The Frio Suite: Phil Keaggy and Jeff Johnson (2009) :)
Frio Suite: A new instrumental album (release 0ctober 6, 2009) showcasing the artistry of Phil Keaggy and Jeff Johnson, together with Kathy Hastings (visual artist) and Luci Shaw (poet). This album builds an audio poem built around the sights, sounds, and emotions of the Frio River, as it flows through the grounds of the Laity Lodge. In Leaky, Texas.
As a dedicated fan of guitarist Phil Keaggy and pianist/Keyboard/ambience man Jeff Johnson, (who collectively have put out near 80 albums spanning thirty years), I was ready to “sleep on the sidewalk and camp” when I heard these two were working on a collaborative effort.
For the uninitiated, Phil Keaggy is a world class guitarist who simply knows no genre borders. His instrumental works span the worlds of the chamber orchestra to blow-out-your-speakers psychedelic Rock. He dictates much of the audio track playing in my head! As a singer, Phil favors vocalist Paul McCartney, and many of his pop compositions carry Beatlesque overtones.
Anyway, back to the Suite.This union has produced everything I would hope for -- an utterly beautiful concept album full of hidden melodies and textures. It may be that some fans of Phil’s rock’n side won’t ride with this one. The guitar is sometimes restrained, in the best kind of way.
Truth is, this should be called a trio (or even quartet) production. The art of Kathy Hastings -- album cover and overall inspiration, and a particular poem by Luci Shaw are key to understanding the work.
To be honest, I have been trying to decide where to store the CD. Should I place it with my Keaggy collection, or growing Jeff Johnson collection. I’ve decided with Jeff. From the opening piano riffs, to the “darker” final cut, Frio makes strong on a Jeff Johnson recipe: Minor modes, spare piano, multidimensional rhythm, and a sense of space… or journey. On the other hand, this disk closely follows the recipe used by Keaggy in his last major instrumental release – Phantasmagorical: shifting melodic line, and guitar that builds, dips, and soars through a larger instrumental fabric. (So store it where you want.)