Guitarist Ben Verdery and the Ulysses Quartet release an album of music for guitar and string quartet that displays the versatility and accessibility of the combination. With music by Bryce Dessner, Javier Farías, Verdery's arrangement of Leonard Benstein's 1942 Clarinet Sonata, and two works by Verdery himself for electric guitar with quartet, A Giant Beside You presents persuasive and committed performances of several new works that provide new options for concert programming for this engaging and eminently viable instrumentation.
|Quintet for High Strings
Quintet for High Strings
Clarinet SonataLeonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)
|II. Andantino-Vivace Leggiero
II. Andantino-Vivace Leggiero
|About To Fall
About To Fall
|A Giant Beside You
A Giant Beside You
Andean SuiteJavier Farías
|I. Yawar Fiesta
I. Yawar Fiesta
Guitarist and composer Ben Verdery cites Leonard Bernstein’s magnanimous artistic spirit as the inspiration for this album of new works for guitar and string quartet with the Ulysses Quartet. Indeed, Bernstein’s openness can be seen reflected in the eclectic aesthetic territory on offer, from Bryce Dessner’s percolating Quintet for High Strings to Verdery’s two works for electric guitar and quartet, and Javier Farías’ South American influenced Andean Suite to Verdery’s arrangement of Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata.
The album opens with Bryce Dessner’s Quintet for High Strings. Dessner enjoys a very diverse career, as one of the leaders of the indie band The National, a prolific composer, and classical guitarist in ensemble and solo settings. The title of the work is a bit of a play on words — Dessner calls for Verdery’s guitar to be restrung with all high strings. The result is a vibrant texture in which common arpeggio figures that would normally cross registers are now heard in one tessitura, as complex scalar passages. Dessner finds creative ways to embed this high-strung guitar into the ensemble sound of the quartet over three contrasting sections.
Guitar transcriptions of works for bowed string or wind instruments come with built-in challenges, for the obvious reason that the guitar cannot easily replicate the sustain and variation of timbre and dynamic within the duration of a note that the breath or a bow can facilitate. In his arrangement of Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata, Verdery addressed those issues by spreading the clarinet and piano material throughout the quintet in ways that play to the different instrument’s strengths. The flowing, lyrical material works naturally with the guitar in the lead melodic role, with the quartet providing harmonic support. When the parts become more active, the guitar’s percussive attack gives those passages rhythmic incision. The result is a charming version of the piece, an addition of a work by one of the 20th century’s most beloved figures to the guitar and string quartet repertoire.
The next two works on the program are composed by Verdery himself, and feature his performances on electric guitar. About to Fall is dedicated to recently passed composer Ingram Marshall, a longtime colleague of Verdery’s at Yale University. The evocative work grows from one gestural idea — a swell initiated by electric guitar or strings that is passed off to a different subset of the ensemble at its peak. The title track is a reworking of an older piece for guitar quartet which was commissioned with the directive that it reference the Sly and the Family Stone song, “Stand.” The electric guitar writing in A Giant Beside You is decidedly vernacular, employing liberal distortion and techniques drawn from the toolbox of rock guitarists, such as the use of slide, whammy bar, and wah wah pedal. The piece careens ahead with funky, interlocking rhythmic figures in the strings interrupted by irreverent guitar interjections.
Javier Farías’ Andean Suite draws inspiration from the culture, traditions, natural environment, and music of South America, specifically the Andean region. The opening movement, “Yawar Fiesta,” takes its name from an annual Peruvian ritual fight between a bull and an Andean condor. Farías characterizes the bull with flamenco inflected guitar material and the condor with music of the Andes. After a fiery guitar introduction, the quartet enters with swirling, impassioned figures, eventually merging together in intense intertwined passages. “Huayno” is based on a well known traditional dance in Bolivia that is part of Carnival, involving colorful costumes and masks. Farías’ setting is rhapsodic, unfolding in waves, capturing the catharsis of the communal celebration. The final movement, “Diablada,” is based on a rhythm from the Altiplano, a region at the intersection of Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Farias embeds virtuosic, stylized passagework inside the alternating duple and triple groupings embedded in the folkloric rhythm.
