The physical sense of taste – and the palate of distinct flavours evoked by music – are really not that far separated.
For evidence, look no further than the new release by Semiahmoo Peninsula-raised acoustic guitarist Michael Fabro.
Each track on his new instrumental nuevo flamenco album Tasting Notes is named after a wine region in Spain — and an attempt, in musical terms, to evoke the unique character of their products, he said.
And indeed, Fabro’s felicitous original melodies, powerful yet fluid guitar technique and upbeat, dance-compelling rhythms — multi-tracked himself, rather than played with sidemen — do evoke the rich, heady taste of a selection of fine Spanish vintages.
“For me, it’s a little bit of nostalgia and a little bit of the lack of travel at this time,” Fabro, who spent several years studying in Spain, said.
“But in a way, during the pandemic, there is a way you can travel — through a bottle of wine,” he said, adding that he hopes the feeling he creates with the album is akin to spending an evening sampling the varieties at a Spanish bar where live musicians also perform this type of music.
Nothing about this is accidental, Fabro noted in a recent interview with Peace Arch News.
In fact, the Elgin Park 2008 grad said, the recording is a logical culmination of every path his music has taken over the years — including working towards his masters of guitar performance degree at the Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Latterly – but prior to the pandemic – Fabro has been a well-known presence on the Semiahmoo and South Surrey music scene as an acoustic pop fusion guitarist, singer and songwriter, playing many solo gigs at such venues as the Washington Avenue Grill, The Seahorse Grill and The Vault (in Cloverdale).
“In many ways Tasting Notes is not a departure, but a return to my musical roots,” Fabro said, noting that he began studying classical guitar technique before inevitable forays into electric guitar and pop-rock during his high school years (although he acknowledges he’ll still sometimes plays electric).
In 2008, his progressive rock band Tales From Abbot won the City of Surrey-sponsored “City Jam” in 2008, while an earthier Fabro group, Spooky Blues, scored a success in a White Rock Blues Society-sponsored contest in 2009.
“I suppose the progressive rock thing was an early indication of my need to go towards a rock and classical fusion, while the Spooky Blues experience probably in many ways contributed to my guitar playing as a whole, and making me more comfortable playing before an audience — there’s something about that I’ve thrived on,” he said.
Taking his bachelor’s degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, also gave him a solid underpinning in classical technique and theory which he feels has only provided a stronger basis for his creative endeavours, and while on campus he was also able to audition for, and participate in, musical theatre, which he credits with “giving me more freedom to loosen up on stage.”
That was probably just as well, because his next adventure in musical education – the ‘escola’ in Barcelona – was a deep dive into classical technique.
“The level of guitar playing on the classical scene there is so much higher than it is here. There are a lot of guitar players at such a high level going in, that, for me, it was a lot of work to be part of that.
“It was very intense – it’s such a weird thing locking yourself into a room for five to eight hours of practice each day, in sometimes 30-degree heat,” he added.
Fabro says that experience, which indisputably honed his technique to a fine degree, also prompted a journey through pop-rock fusion after his return to B.C. several years ago.
“I did that partly because I had been getting into doing some songwriting as an escape from all that classical practising,” he said.
It was a good exercise in playing a more “digestible, accessible” brand of music, he said, but inevitably he found himself going back to classical technique and the acoustic side of playing in his sets.
And while he still plans to do vocal/guitar gigs as bread-and-butter work after the pandemic has subsided enough to allow live performances again (he was averaging 250 to 300 performances a year prior to it), he feels that with Tasting Notes he has achieved a new level of creativity.
While he admits he was a slow convert to such technology as creating multi-layered ‘loops’ during performance, he now realizes that it will enable him to bring the Tasting Notes style of instrumentals to live situations, including, he hopes, venues in White Rock and South Surrey.
“I feel the best about this music – the pop songs were an important stage, but I feel now I have achieved a nice fusion of all three; pop, rock and classical,” he said.
“I’m feeling better about it being a true expression of what I wanted to create.”
Tasting Notes is available through Spotify, music.apple.com, soundcloud.com and YouTube.