Dazzling technique dominates the music of the California Guitar Trio–at the expense of just about everything else. It’s not that the band ignores subtler forms of expression, but carefully shaded phrasing, delicate dynamics, and rhythmic elasticity don’t stand a chance against their stupefying, pummeling fretwork. Belgian conservatory classicist Bert Lams, Japanese-born surf-rock fanatic Hideyo Moriya, and American rock generalist and guitar-effects whiz Paul Richards tackle an occasional Segovia-inspired classical transcription, blues, pop, and of course plenty of rock, from the Ventures’ “Pipeline” through the hallucinogenic virtuosity of mid-70s King Crimson to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (Lams and Richards list a number of jazz musicians among their inspirations and influences, but the genre doesn’t enter the trio’s music at all.) The three met in 1987 as students of Crimson’s Robert Fripp; they formed the band in ’91 and have recorded five albums since. The latest, An Opening Act (Discipline Global Mobile), documents a 1995 tour the trio spent as Crimson’s curtain-raiser–also where they began their association with bass guitarist Tony Levin, who’s played with that band’s later incarnations. Levin’s bio sheet wisely omits his early work in Chuck Mangione’s quartet, instead making the most of his Crimson credentials and his two decades of experience in Peter Gabriel’s bands; he has an extraordinary touch and can coax a stunning, velvety tone from both his electric bass and the Chapman Stick. He’s recently released a solo disc, the pretty if somewhat snoozy Waters of Eden (Narada), which neither suffers nor gains from its quasi-symphonic pretensions. But more apropos of his performance here, he also plays on two thirds of Rocks the West, the CGT’s brand-new live album, where he effortlessly intercalates his bass lines between the densely layered guitars. His role is bigger than guest soloist or featured collaborator–he’s the fourth member of rock’s answer to the classical string quartet. Wednesday, 9 PM, Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dion Ogust.