“Harvey Valdes is a fantastic guitarist” - Andy Summers
Guitar Virtuoso Harvey Valdes’ Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar – to be released by Destiny Records on April 8, 2022 – features sublime scores long performed by the world’s greatest lutenists and classical guitarists, but these pieces sound more timeless than ever in the hands of Valdes on steel-string electric guitar.
“Harvey Valdes is a fantastic guitarist – musical to the nth degree and with chops to spare, as anyone knows who has heard the way he handles standards and ballads with astonishing contrapuntal virtuosity. Now, with this new album, the special logic in his playing of Bach is wonderfully revealed.” - ANDY SUMMERS of The Police
Like the art of Shakespeare or Van Gogh, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach has been recognized the world over as universal and timeless – sounding as moving and miraculous now as the day these Baroque scores were written, some three hundred years ago. The lute works that J.S. Bach composed have been recorded by the world’s greatest lutenists and guitarists across the past century, from Segovia to Julian Bream to John Williams to Hopkinson Smith, among a myriad of others. It would take a stroke of something approaching genius to enable us to hear these pieces truly anew. But that is just what Harvey Valdes has accomplished with Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar.
To be released digitally and on CD by Destiny Records on April 8, 2022, the album presents Valdes playing 10 of Bach’s pieces not on the age-old lute or the nylon-string classical guitar but on the modern steel-string electric guitar. The result is ear-opening; the notes are the same ones Bach put to paper in the 18th century, but Valdes performs them with a tone and texture that sounds extraordinarily fresh and of the moment, without ever trying to unduly “modernize” the music. Over the past few years, Valdes has attracted famous fans among iconic guitarists, including Andy Summers of The Police, ECM luminary David Torn and avant-garde notable Elliott Sharp, who says: “With Novare, Harvey brings Bach’s works into the 21st century with a sensuous tone and an articulation that is simultaneously precise and dynamic, even at breakneck tempi. His playing reveals the contrapuntal lines in all their permutational glory.”
But it isn’t just world-renowned guitarists who have been impressed by Novare. Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, celebrated for her playing of Bach on the modern grand piano, says: “Harvey Valdes brings an improviser’s sensibility to this music, which is in so many ways the most authentic approach to Bach. There is an understated quality to his interpretations that allows a listener to hear the architecture of the music, and there is a rhythmic malleability that gives breath and presence. The Prelude and Fugue in D-flat stands out in the way that Valdes enjoys the sustained possibilities of the electric guitar. It’s a beautiful new take on old gems.”
Why Bach on electric guitar? Says Harvey, “Why not?! The electric guitar has a capacity for tone, color and dynamics that moves beyond what the acoustic classical guitar can do. There have been some past recordings of electric guitarists who have played Bach or works by Mozart, Beethoven, etc. These often feature the instrument using high gain and distorted sounds with fast virtuosic playing. I respect this approach, but it’s not the one I wanted to take. I was interested in honoring some of the delicate classical guitar approaches and while also taking advantage of the sonic dimensions of the electric guitar.
“For listeners who are guitar players, I want to share with them how it’s possible to play Bach’s lute works on an electric guitar. You can bring a classical guitar approach to the electric guitar that expands the sonic landscape for this historical music and gives it a space to live in the present. As for everyone else, enjoy! I hope it can soothe a listener’s life. Making it certainly brought some peace into my life during a challenging time that has affected us all.”
More about Harvey Valdes
A guitarist of searching, sophisticated musicality, Harvey Valdes can traverse styles from avant- jazz and Middle Eastern/Balkan music to improvised film scores and the compositions of Bach. Harvey has an intrepid curiosity about the guitar’s sonic and expressive range; he is also a trained player of the Arabic oud, as well as the Turkish cümbüş. To date, he has released three albums as a soloist/leader: “Solitude Intones Its Echo” (Destiny, 2019), a set of concise, engaging solo improvisations praised by the likes of Guitar Moderne as “18 lyrical solo performances of compositions that hook you”; “Roundabout” (2015), his solo debut featuring lyrically inventive takes on jazz standards; and “PointCounterPoint” (2015), a bristling, Mahavishnu-meets-math-rock trio album with violinist Sana Nagano and drummer Joe Hertenstein. All About Jazz hailed “Pointcounterpoint” as “cosmic,” while the Free Jazz Collective described Roundabout as “sublimely beautiful.” In April 2022, Destiny Records will present Harvey’s newest album: “Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar.” Underscoring his achievements, Harvey’s venturesome work in the studio and on stage has attracted fans among iconic guitarists, including Andy Summers of The Police, ECM luminary David Torn and avant-garde notable Elliott Sharp.
Based in Brooklyn, NY Harvey earned a BFA degree from The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music. He has worked with artists from Butch Morris, Karl Berger and Rhys Chatham to Daniel Carter, and the Middle Eastern/Balkan ensemble Anistar, among many others. His score for Utopians, which premiered at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, constituted “one of the longest-lasting guitar improvisations since (Neil Young’s score for) Dead Man.” The Valdes composition “Listen” was chosen as an Editor’s Pick by Guitar Player magazine. Harvey has also performed extensively in New York theater. He held the guitar/oud chair as an onstage musician and cast member for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Band’s Visit, having originated the role Off Broadway at The Atlantic Theater before moving with the ensemble for the hit run at Broadway’s Barrymore Theater. He played on the show’s 2019 Grammy Award-winning cast album, and he received a daytime Emmy Award for his broadcast performance with the ensemble, along with participating in the 10 Tony wins as a cast member. Harvey has also worked with renowned downtown theater ensemble The Wooster Group, including its presentation of Cavalli’s 1640 opera “La Didone”; for that production, which toured the U.S. and Europe, he provided a modern interpretation of the Baroque lute, playing electric guitar and guitar synth within an ensemble that also included harpsichord, theorbo and accordion.
Harvey has played on stages from Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and St. Ann’s Warehouse to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Chicago Cultural Center, CalArts’ Redcat Theater in Los Angeles, Scotland’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, the United Nations. Harvey has also featured in broadcast performances for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, The Today Show and WNYC-FM, as well as the 72nd annual Tony Awards. Additional collaborators over the years have included Noël Akchoté, Gerry Hemingway, Lukas Ligeti, Killick Hinds, Jamshied Sharifi, Sean Sonderegger, Henri Scars Struck and Bern Nix. Harvey has recently featured on multiple compilation albums, including the fifth in Elliott Sharp’s anthology series “Never Meta Guitar,” and “Walk My Way,” a five volume 577 Records set featuring 49 guitarists of 32 different nationalities from six continents and virtually every sort of musical background. He also played on Eight Hands, One Mind by the Dom Minasi Guitar Quartet with Briggan Krauss and Hans Tanmen, as well as recorded the duo album Nueva Guitarra with avant-metal guitarist Alvaro Domene.
About the imaginative virtuosity of Valdes, guitarist extraordinaire David Torn says: “When I first heard Harvey, I thought: ‘Well, here’s another badass mother on the scene – wow.’”
Harvey Valdes record release show at Barbes in Brooklyn, NY on April 9th 2022
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