The process of crossing over, culturally, from West to East can be a journey fraught with peril, or at least questionable intent and results. But when it works, when musical ideas from disparate places find a common ground, the results can be truly ear-opening. Such successful mergers can exemplify the truism verging on cliché that music is the only genuine universal language. That idea springs to mind while listening to the latest project from the category-defying, tone poet guitarist Steve Tibbetts, who has teamed up with Norwegian hardanger fiddler Knut Hamre for an intriguing and impressionistic set. The recording called A (Hannibal 1438; 53:46) is a lateral follow-up to Tibbetts’ cross-cultural rendezvous from 1996, on which the guitarist found paths of emotional resonance with Tibetan nun Choying Drolma. The cultural turf is different here, of course, but the hardanger fiddle tradition with the beguiling drone of its sympathetic strings beneath the melodic strings shares with Tibetan chant a modal, meditative character that Tibbetts complements nicely.
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