Stupendous, faultless, finer even than Segovia.
American Record Guide
The high priestess of the guitar.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Music | CD Notes
On this recording, I pay tribute to my guitar heroes, artists that I
admire from the classical, rock and jazz worlds, many of whom have been
great friends and performing partners. Its our shared passion for the
guitar and for musical discovery that brings us together. Our
collaboration on these works, inspired by South American and Spanish
roots, has led to the creation of seven premiere recordings. I invite
you to join our Guitar Passions.
ABOUT THE SONGS
Gentil Montañas joyous dance is based on traditional Colombian porro
rhythms. In this version for two guitars, I play both the second part
created by Gustavo Colina, and Montañas original.
2. Sonidos de aquel dia
Among the albums several world premieres is this two guitar setting of
a solo work by Argentinian composer Quique Sinesi, with the second part
written and performed by Stanley Jordan. Stanley, a hero and great
friend, is brilliantly inventive as a jazz guitarist. We met and toured
together in the late 90s and I was amazed by his virtuosic keyboard
tapping approach to playing electric guitar. When this project came up,
I naturally thought of him. Sonidos de aquel día (Sounds from that Day)
is an unpublished work I happened to hear and knew I wanted to record.
After suggesting to Stanley that he create a part to play with mine, I
was pleased to discover Sinesi often adds improvised instrumentals to
his music. I play Sinesis score with an added section by Argentinian
guitarist Victor Villadangos.
3. Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez
I feel very close to Brazilian music and have performed with Brazilian
artists for as long as I can remember. The first such collaboration was
with my friend, the late, great guitarist/composer Laurindo Almeida.
Laurindo arranged the Adagio from Joaquín Rodrigos (1901-1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez for us to perform with jazz guitarist Larry
Coryell in a setting that celebrates a unique fusion of classical, bossa
nova, jazz and rock styles. Our trio Guitarjam recorded the work and
toured over a period of five years. In recording this new version of
Laurindos arrangement, I pay homage to him and his significant role in
developing the bossa nova style.
Playing Laurindos part is Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo whose
inventive improvisations in the opening add extra spice. Steve Morse,
founder of the Dixie Dregs, rocks out on the electric guitar parts
extended bossa nova section with some of the coolest playing Ive ever
heard. We met in 1985 when I invited him to perform in the international
guitar festival I created for Carnegie Hall.
We all pay tribute to Rodrigo who put the guitar on the map as a solo
instrument with orchestra. Rodrigo and I shared a twenty-year friendship
which began when he invited me to his home in Madrid after hearing my
live broadcast performance of the concerto as a winner of the Queen
I had the honor of first studying with Andrés Segovia at the age of
fourteen. Hearing his warm, magical tone that shimmered like a diamond
from just inches away was a revelation that inspired me to explore the
beauty of soundits colors and contrastsin my own playing. In his
most famous transcription from piano, Asturias by Isaac Albéniz
(1860-1909), he captures the musics guitar-inspired essence to
perfection. Segovias use of idiomatic triplets and flamenco inspired
rasgueado strums add fire and flair to the outer sections, while the
lyricism of the middle section evokes the sensuous yearning of a Spanish
singers cante jondo (deep song).
When Steve Vai and I met playing a show for the Recording Academy, we so
hit it off so well musically and as friends, that an inspiring
collaboration was born. Revered as one of the rock worlds greatest
guitarists, he is also a remarkable composer. A few years ago in Paris,
we premiered The Blossom Suite he wrote for the two of us (future
recording project!), and last year when jamming at his home in Los
Angeles, his spontaneous improvisation to Paraguayan composer Agustín
Barrios Mangorés (1885-1944) Allegro inspired us to choose this work
for the recording.
6. Dreamboat Annie
Nancy Wilson is the guitar half of Heart, the rock group Ive loved
listening to for years. One of my favorite Heart songs is Dreamboat
Annie, and when I approached Nancy about doing a rendition of this with
me, she was very enthusiastic. We added a bossa nova instrumental at the
end to make it part of the Latin themed whole. Shes a wonderful
guitarist, singer/songwriter, and would have to be included among my
7. Alfonsina y el Mar
This touching song is based on the true story of the famous Argentinian
poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938) who took her own life at the agonizing
end stage of a terminal illness. She wrote her last poem Voy a dormir (I
will sleep), sent it to a newspaper, and walked into the sea. The poem
struck such a chord of anguish and sympathy that Ariel Ramirez
(1921-2010) commemorated her in song. When playing this solo guitar
setting by Argentinian guitarist Jorge Cardoso, Im inspired by South
American singer Mercedes Sosas introspective and mournful rendition.
8. Chovendo na Roseira
I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Brazils popular music
icon Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994), and collaborating with him on a
recording of his music with my longtime friend, guitarist Carlos
Barbosa-Lima. Carlos and I also had the honor of opening Jobims Avery
Fisher Hall show in New York. At the Carnegie Hall tribute to Jobim
following his death, Romero Lubambo and I adapted and performed Carloss
arrangement of his lovely song, Chovendo na Roseira (Double Rainbow).
