Among the Missing
Classical minimalism and crossover instrumental, the two genres cited in material accompanying David Pritchard's Among the Missing, aren't inaccurate in describing the content of the twelve-track release. Yet the terms also don't quite capture the essence of the Los Angeles-based acoustic guitarist's follow-up to 2009's Vertical Eden. Among the Missing defeats easy attempts at categorization in presenting multiple musical forms performed by a number of different instrumental set-ups. Jazz, classical, and folk genres figure prominently on Among the Missing, which features six tracks spotlighting the composer alone and the rest Pritchard variously joined by Leif Woodward (cello, viola da gamba), Steve Anderson (bass), Christopher Garcia (percussion), and fellow acoustic guitarists Kevin Tiernan and Ioannis Markoulakis.
Perhaps a brief history is in order for those new to Pritchard and his work. After beginning his professional career with the Gary Burton Quartet on a 1969 European tour and then forming the jazz/rock outfit Contraband, Pritchard issued a number of jazz-inflected solo recordings, among them Lightyear and City Dreams, before shifting his focus on the 1990 release Air Patterns to the more classically influenced acoustic style so splendidly documented on Among the Missing.
The classical minimalism connection is most strongly felt in the title track, which opens the album with sparkling acoustic guitar patterns and string melodies that would be right at home within a Steve Reich composition. The appealingly harmonious and melodious dimensions of Pritchard's music that are already audible at this initial stage will remain solidly in place until “Evening Land,” with its lovely viola da gamba playing, brings the forty-nine-minute recording to a close. Classical minimalism returns in “Little Known Facts,” albeit in slightly different form when this time the interlocking patterns are executed by three acoustic guitarists. A subtle hint of Brazilian music emerges within “Slowly We Opened Our Eyes,” while “A Guinga,” with shakers, cymbals, and bass added to Pritchard's acoustic guitars, sounds a tad reminiscent of The Pat Metheny Group during its late-‘80s Still Life (Talking) and Letter From Home days, an association bolstered when the leader stretches out with a strong solo.
Pritchard's material doesn't suffer when an arrangement is pared down to a single instrument, as solo acoustic guitar pieces such as “Coryza,” “Jalama,” and “Light Between Oceans” illustrate, the latter of which sees Pritchard overdubbing himself for its four-guitar arrangement, and “Just One Look” is distinguished as much by its gentle tone as his classical guitar playing. Listeners with an appreciation for guitar artistry will find much to admire in said cases, and Pritchard's dissonance-free tapestries unfold with the kind of grace and assurance that results from many years spent refining one's craft.