The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine
of Arts, Entertainment & Culture
June 15, 2011

AARON GRAD The Father Book

Seattle-based composer and guitarist Aaron Grad brings a touching back story to this self-produced CD. Its genesis, he reports, reaches back to a clavichord his father built from a kit in 1967. After his father's early death, Grad, who was by then developing into an admired jazz guitarist and experimental composer, began recording his improvisations using the hushed, otherworldly sounds of his father's clavichord. He finally found the right place to use them when he embarked on The Father Book, which occupied him from 2009 to 2011. The clavichord's whisperings are part of an electronically processed track that accompanies Grad's front-and-center performances on a seven-string electric guitar, an instrument he plays with tasteful restraint that supports the CD's generally introspective spirit. The 37-minute piece comprises 10 movements that trace an evolving emotional awareness between father and son. Framed by a related prologue and epilogue, the musical narrative touches on youth, angst, knowledge, love, games, mystery, recognition and quiet. Consider it a sort of father-son parallel to Schumann's "Frauenlieben und-leben," gently meditating on the implications of a personal, almost private relationship. Grad's jazz-pop guitar playing is everywhere engaging, and wrapping it in an electronic cocoon infuses layers of consequence. This quiet-time disc would make a fine gift for young fathers (under 35, let's say) who are basking in the miracle of their own offspring this Father's Day.

-James M. Keller