Romero joins me in paying tribute to another great hero of music and the
Alfredo Vianna, nicknamed Pixinguinha (1897-1973), was a famous
Brazilian composer and performer of popular music, particularly in the
choro style. In this world premiere setting of his Carinhoso, Brazilian
singer/guitarist Rosa Passos interprets sensuous lyrics of unrequited
love by João de Barro, and penned the part I play to accompany her
beautiful, smoky voice. Carlos Barbosa-Lima arranged the guitar solos
that open and close the work, and Gaudencio Thiago de Mello adds organic
percussion using hand held instruments he has fashioned from the flora
and fauna of the jungle, including the Pau-de-Chuva (rain stick),
Boca-do-Mato (Jungles Mouth) and Boca-de-Barro (Clays Mouth).
10. O Presidente
An Indian from the Maué tribe of the Amazon, Gaudencio Thiago de Mellos
music often evokes colorful sounds of the rain forest. O Presidente
takes its title from hearing guitarist Sergio Ricardo playing in the
streets of Brazil to encourage opposition following the 1964 military
coup. Thiago has dedicated the work to me, and he performs organic
percussion to Paul Winters lyrical alto sax on this premiere recording.
Together the three of us celebrate our years of friendship and
performances in this first studio reunion since our CD, Journey to the
11. La Catedral: Andante religioso, Allegro solemne
The prolific composer and guitarist Agustín Barrios Mangoré was
nicknamed The Paganini of the jungles of Paraguay. Partly of Guaraní
descent, he often performed wearing traditional Indian costumes. Among
his compositions is La Catedral, a work said to be inspired by hearing
the music of Bach played in a cathedral.
© Sharon Isbin
Sharon Isbina true sorceress ... incomparable master of the guitar ...
Antonio Carlos Jobim
I am enchanted by the magnificent interpretation of my works by the
splendid guitarist Sharon Isbin.
Sharon with Stanley Jordan
Sharon with Steve Morse
Sharon with Nancy Wilson
Sharon with Steve Vai
Sharon with Andres Segovia
New York City, 1987
Sharon with Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Tom Jobim
New York City 1985
Paul Winter, Sharon, Thiago de Mello
Grammy Nomination 1999
Celebrated Guitarist Sharon Isbins 2010 GRAMMY Award Winning, Debut Sony Masterworks Album
Stars Legendary Folksinger Joan Baez and Violin Virtuoso Mark OConnor,
Featuring the World Premieres of Joan Baez Suite, Opus 144, and
OConnors Suite for Violin & Guitar
Sony Press Release by Jim Bessman
Recognized as the pre-eminent guitarist of our time (Boston Magazine)
and the Monet of the classical guitar (Atlanta Journal Constitution),
Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin makes her Sony Masterworks
debut with Journey to the New World. The extraordinary recording
follows a musical progression from 16th century England, Ireland, and
Scotland to the shores of America, with the music of the New World
represented by Joan BaezIsbins first music heroand violin
virtuoso/composer Mark OConnor.
This journey, explains Isbin, brings together my passion for
Renaissance lute music with the country fiddle virtuosity of Mark
OConnor, a lifelong love of folk music inspired by my parents who
taught folk dancing, and with Joan Baez, whose magical voice has moved
me to tears for as long as I can remember.
Journey to the New World begins with four English Renaissance lute duets
(Drewries accordes, John Dowlands Lord Willoughbys Welcome Home,
Rossignol, and John Johnsons variations on Greensleeves), with
Isbin performing both duet parts. Next, two songs from the British Isles
(Irish sea shanty Drunken Sailor, originating in the late 16th/early
17th century, and Wild Mountain Thyme which evokes an 18th century Scottish song).
Fellow American guitarist/composer Andrew Yorks haunting
Andecy perfectly bridges the folk music of the British Isles with that
of the New World.
The seven-movement Joan Baez Suite, which the late English composer John
Duarte wrote for Isbin in 2002, represents his reactions to the spirit
and texts of classic Baez folk songs. When Baez, who celebrates the 50th
anniversary of her career this season, heard Isbin perform the suite,
she offered to sing on the recording. She joins Isbin in heartfelt
renditions of Wayfaring Stranger and John Jacob Niles Go Way from My
Mark OConnors 13-movement Strings & Threads Suite traces the
composers own ancestral roots in Ireland down to the 13 original
American colonies, followed by the eventual migration to the American
West. The work effectively brings Isbins Journey to a conclusion,
while musically depicting how the varied folk music stylesreels,
waltzes, blues, spirituals, swing, and bebopare interconnected.
Originally written for solo violin, OConnor adapted the suite for
violin and guitar, where it receives its world premiere recording.
Journey to the New World stands out, says Isbin: Its one of the most
unusual and creative albums Ive ever done. Its been percolating
subconsciously for many years, because folk music was my introduction to
guitar and I have been touched so powerfully by the music and voice of
Joan Baez. Somehow this collaboration was meant to bethough I could
never have imagined it back then!
Sharons exquisite playing allowed me to revisit and fall in love with
these songs all over again.
The beauty and range of Sharons guitar creates the perfect musical
setting and imagery. America and the guitar have become inseparable in
their musical manifestations, and Sharons performance on this recording
expresses these connections as richly as you will ever hear.
