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Soundboard Publication Review by Brad DeRoche features Kenny Hill

Lost and Found Suite / Doberman-Yppan (DO 1486) (Publication Review by Brad DeRoche, Soundboard Oct 2023) - Kenny Hill needs no introduction to guitarists; his well-known innovative concert instruments are found in most of the finest shops worldwide, his New World student model guitars have been very popular, and his efforts in establishing guitar workshops in Mexico, China, and elsewhere are unparalleled. However his s most recent endeavors into the world of music composition with a collection of solo guitar pieces make him a true renaissance man, as if that weren't already known.

The music here represents "a deliberate comeback to composing for guitar after decades of dormancy and neglect" according to the poetic and intriguing program notes that accompany each score. Stolen Moments was Hill's first foray into composition after reaching his seventieth birthday and reflects on a conversation he had with Lou Harrison. Kenny asked the composer how he found time to compose and Harrison replies, "Oh there is no time, only stolen moments." The three-movement suite utilizes an unusual tuning with the sixth string tuned to low C and a partial capo on the top five strings at fret four. The resultant tuning gives the suite a haunting ethereal quality that in the first movement, "Stolen Moments", is reminiscent of what many "new age" acoustic steel=string players create with their unique use of capo and scordatura. The second movement, "Blindness," showcases Hill's ability to compose in a modern style, evoking the mood of Vicente Asencio's Getsemani, though it's a bit sparser harmonically. "Canary Jig" is a light, energetic merriment that caps off the suite.

In Songs from Home, Hill gives us three lovely pieces each with its own flavor and character. The first movement, "Solitaire," written for his wife, Roberta, is a heartfelt tune that sounds a bit like a Scottish air; tender, poignant, and a touch melancholy. "Twilight" sounds like it could have come from the pen of Andrew York, with arpeggiated chords moving up and down the fingerboard. The third movement, Wedding Soong," written for his youngest child, is a sentimental piece with a simple, elegant melody above an arpeggiated bass; not unlike what Carulli or Giuliani might have composed had they been living in our day.

Lost and Found Suite begins with its flowing "Prelude" in dropped-D tuning. The music is appealing and untroubled, simple and elegant. The second movement., "Lost," is Hill's most inspired, and here he reaches his greatest emotional and compositional depth. This is the gem of the series. "Found," the third movement, is a new age, Windham Hill-esque piece, and while not quite the powerful, exhilarating finale one might expect, it is an effective way to end the suite. Anyone looking for new music of moderate difficulty that is appealing and audience-friendly would do well to look into these works. -Brad DeRoche

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