If you seek a comfortable position from which to judge the best guitar playing in the world, then Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre makes a logical choice. Apart from the pulling and hauling of reputation in the bigger cities, we enjoy an extraordinarily privileged view of the field when it comes to the world’s best guitar players. Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Richard Thompson, and Derek Trucks have all played the wonderfully intimate Lobero within the past few years, and on Friday night, October 28, the familiar faces of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) were there to announce that when it comes to jazz guitar, there’s a new group in town.
Not that we aren’t familiar with these guys — they’ve been holding guitar festivals and performing with the Santa Barbara Symphony for years, and they chose Santa Barbara and then-Montecito resident John Cleese (as storyteller) for the premiere of their innovative program of words and music from the work of Cervantes, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote. But, as was noted at the outset of this particular performance by Matt Greif, this was the first time that the group has played in Santa Barbara as part of a jazz series, and the occasion was the unveiling of a six-part suite written especially for the LAGQ by Pat Metheny and titled “Road to the Sun.”
Jazz or not, the music was out of this world. The LAGQ’s fine balance of virtuosity and restraint allows them to highlight what’s at the heart of any great quartet — no matter the instruments — which is how the musicians listen to and respond to one another. The entire second set was devoted to jazz, beginning with pieces by Miles Davis (“Blue in Green”) and John Coltrane (“Giant Steps”) before diving into the glorious Metheny composition, which was unquestionably the highlight of the night.