Sharon Isbin & Joan Baez. Clockwise:
Baez Home, Recording, and New York.
Sharon Isbin & Mark OConnor. Clockwise:
Recording, World Premiere at Orchestra Hall
in Minneapolis, New York Premiere.
(Photo: Rob Fortunato).
The inspiration for this album is folk musicfrom the Appalachian
Mountains, the British Isles, Spain, Greece, Israel, Cuba, Venezuela, and
Brazil. Folk music was what first drew me to the guitar as a child. Pete
Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Burl Ives, Malvina Reynolds, Joan Baez ... these
are just some of the singers I grew up hearing. My scientist/lawyer parents
were avid folk dancers in their spare time and I discovered exotic new
cultures in the excitement of their rehearsals and costumed performances.
My first guitar was a pint-size version they brought back from Mexico when
I was three years old. The crudely cut wood did not yield much of a sound,
but it was my cherished prop when I dressed up as a folk singer the
I was nine when our family moved from Minneapolis to Italy for a year. It
was my entry-by default-into classical guitar. My oldest brother wanted to
be the next Elvis Presley, but when he learned that his teacher-to-be Aldo
Minella taught Giuliani not Jailhouse Rock, he opted out of lessons. So I
volunteered. A few years later, while studying dances of Lauro with Alirio
Diaz and listening to flamenco music, I began my journey back to the
guitars folk roots. Now, having traveled to some forty countries, I have
come to appreciate and love the beautiful music associated with these
diverse cultures that expresses the history, legends, identities, and
passions of a people.
Clockwise from upper left: Sharon at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain,
July 1992; Jerusalem, Israel, July 1978; Caracas, Venezuela, October
1987; Ireland, 1985; Alhambra, Spain ‘Court of the Lions July 1992;
Jungle of Amazon, January 1994 Center: Athens, Greece, July
My love affair with South American music started when I was fourteen
and studying for a summer with the great Venezuelan guitarist, Alirio
Diaz. The spontaneity, exuberance, and joy in his playing of Latin
dances was irresistible. I felt an immediate affinity for this
This passion would lead to many exciting collaborations. Among the
first was with Carlos Barbosa-Lima, whose brilliant arrangements of
Brazilian and American music have contributed important new repertoire
for guitar, much of which weve played and recorded together over the
years. Our creative partnership, performances and friendship with the
legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim were an especially inspiring part of
In l984, I traveled to Brazil to give a recital tour at the invitation
of the Brazilian government. The radiance and magic of places like
Ipanema and Corcovado suddenly came to life. I began to appreciate the
intimate connection between the country and its music. That same year,
I was invited to perform with Laurindo Almeida and Larry Coryell in a
bossa nova/classical/jazz fusion trio. Our trio Guitarjam was born, and
we toured and recorded together for five years. It was a privilege for
me to learn from and share in the beautiful artistry of Laurindos
music-making during his last decade. He was a cherished friend and is
Our trios New York debut took place during a week-long festival I
created and directed in 1985 for Carnegie Hall called Guitarstream
International. It was there that I had the pleasure of performing for
the first time with the Brazilian composer / arranger / percussionist from
the Amazon rain forest, Gaudencio Thiago de Mello. Working with him
created new dimensions of rhythm, color, and nuance. His wizardry at
the helm of such exotic instruments as the rain stick, berimbau,
jungles mouth and tortoise shell evoked the spirit and image of the
rain forest itself.
A few years later, I made the first of several trips to visit rain
forests in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Floating down the Napo River in a
dugout canoe with piranhas, electric eels, and glistening crocodiles
afoot, monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, and an occasional python in
the lush foliage overhead, I was in a state of bliss. Surely, this was
the Garden of Eden. I had no idea then that this experience would come
to figure in my music as well.
Having experienced a taste of Thiagos world in my travels, I became
particularly fascinated with his compositions about the Amazon. We
began performing in a series of projectsfrom concerts to a recording
to my national radio series, Guitarjam. I relished bringing the rain
forest and its inhabitants to life through music.
How fitting, then, that our guest on this recording would be Paul
Winter. Pauls love of nature has led him to integrate his music with a
life-long quest to preserve the environment and champion endangered
species. Like Thiago, his beautiful and haunting voice carries us to
another world, a dream of the past and a hope for the future.
In this spirit, I dedicate the music and performances of Journey to
the Amazon to the memory of Laurindo Almeida, Tom Jobim, andon
the first anniversary of his passingto my beloved brother Neil
Sharon Isbin, July 20, 1997
The legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer Luis Bonfa exclaimed:
Sharon Isbins Journey to the Amazon is a marvelous recording. Words are
not enough to describe the work of this excellent guitarist. Instead, I
prefer just to listen to her genius touch throughout, enriched by Paul
Winters rare musical sensibility and Thiago de Mellos creative percussion
and brilliant compositions. Excellent performances by three extraordinary
January 1994: Scenes from a trip to the Amazon, including
(lower right) preparing for a hike with composer John Corigliano.
Thiago de Mello, Sharon Isbin, Paul Winter