From the exuberance of the folk material in the Farías, to the integration of vernacular styles into a traditionally classical instrumentation in the Verdery, to Dessner’s creative approach to changing the guitar’s natural tessitura, this album is decidedly American in its populist stance. It is fitting then that the Bernstein completes the set, an echo of his big tent approach to aesthetics. Verdery and the Ulysses Quartet are persuasive advocates throughout, bringing verve to the rhythmic material and grace to the more lyrical moments.
– Dan Lippel
Produced by Matthew LeFevre and Ben Verdery
Recording, Mixing and Mastering by Matthew LeFevre
Ben Verdery played a 1995 Greg Smallman on Quintet for High Strings, a Garrett Lee guitar for the Bernstein Clarinet Sonata and Andean Suite, and a Jack Vees electric guitar for About to Fall and A Giant Beside You
Ben Verdery plays on D’Addario strings exclusively
Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Cover Photogravure: Lothar Osterburg, Flat Earth, lotharosterburgphotogravure.com
All session photos and live photo of the Ulysses Quartet and Ben by Michael Sinicropi
In studio photo of Bryce Dessner with Matthew LeFevre, Ben Verdery
Javier Farias and Ben Verdery on stage courtesy of the Escuela Moderna de Musica, Santiago Chile
Hailed for his innovative and eclectic musical career, Benjamin Verdery tours regularly throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, performing at venues and festivals including Ottawa ChamberFest, 92Y Kaufmann Auditorium, Verona Guitar Festival, Guitar Festival of Belgrade, International Festival Internacional de Guitarra de Taxco (Mexico), Theatre Carré (Amsterdam), the International Guitar Festival in Havana, Wigmore Hall (London), and Metropolitan Opera in New York.
As a recording artist, Ben has released more than 15 albums and has recorded and/or performed with such diverse artists as Andy Summers, Frederic Hand, William Coulter, Leo Kottke, Anthony Newman, Jessye Norman, Paco Peña, Hermann Prey, John Williams, hip‐hop artist Billy Dean Thomas, beat box/vocal percussionist Marc Martin and Nano Stern.
A prolific, published composer in his own right, many of Ben’s compositions have been performed, recorded and published (Doberman‐Yppan, Alfred Music) over the years. He has composed works for The Assad Duo, guitarists David Russell, Scott Tennant, David Tanenbaum, John Williams and John Etheridge, The Changsha International Guitar Festival, the Chilean Guitar Ensemble, the Pensacola Guitar Orchestra (FL), Kyo‐Shin‐An Arts (NY), Wake Forest University, Thomas Offermann and the guitar ensemble of the Hochschule for Music and Theatre (Rostock, Germany) and the score for the documentary film Corida Goyesque. Ben’s Scenes from Ellis Island, for guitar orchestra, has been extensively broadcast and performed at festivals and universities in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Europe, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet included it on their CD, Air and Ground (Sony Classical).
By turn, many of the leading composers of our time have created music for Ben, including Ezra Laderman, Daniel Asia, Martin Bresnick, Bryce Dessner, Javier Farias, Aaron Kernis, John Anthony Lennon, David Leisner, Hannah Lash, Ingram Marshall, Anthony Newman, Roberto Sierra, Van Stiefel, Christopher Theofanitis, and Jack Vees.
Ben owes much to his guitar teachers Philip De Fremery and Frederic Hand, both of whom he studied with at SUNY Purchase. The Master Classes he took in Arles, France with Leo Brouwer were seminal for Ben as well. He continued his studies with his mentor Anthony Newman and still receives coaching from his other mentor, Seymour Bernstein. He will always feel greatly indebted to what these and many others have given him over the many years.
