Imagine three virtuoso guitarists playing as if they were one musician, but with 18 strings. That’s the California Guitar Trio, three musicians who studied with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp and played in his League of Crafty Guitarists, a 20 piece guitar orchestra, before embarking on their own path 18 years ago.
Paul Richards of Salt Lake City, Utah, Bert Lams of Brussels, Belgium, and Hideyo Moriya of Tokyo first met in England at one of Fripp’s Guitar Craft Courses in 1987. After completing several of these intensive courses, the three toured worldwide with Fripp’s LOCG. Wanting to continue working together after the League had run its course; Bert, Paul and Hideyo convened in Los Angeles and founded The California Guitar Trio in 1991, honing their intricate original compositions, surf covers, and classical re-workings.
They play a whirlwind of instrumental styles fusing classical, rock, blues, jazz, world music, progressive, as well as the quintessential California musical genre surf music. The California Guitar Trio’s stunning virtuosity and sly sense of humor have earned them an enthusiastic following and wide notoriety, with significant crossover in the progressive, acoustic and classical music scenes.
Is it a good time to be a musician? “Everybody’s been afraid and scared about everything that’s been going on, but it seems to me that people are still going to concerts, still buying CDs and still need music as a part of their lives. In fact, people want music as a way to help deal with a lot of the difficulties they struggle with whether it be financial or whatever,” said Richards. “Music is still something that people need in their lives to help give some calmness or tranquility that you don’t get in their everyday lives.”
The Trio has released 12 CDs: six studio CDs featuring original works from the CGT and a variety of classics such as Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Four live releases that show the trio at their best onstage, and a Christmas CD with familiar and not-so familiar Christmas music, which continues to receive rave reviews.
How has their business changed in the last 18 years? “The whole music business is changing radically right now. We used to sell most of our CDs through the big shops; Tower Records, Borders. That was our number one outlet. Now, it’s changed completely. We have our own website where we sell a lot of CDs on our own web store, which actually works out much better for us because we don’t have the record company that takes all the money,” Richards added. “To give you the basic idea, when a $15 CD is sold in the stores, normally when that goes through a big record company, the band gets $1 of the 15. So when we produce our own CDs and do everything ourselves, it’s basically just the manufacturing costs and flips (the ratio) upside down.”
One particular style that sets them apart from traditional acoustic performances is the demanding technique of “parts circulation.” Paul compares it to “doing the wave in a football stadium” as the three each play every third note in succession.
Over the past 18 years of nearly incessant touring, the California Guitar Trio has shared the stage with superb musicians and performers such as: King Crimson, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Tito Puente, Taj Mahal, and many more.
Hopefully, it’s not too late to get accepted into their fan club as a certified “groupie.”