George Cotsirilos Trio – Variations (2013)

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One of the most apparent revelations about Variations is how unprotected it leaves guitarist George Cotsirilos. The San Francisco-based musician plays both acoustic and electric guitars in a trio setting, with just drummer Ron Marabuto and bassist Robb Fisher as accompaniment.

That puts Cotsirilos front and centre, but he’s more than up for the task. His adeptness on the six-string is the sort of efficient mastery seldom seen. He’s not a flamboyant player, but he doesn’t shy away from well-paced, well-considered flourishes. It could perhaps be argued that accuracy is his game, even if he never dodges the opportunity to play some down and nasty blues.

Variations showcases Cotsirilos’ range and his ability to communicate on a very comfortable level with Marabuto and Fisher. The three have recorded together before, on earlier outings like Past Present and On the Rebop, but there’s something about this disc that stretches things out. And in the space that follows this more obliging methodology, the musicians find opportunities.

The swinging “A Walk for Ethel” shows off Cotsirilos’ bop chops, resembling an occasion for Fisher to walk right along with the electric guitar. The two instrumentalists come together in places only to spring off in seemingly diverse lines later on, all the while in command of their respective paths as Marabuto keeps track of where the trio parked.

Then there’s “Blues for J Man,” which allows for a little more space. Cotsirilos lays a little sapphire heat on his fretwork, but he also cools his heels going into what might’ve been more animated lines under the guard of lesser players. These choices – knowing when to chill and when to take the punches – make for a really roomy blues tune. Of course, the solo? All fire.

The acoustic numbers are no less dynamic, even if they do feature a different sense of space. With “But Beautiful,” the impeccable standard, Cotsirilos is primed with ornate flourishes that take time to unfurl. And on “Doce Presenca,” Marabuto and Fisher carry a smooth and sincere rhythm for the guitarist to skate over.

Variations is the sound of a poised trio, no question about it. Their confidence is not only represented in the fact that the guitarist takes the lead without flares of piano or horn as support, but it comes out in the control and fortitude they exhibit when working through this lovely set of songs.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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