Since 1985 Ben has been guitar professor at the Yale School of Music, Artistic Director of 92Y’s Art of the Guitar series since 2007 and Producer of his Maui Summer Master Class since 1999. Ben is also an Honorary Board Member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas.https://www.benjaminverdery.com/
The Ulysses Quartet has been praised for their “textural versatility,” “grave beauty” and “the kind of chemistry many quartets long for, but rarely achieve” (The Strad). Founded in the summer of 2015, the group won the grand prize and gold medal at the 2016 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, first prize at the 2017 American Prize, 2018 Schoenfeld International String Competition, 2019 Vietnam International Music Competition, and second prize in the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition. Violinists Christina Bouey and Rhiannon Banerdt, violist Colin Brookes and cellist Grace Ho hail from Canada, the United States and Taiwan. They have performed in such prestigious halls as Carnegie Hall, the Harbin Grand Theatre, Jordan Hall, and the Taiwan National Recital Hall. Other notable engagements include CMS Lincoln Center, Sociedad Filarmónica de Bilbao, Premiere Performances Hong Kong, National Arts Centre, Fundación Juan March, Wigmore Hall, and Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo. Ulysses was the Lisa Arnhold Fellows at Juilliard from 2019 to 2022, the school’s Graduate Resident String Quartet. The Ulysses Quartet Foundation believes intensely in the power of music to inspire, enlighten, and bring people together. Ulysses aims to use this platform to raise the voices of underrepresented BIPOC and female composers.
The members of Ulysses hold degrees from the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory and Yale University. The musicians perform on instruments and bows graciously on loan from the Maestro Foundation and private donors. Ulysses is grateful for the support of Shar Music and Connolly Music as YSOA ambassadors.
Bryce Dessner is an American composer and guitarist based in Paris, as well as a member of the rock band the National. Dessner's twin brother Aaron is also a member of the group. Together they write the music, in collaboration with lead singer/lyricist Matt Berninger.
In addition to his work with the National, Dessner is known for his independent work as a composer. His orchestral, chamber, and vocal compositions have been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Metropolitan Museum of Art (for the New York Philharmonic), Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, BAM Next Wave Festival, Barbican Centre, Edinburgh International Festival, Sounds from a Safe Harbour Festival, Cork City County, Cork Ireland, Sydney Festival, eighth blackbird, Sō Percussion, New York City Ballet, and many others. His work Murder Ballades was featured on Eighth Blackbird's album Filament, an album he also produced and performs on, and which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.
Dessner has collaborated with artists such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Jonny Greenwood, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Justin Peck, Ragnar Kjartansson, Katia and Marielle Labèque, and Taylor Swift, among others.
Dessner is the founder of the MusicNOW Festival, co- founder of Copenhagen's HAVEN festival, and co-curates the Festival Sounds from a Safe Harbour. He is a founding member of the improvisatory instrumental group Clogs and co-founder of Brassland Records. In 2018, Dessner was named one of eight creative and artistic partners for the San Francisco Symphony as part of incoming Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen's new leadership model for the orchestra from 2020. He has a master's degree in music from Yale University.
Javier Farías has been honored by having his music performed and recorded by some of the main exponents of the guitar such as Eliot Fisk, Ben Verdery, David Tanenbaum, Joaquín Clerch Díaz, Gabriel Bianco, Emanuele Segre, Ricardo Cobo, Carlos Perez, Andy Summers—legendary rock guitarist of The Police, and premier jazz-fusion guitarist Mike Stern. In 2014 Farías was awarded a commission from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University and he has also won first prizes in the Michele Pittaluga Composition Competition for Classical Guitar (2004), the Andrés Segovia Composition Contest (2005), and the 2 Agosto International Composing Competition (2008).
A GIANT BESIDE YOU is the title of a new Re-Entrant release that features music by Bryce Dessner, Leonard Bernstein, Javier Farias, and guitarist and composer Ben Verdery, who is featured in each of the five compositions in the album in the company of the Ulysses Quartet.
The works in the album amply demonstrate Ben Verdery’s protean gifts as a player of the Classical acoustic guitar and the contemporary electric guitar. The artist excels in meeting the demands of Bryce Dessner’s 2018 Quintet for High Strings – composed for and dedicated to Ben Verdery – a single movement work that calls for enduring energy and brilliancy. Using a broad range of tempi and inventively rhythmic figures assigned to the solo guitar and to the members of the Ulysses Quartet- violinists Christina Bouey and Riannon Bannerdt, violist Colin Brookes, and cellist Grace Ho, Dessner’s compelling composition affords all five players fine opportunities to display technical prowess throughout its 18-minute duration.
In a charmingly told anecdote Ben Verdery makes clear the use of the title of the album when he talks about an encounter with the late Leonard Bernstein in 1981. Bernstein’s comfortable straddling of the classical and the popular made a lasting impression on Verdery, whom he thanks in his note “…all the musical giants that stood before us and continue to stand next to us.”
Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata, arranged for string quartet and guitar by Ben Verdery evidences Bernstein’s late career interest in atonal music, while Verdery’s About to Fall and A Giant Beside You – both very recently composed – are inventive works that reveal the composer’s pop roots and his sense of humor.
Javier Farias Andean Suite spans diverse emotions in its three movements: the unabashed joy of Yawar Fiesta, the lyrical sadness of Huayno, and the devilishly humorous Diablada. Ben Verdery brings a soulful sensitivity and a keen understanding of the music of the Chilean composer, drawing to a close a varied album of music for the guitar.
— Rafael de Acha, 7.27.2023
Guitarist and composer Ben Verdery recently released a new album in collaboration with the Ulysses Quartet. Titled "A Giant Beside You", the disc is bound together by a work written especially for Verdery — Bryce Dessner's Quintet for High Strings, which is scored for guitar and string quartet.
Guitarist and composer Bryce Dessner has written works for a number of leading contemporary-music ensembles, including the Kronos Quartet, ensemble intercontemporain, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also plays guitar in rock band The National, alongside his brother Aaron. Dessner's close friendship with Ben Verdery lead him to integrate the soundworld of the guitar with that of the string quartet in this commissioned work.
Two of Verdery's own compositions also feature on the album. The titular work, A Giant Beside You, takes its compositional lead from a song by Sly and the Family Stones, titled “Stand!" You can hear the work below.
Verdery's second piece, About to Fall, is a tribute to his close friend, the late composer Ingram Marshall.
In addition, Verdery has arranged Leonard Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata for the guitar, sharing musical material from both the clarinet and piano parts around the guitar and string quartet. The album closes with Javier Farías's Andean Suite, a musical exploration of Peruvian folklore.
"[Quintet for High Strings] was composed for my dear friend, Ben Verdery, who has been a part of my life for nearly twenty-five years," said Bryce Dessner of his work. "This quintet brings me back to my primary instrument — the guitar — and my relationship with Ben, which was so formative in my development as a musician. In this new piece, I am exploring my relationship to the instrument in a new way."
The American Ben Verdery is at the center of this CD as an arranger and guitarist, but also as a composer. Bryce Dessner wrote his quintet for Verdery, replacing the low strings of the guitar with high ones, giving the instrument a more melodic role than usual. Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata is often found in arrangements, here also for the plucked instrument guitar and a string quartet, from the guitarist’s hand. For example, in passages with double forte he created violin and guitar playing in unison, low passages are paired with cello or viola. Piano passages could be easily transferred to the guitar.
Two of Verdery’s own works are in the middle of the CD. About to Fall is a tribute to Ingram Marshall. A Giant Beside You is a song by the group Sly and the Family Stone. Harmonic progression, funky riffs and hand clapping inspired it. Javier Faria’s Andean Suite features impressions of South America, specifically Peru, in three movements. A festival, the high plateau (Altiplano) and a carnival dance create atmospheric colors.
Ben Verdery identifies with all works and is able to express this in his playing. His guitar technique includes playing on both acoustic and electric guitar, depending on the genre called for in each composition. He can certainly express any musical character and make his part sound as sensitive acoustically as it is grippingly electrically.
The Ulysses Quartet adds the string parts with a light and relaxed sounding hand. They act texturally versatile according to the works, maintaining the chemistry of their ensemble without seeming academically austere. Together with Ben Verdery, they offer new listening sensations, as guitar quintets are a rare lineup.
