Vol. 53 No. 1  Summer 2009


Gadfly 516

By his own admission in the liner notes for this newest CD, at the time of the release of his first album, Italian flatpick guitar wizard Beppe Gambetta "didn't really speak English". Yet, two full decades later, he sings nearly accent-free on the opening track of Rendez-vous, "The Battle of Waterloo", a traditional tune with words added by Scottish singer Jim Malcom, in which one of Wellington's foot soldiers writes a final letter home to wife and daughter in Scotland. Gambetta is joined on the song by Patty Larkin, and it makes for a haunting and intriguing opening to what turns out to be a well-conceived and nicely produced collection of 11 tunes that cover a wide spectrum of moods and emotions.
Larkin is just one of several artists from around the world with whom Gambetta meets and matches muses with - hence the album's title. Bruce Molsky provides an ethereal fiddle and vocal backdrop to "Procession", while Gambetta (in Italian) and Darrell Scott (in English) sing a loving duet to their instruments on "Madame Guitar". Brazilian master Marco Pereira provides a nylon-string counterpoint to Gambetta's steel-string remembrances of childhood on "Pane, Olio e Sale", and the album closes, fittingly, with "Ninna Nonna", a lullaby written by Gambetta and performed with his son, Filippo, on accordion.
Though he's shown over the years that he can keep pace with the Tony Rices and Dan Crarys  of the world, it is Gambetta's understated elegance as a flatpicker that has set him apart and made him an in-demand partner the world over, and he's as elegant as ever on Rendez-vous. (JL)