California Guitar Trio will converge at the Egyptian Theatre
November 7, 2014
What do you get when you take three guitarists — one from Utah, one from England and one from Japan — and mix them together in the League of Crafty Guitars, a group and seminar founded by Robert Fripp from King Crimson?
The answer is the California Guitar Trio.
Since 1991, the three musicians — Utahn Paul Richards, Londonite Bert Lams and Tokyo’s Hideyo Moriya, known to fans as CGT — have performed all over the world and recorded almost 20 albums.
The group will find its way to Park City’s Egyptian Theatre next week when it performs two shows on Nov. 13 and 14.
Richards, who moved to Los Angeles a few months ago, said he’s looking forward to playing in Utah again.
"We’ve played other venues in Park City, but this is the first time we’ll be at the Egyptian," Richards told The Park Record.
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The concerts will feature old works as well as new ones.
"Since we’ve been playing for more than 23 years together, our shows are pretty much comprised of our favorite repertoire," Richards explained. "However, we’re also working on a new album and will have several new tunes in the works that we’ll also play. I think we’ll be working on some more new stuff, so we’ll have a few more new songs to play in Park City."
Playing together for almost a quarter of a century can be challenging for most bands and artists, but the California Guitar Trio members have found ways to keep their collaboration fresh.
"We’re starting to focus in on various aspects of our playing that are exciting to us," Richards said. "While we’ve always had a diverse rep and we’ve included classical music from Bert’s background, surf-guitar music from Hideyo’s background and rock, blues and jazz from mine, the past couple of albums have singled out those aspects one at a time.
"For example, a couple of years ago, we released an album, ‘Masterworks,’ that was our first all-classical album," Richards explained. "Before that, we did an album called ‘Andromeda,’ which was all original music, which was something we hadn’t done before then. So it’s been fun to focus on certain aspects of our playing."
The new album the trio is working on will feature some new originals, according to Richards.
"But at this point, it’s too early to say what direction the album will go," he said.
Another way the group keeps things fresh is to play material that complements their abilities, Richards said.
"Over the years, we have developed a good grasp on each others’ strengths and weaknesses," he said. "That helps with the entire process and makes the live shows achieve a higher level as well.
"In the early days, when things would go wrong during a live show, it seemed harder for us to recover, but now, since we realize we’re all human, there are times when things go wrong, we’re much better at recovering and making the mistakes part of the show, rather than freaking out about them," he said with a laugh.
In addition, the three guitarists encourage each other to listen to new styles of music.
"That’s what brought us together in the beginning," Richards said. "We had a common interest in diverse repertoire."
Richards has used his life experiences to seek out new music and listen with an open ear.
"In the past year, I was invited to the Burning Man festival and really enjoyed it," he said. "I was drawn to much of the electronic dance music that was played there, which was a type of music that I hadn’t listened to before. So I would go home and try to duplicate the music I heard there on the guitar."
Richards also pays close attention to his bandmates’ interests.
"Hideyo, coming from Japan, has always been a more mysterious person to me," Richards said. "He’s more introverted and, even after knowing him for some time, there are aspects of his personality, guitar playing and Japanese culture that still surprise me."
One of those aspects is Moriya’s interest in the Shinto philosophy.
"In Japan, they have the Shinto culture and Hideyo talked to me about growing up where that was commonplace and told me he didn’t think too much about it," Richards said. "Since he’s moved to the United States in the recent years, he told me he was reading and studying more in depth about it and is taking it more serious."
That is something Richards related to musically.
"Sometimes I’ll stop playing a certain way because I get too used to it and then, months later, I will come back to it and find I appreciated it more," he said. "When you are away from something, it takes on a different perspective."
Richards has always looked up to Lams.
"Bert’s really the best player out of the three of us," Richards said. "He’s the most inspired and has, over the years, kept his level of playing up.
"He’s done some other projects on the side, which help him going as well," Richards said. "Just a couple of months ago, Bert was in L.A. playing with our friend (Chapman Stick player) Tom Griesbrager and I got to go see them play."
A Chapman Stick is a guitar-like instrument that is played by two-handed tapping.
"This was the first time ever that I was able to be in the audience to hear Bert play," Richards said, laughing. "I have always had a high-level of respect for his playing, and love being on stage with him. But watching him in this setting, helped me hear how his playing really has progressed and changed over the years."
In the past, the guitarists would get together once ever year or so to rehearse and tour because they all lived in different parts of the world.
These days, the three live in the United States, and Moriya was the last to cross the pond, so to speak.
"Hideyo lived in Chiba, which was a few kilometers south from where the tsunami hit the power plant a few years ago," Richards said. "He told me that they were experiencing such a high level of radiation in his town that they closed many of the areas.
"We had been encouraging him to move to the U.S. for a long time and he finally make the jump to the East Coast, where Bert was living," Richards said. "Bert was living in Pennsylvania at that time, but has temporarily moved to Florida to help take care of his wife’s mother, who has cancer."
The hope is for everyone to converge in Los Angeles permanently sometime soon, Richards said.
"That way, we’ll all be based out of here again [like] when we first started," he said. "That may well happen at some time."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present the California Guitar Trio on Thursday, Nov. 13, and Friday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $40, and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.