— Uwe Krusch, 6.19.2023
Those interested can fast-forward to another comparatively short CD (55 minutes) for a strong contrast between string use in Tudor times and in contemporary music. The focus of this ReEntrant disc is guitarist Ben Verdery, who was intimately involved in all the musical creations except for one piece. Verdery wrote two of the works on the disc himself, arranged the one by Leonard Bernstein, and is the person for whom Bryce Dessner (born 1976) wrote his piece, Quintet for High Strings, in 2018. Dessner’s quintet is an extended (18-minute) work that uses a guitar – which is, after all, a string instrument – that has been restrung with special strings that lead to sounds an octave or even two octaves above where they would normally appear. It is not a particularly engaging work – once the ear adjusts to the experimental nature of the re-stringing, the musical material is not especially attractive. The piece’s three movements are played attacca, and there are some differences among them, but their sound is not overly attractive, despite the skill with which Verdery and the Ulysses Quartet present everything. More interesting, if perhaps rather wrongheaded, is Verdery’s arrangement of Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata, the composer-conductor’s first published piece (1942). In it, Bernstein showed a considerable amount of sensitivity to the sound and sensibilities of the clarinet and the ways in which it can interact with the piano. The clarinet part does not translate directly to the guitar, although it can work on some other instruments (there is an intriguing cello arrangement, for example). Verdery (born 1955) comes up with clever ways to overcome the difficulties of this adaptation, but the sound is never quite satisfactory, and the first movement certainly does not come across as Grazioso here. The Bernstein work is followed on the disc by two written by Verdery himself. About to Fall (2022) uses an electric guitar and a volume pedal, starting with a series of swells and progressing into a very slow section that seems to be striving toward an unnamed and unreached climax. A Giant Beside You (2021-2022) also features electric guitar, and here the sound is that of electroacoustic music, with a good deal of bounce and use of a number of pop-music techniques. It is more fun than About to Falland makes a better overall impression, but at almost seven minutes, it continues long after it has made its points. The final work on the disc is the three-movement Andean Suite (2017) by Javier Farias (born 1973). This is the most variegated and rhythmically intriguing piece on the CD. Each movement seeks to capture the spirit and sound of ceremonies and music of the Andean region. The first, Yawar Fiesta,represents a bloody fight between animals staged annually in Peru. The second, Huayno, is slow and sad, filled with a kind of tearful lyricism reflected in all the instruments and showcasing the guitar’s emotive capabilities. The third, Diablada, is an interpretation of a Bolivian dance with strong rhythms and a driving pace. The use of strings on this CD is about as far from that of William Whyte as one would expect from the long-separated musical eras – but it is fascinating to hear in how many ways, despite their obvious differences, the works on these two discs use small-ensemble string music to reach out colorfully and often effectively to a suitably receptive audience.
— Mark Estren, 8.03.2023
— David Osenberg, 8.26.2023
Many years have passed since guitarist Ben Verdery's (b. 1955) first experience playing with a string quartet—Vivaldi's Concerto for lute in D major as a student—which makes his collaborative release with Ulysses Quartet (Christina Bouey and Rhiannon Banerdt, violins; Colin Brookes, viola; Grace Ho, cello) all the more special, for Verdery and listener alike. Rare are recordings coupling guitar and strings; rarer still are ones featuring world premieres of recently composed material, in this case pieces by Bryce Dessner (b. 1976) and Verdery. Adding to the release's appeal, the guitarist has included his own arrangement of Leonard Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata and a rendition of the South American-flavoured Andean Suite by Chilean composer Javier Farias (b. 1973), his the only non-world premiere recording on the disc. A Giant Beside You also stands out for featuring Verdery on classical guitar and, on his own About To Fall and A Giant Beside You, electric. While some listeners might find the latter a less soothing sound (in the titular work, specifically), its presence broadens the album's scope plus brings a different dimension to this eclectic project.
For 2018's Quintet for High Strings, Dessner uses a scordatura that involves tuning four guitar strings an octave higher than normal. That move dramatically reconfigures the sonic character of the performance when arpeggio patterns and bass notes intone at a higher pitch; it also amplifies the ornamental quality of the guitar (in its repetitive strums it even sometimes resembles a dulcimer). Eighteen minutes in total, the work progresses without pause through three movements, the animated first setting the scene with intricate embroidery and insistent guitar work, the second mysterious, slow, and ponderous, and the rousing third a sparkling, picking-enhanced plunge into folk song territory.
For his 2017 transcription of Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata, Verdery smartly redistributed the original's woodwind and piano parts amongst the quintet so that it plays to the different instruments' strengths. As the guitar wends an unpredictable path through the lyrical “Grazioso,” the strings alternate between supporting the guitar harmonically and authoritatively taking the lead. The second movement, marked “Andantino-Vivace Leggiero,” begins serenely, the writing emblematic of Bernstein's tender side, before the pace accelerates and grows more dance-like, again the rhythms characteristic of the composer responsible for West Side Story. In both movements, the transitions between the instruments as they exchange background and foreground roles are deftly handled. In fact, Verdery's transcription is so convincingly realized, one would never know it came into the world as anything but a work written for guitar and strings.
