Here we have Terry Riley in a more lyrical, less minimalist mode. If you are only familiar with early masterworks such as "In C" and "A Rainbow in Curved Air", you might be perplexed by the angularity and chromaticism of these pieces from the 1990s. It's often hard to follow where Riley is going when he wanders so freely over the harmonic and stylistic map-which makes things all the more interesting. Composed over six years, each of the 28 pieces (here we get 10) has a title that starts with a different letter of the Spanish alphabet, and Riley evokes Spanish guitar music with intricate passagework, Latin dances, and flamenco strumming. The excellent guitarist David Tanenbaum, who commissioned these works, gives them articulate and poetic readings even at their most unwieldy. He teams up for stunning duos with violinist Tracy Silverman in one suite, and percussionist William Winant joins him in another on tabla, marimba, Peking opera gongs, and other instruments. Riley's talented son Gyan, who ultimately led his father to the guitar, joins Tanenbaum on "Zamorra". This is beautiful music, however I also enjoy Riley's pure minimalism and trance-like works just as much. Needless to say this is a much more accessible side of Riley's output and many listeners will likely prefer this.
Terry Riley did an interesting thing after writing "In C": he essentially went back to being a student, spending years working in India with the vocal master Pandit Pran Nath. It was not until the early 1980s that the groundbreaking Kronos Quartet convinced him to sit down, be a 'Western composer', and write some string quartets. As often happens with composers, the guitar felt too alien to Riley initially when he contemplated writing for it, but in the early 1990s, his son Gyan won a guitar and some lessons in a raffle, and so the guitar and its music filled the Riley home. Soon thereafter Terry Riley was ready to write. The late Rose Augustine, former head of Augustine Strings who was ever at the ready to bring fine composers to the guitar, jumped at the chance to commission him, and "The Book of Abbeyozzud" was born.
"The Book of Abbeyozzud" (ah-BYE-ah-ZOOD) is a word invented by Riley, without any apparent meaning. Riley writes "....these works are indebted to great Spanish music traditions and to those traditions upon which Spanish music owes its heritage". This is evident throughout the recording, and to wonderful effect Riley-style.