mhoon, and these gigs would be sleepy affairs, playing pop tunes and standards until Miguel started playing the Bongos and I would play flamenco, then people would stop and gather around, and really get into it. We would play flamenco-ized Versions of Sting, or play a cover of Santana or Jesse Cook or the Eagles’ “Hotel California”. We recruited a great classical guitarist Roberto Skiba and a couple of phenomenal Latin percussionists and booked some steady gigs at some Downtown jazz clubs, where we have slowly and steadily developed a killer live act and a large following of great fans. When we had enough original material written and tested live we Went into the Dr. Caw Studio in Northbrook and knocked out all 12 tracks in a couple of weeks, with a couple of more weeks for overdubs & mixing. The rhythm guitar, melody guitar, and a basic percussion track were all played live We later added bass guitar, percussion over-dubs, including Miguel playing some really great timbale fills. The Guitar solos were played by myself, along with a couple of slow intros that were cut just before the final mix, engineer Craig Williams mixed and mastered the project, he really got a great guitar sound and masterfully mixed the percussion.
On Mariposa and for my Guitarra Azul shows and classical Guitar performances I play one of 3 different guitars made by master luthier Kim Schwartz, who has moved from Chicago to Rio Rancho New Mexico. He’s making less instruments these days, but his work is truly amazing. On Mariposa the main guitar is a spruce top made in ’94 with Indian rosewood sides & back. The rhythm guitar parts were played on an ’86 Schwartz with a cedar top & African rosewood sides & back. That guitar has an incredible bass response and super rich resonance.
My Guitar Influences are many, after hearing recordings of Segovia, Rey de la Torre, Sabicas, and Montoya, then discovering Julian Bream, my all time favorite and John Williams’ Concerto Recordings. Hearing Jesse Cook’s album “Gravity”, California Guitarist Luis Villegas’ first CD “Café Ole”, and Strunz & Farrah’s “Americas” really opened my eyes & ears to the awesome possibilities of flamenco guitar in a band setting. These days I’m really blown away by flamenco guitarist Vicente Amigo, the Brazillian classical guitar duo the Assad Brothers, and Scottish guitar virtuoso David Russel.
20th Century Guitar Magazine, December 2007
Guitarra Azul is a fantastic group with an awesome sound. If you like guitar with a latin flavor, (and even if you don't) you will love this CD. The percussion guy is fabulous, and I dare you to try not to move your body when you listen. Buy this CD . . . you will not regret it!
Nouveau flamenco guitar takes a new route...
...with the 2007 CD from guitarist Steve Edwards, a/k/a Stefano and his band Guitarra Azul. On the 2007 release of Mariposa, Stefano crafts an upbeat groove with his nylon string classical six string acoustic, blending Rumba Flamenco and latin jazz backed up by light percussion and some fiery Spanish guitar grooves. Fellow guitarist Roberto mixes and matches guitar colors with Stefano while the rhythm section of Miguel (percussion) and Antonio (bass) keeps the sound in motion. Amid the latin and flamenco grooves, Stefano's classical guitar expertise is never far behind on an album that travels far and wide.
20th Century Guitar Magazine
A Spain of the Mind
I have never been to Spain. Probably, when someone says or suggests Spain to those who have been there, a collage of real life memories and events is conjured in thought. Guitarra Azul (Spanish for blue guitar) with the twelve original compositions on their new cd titled Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly), has done something similar for the rest of us. They have created music so vivid and palpable, that the rest of us can just close our eyes and be transported away. Our destination, however, is not the Spain of real life. Not a Spain of car traffic, cell phones, smog, or any of the other realities that any modern nation must face. No, our destination is a different Spain. A Spain of the mind. As we travel there, I will tell you a little about our hosts... Guitarra Azul is a Chicago based instrumental group. The music of Guitarra Azul is perhaps best described as Rumba Flamenco and Latin Jazz. Rumba Flamenco retains the heart of more traditional Spanish flamenco music, the flamenco guitar, yet shows a world influence by adding the use of bass, drums and a variety of percussion instruments. The band incorporates elements of contemporary Latin jazz, pop, blues, and salsa. Guitarra Azul uses strings and percussion only, This is music with rhythm that begs to be danced to. Influences of Guitarra Azul include well regarded Rumba Flamenco guitarists Jesse Cook and Luis Villegas. Steve (Stefano) Edwards is the composer of the entire album and plays guitar. Michael (Miguel) Cascio (percussion). Robert (Roberto) Skiba (guitar), and Tony (Antonio) Mhoon (bass) round out the core of the group. In addition, Mariposa features several guest percussionists. The musicianship across the board is superb. Percussion (especially from several sources) can be difficult to record and mix but the sound quality is fabulous on this recording. Uh, oh. I hear landing gear. With their blazing strings and throbbing percussion, the songs "Milagros" and "Azul y Verde" bring me to a heroic Spain. A Spain filled with the bravery of larger than life toreadors, flashing red cloth in front of the path of danger. Or equally brave Conquistadors, voyaging on rough seas in huge wooden ships to uncharted places. "Esperanza", "Mariposa", and "Senorita" use smoldering guitars and a mix of understated and driving rhythm bring me to my favorite Spain. This is a Spain of elegant romance and powerful emotion. The sound of crickets and the scent of roses fills the air during a midnight rendezvous in the garden of a towering castle in Seville. A beautiful senorita, with long ebony hair, offers me her smile, gleaming against the night. The red wine we share makes my head heavy and my feet light as we dance until dawn. Of course, this is a personal journey, and your landing points may vary. Share this music with your spouse, your significant other, your lover, or the one you want to be your lover. Mariposa offers a great deal of fun and fantasy in musical form. I hope the Mariposa and Guitarra Azul make a second flight soon.
Guitarra Azul is an extraordinary Latin rhythm/jazz band owing its unparalleled original sound to its soulful leader, Stefano, via his brilliant writing skills breathing sensual, emotional, poignant and upbeat rhythms through his genius guitar playing. Rounding out the group alongside Stefano are Miguel, who's amazing classically trained percussion technique is immediately obvious as well as gifted Ruben, Roberto and David on bongos and guitars respectively, lending a tightly woven fresh interpretation each time a song is played. The depth and beauty of Mariposa sent tears my way the first time I heard the CD. Seeing Guitarra Azul perform live is a feast for the eyes and soul a truly joyful experience to be shared with like minded friends. Guitarra Azul may not be currently getting all the recognition they so deserve; however, they are "on their way". It won't be long before they become a truly deserving dominant presence on the Latin music scene.
Christine along with Helen and Gail (Charlie's Angels)
Some great talent here!
This CD is fantastic! Some of the best (real) music I have heard in a long time. These guys should be millionares by now.
This album is amazing....each and every song is beautiful and beautifully different. I could not name my favorite. No matter how you shuffle these tunes, you will love them all!
You have released an excellent album. I like it very much and hope you release similar albums soon. Please e-mail me as soon as you release another album. Good luck.
Come out and Dance With Guitarra Azul!!! Oh Yeah!!!