Verdery's About To Fall (2022), which pays homage to his recently passed friend and long-time Yale colleague Ingram Marshall, builds on an initial swelling of chords and in its measured unfolding assumes the character of a stately and heartfelt lament. For A Giant Beside You (2021-22), Verdery reworked an earlier piece he wrote for the Australian quartet Guitar Trek that came with the directive that it reference a a popular song. Attracted by its funky riff, harmonic progression, and other details, the guitarist selected Sly and the Family Stone's “Stand” and works all manner of rock gestures into the performance, from distortion, wah-wah, and slide to dive-bombing theatrics. At first, it's as if the guitarist's strafing the quartet with spiky interjections but eventually the parts cohere and the five march side-by-side through the piece's raw landscape.
Worlds removed from it is Farias's three-part Andean Suite, which sees Verdery re-arming himself with classical guitar and exploring guitar techniques from different countries in South America. Titled after a Peruvian celebration that includes a blood fight between a bull and an Andean condor, “Yawar Fiesta” is naturally fiery. Verdery's strums and picking vividly evoke South America during the unaccompanied intro before things turn passionate with the quartet's entrance. After the strings introduce “Huayno” with an expressive outpouring, the music, now buoyed by an enticing Altiplano rhythm, takes on a supplicating quality that's almost Piazzolla-esque. Executed at a breathless pace and grounded in a traditional Bolivian dance, “Diablada” takes the recording out on a celebratory note and features dazzling Chilean folk guitar playing.
Verdery and Ulysses Quartet benefit equally from this collaboration. A Giant Beside You casts him as an intrepid and imaginative explorer and the quartet as equally adventurous and up to the many challenges posed by such a wide-ranging project. In slightly less than an hour, the five travel confidently from American classical to South American folk and make room for arresting detours along the way—a scenic and intriguing journey, to say the least.
— Ron Schepper, 9.15.2023
Guitarist and composer Ben Verdery's A Giant Beside You, his seventeenth album release, is a collaboration with the Ulysses Quartet (Christina Bouey and Rhiannon Banerdt, violins; Colin Brookes, viola; Grace Ho, cello). Three of the four works on the program are world-premiere recordings that, in addition to two of Verdery's compositions featuring him on electric guitar, pair the classical guitar with a string quartet in works by Bryce Dessner, Javier Farías, and Verdery's arrangement of Leonard Bernstein's first published piece 'Sonata for Clarinet and Piano.' The textural peculiarity regarding the guitar's range in the album's opening piece by classical guitarist, composer, and co-leader of the indie band The National, Bryce Dessner, reveals the fact that its title, "Quintet for High Strings," is indeed clever wordplay owing to the composer's call for Verdery's 1995 Smallman to be strung with all treble strings. The result is a through-composed vibrant sonic journey in three sections that assuredly defends the work's eighteen-minute span at every twist and turn. Verdery's arrangement of Bernstein's "Clarinet Sonata" follows and, although cast in two movements, it can be heard as three. Rightfully abandoning an attempt at true transcription due to challenges regarding sustain, and also some dynamic considerations, the arrangement distributes the clarinet and piano material between the string quartet and the guitar. This innovative and effective approach preserves the sonata's lyricism and original charm by utilizing each instrument in the quintet to its best effect. The next two pieces, "About to Fall" and the album's title track, are composed by Verdery and performed on electric guitar. With its charmingly insolent tones and attitude, the latter is a reworking of a piece originally composed for guitar quartet. The former is dedicated to Ingram Marshall, a late colleague of Verdery's at Yale University, and it is masterfully composed, exchanging the previous piece's use of distortion, slide, whammy bar, and wah-wah pedal for a pristine tone that works collaboratively this time with the quartet, befitting both title and dedication. "Andean Suite" by Javier Farías, whose laudable achievements include First Prize winner of the Andrés Segovia Composition Competition, is an exhilarating finish to the program. From the flamenco-tinged "Yawar Fiesta," which takes its name from an annual Peruvian ritual fight between a bull and a condor, through to the final movement's pulsating Altiplano rhythms in "Huayno," the wonderfully wild ride of A Giant BesideYou ends in a region at the intersection of Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia.
— David Pedrick, 9.26.2023