George Cotsirilos' meticulous and tasteful guitar work is marked by remarkably subtle shifts in accents, and minute changes in expression and dynamics. On Past Present
, he also displays an impeccable sense of timing especially in revealing the hidden rhythms of complex melodies. His approach to harmony is whimsical, but patently beautiful at all times. He is fleet-fingered across the fret board and equally expressive as he plucks the strings of his guitar, or simply rolls over them with fingertips, like brushstrokes on a canvas. He must have been a marksman in a past life, because he is so uncannily "bang-on" the pulse a song. And when songs rush and dally from verse to verse, Cotsirilos is damping and setting the strings free to catch each new pulse as it manifests itself.
Cotsirilos plays as he breathes'sometimes in short, excited gasps and at other times in longer, deeper gulps of air. As breathing is seamless, so is his guitar playing, and the only indication that his playing appears synchronized with his breath is the way he sometimes adds resonant spaces between notes or phrases. On "Franny's Jump," played at a brisk pace, Cotsirilos allows the melody to breathe in such a relaxed manner that the silences, though echoing with the last notes heard, enrich the melody with their slurred space. The title track is another example of a song burning with the cold fire of deep meditation. The lilting, Latin-American downbeat, played on diminished notes by bass and guitar, is spectacular, as the music mines a kind of mosaic, reminiscent of a filigreed time when days melted rather ceremoniously into night.
The music here is sophisticated; Cotsirilos is an accomplished writer. On this album, and with a trio, there is no real room to display contrapuntal skills, but that does not stop the guitarist from creating mosaics of a musical nature. Sometimes his linear melodies develop such towering harmonies that the simple becomes ornate with breathtaking twists and turns. Cotsirilos does this by creating harmonic whorls that swathe the melody with diaphanous beauty. The transformation of songs such as "The Way You Look Tonight," "Without a Song" and his own "Rosie's Tune" have that utterly disarming effect.
Cotsirilos has picked colleagues who support him with extraordinary sympathy. Bassist, Robb Fisher has star turns with wonderful solos too. His imaginative turns on "Franny's Jump" and on "Café 4 Cats" throw a special spotlight on both songs. His dramatic solo picks up the intense passion of "Past Present," and forces the song to maintain its abstractions, while remaining blithely romantic. Drummer Ron Marabuto is the other reason why this album burns with an earthy flame. He plays with taste and great subtlety, like few drummers today. Marabuto's adroit manipulations of his brassware, and the way he sinks accents into the skins, make him ideally suited for a wonderful record such as this.