It seemed unlikely to the members of the California and Montreal guitar trios that the two groups would play well together. Not only are the trios from opposite coasts of different North American countries, but the Montreal Guitar Trio uses nylon strings, while the California Guitar Trio uses steel.
They were also schooled differently. Members of the Montreal Guitar Trio all received classical training at the same school, while the members of the California Guitar Trio studied in Europe, Japan and the U.S.
“The two groups have very different histories,” says Bert Lam of the California Guitar Trio. “We’re a very unlikely combination.”
That unlikely combination has been touring as a sextet for 10 years now. The dual trio just released its first CD, “In a Landscape,” and will perform in support of same Nov. 13 at Saratoga’s Montalvo Arts Center.
The sextet’s longevity is impressive since when the two groups first hooked up, “we had one small tour planned,” says Marc Morin of the Montreal Guitar Trio.
“We had very different sounds and backgrounds, but we were searching for the same thing,” Morin adds. “We started to play, and it was like we’d been playing together for years.”
Each trio has, in fact, been playing together for decades. The California trio formed in 1991, the Montreal group in 1998.
“The world of guitar trios is very small,” Morin says. “For a long time, each trio had heard of the other one.”
Playing with the California trio, Morin says, “is good for our mental health.”
“The sextet changes each group’s dynamic,” he adds. “We learned a lot from each other. We realized we were doing the same thing from a different direction.”
According to Lam, the difference in the trios’ playing styles cuts deeper than what they use to string their guitars.
“They have a very passionate approach to guitar,” he says of the Montreal trio, “whereas the California trio is a little more Zen. We somehow blend really well. They’re sounds you wouldn’t expect to combine.”
Audiences who come to listen to the sextet get to hear each trio separately as well, as both groups have their own sets during concerts.
“It’s way more interesting for people if they get to know each group,” Morin says.
In addition to expanding their musical styles, working together has changed the trios’ sounds in other ways. The California trio used to use pickups exclusively, and the Montreal trio used only microphones. Now groups use both forms of audio.
“Both groups wanted aspects of the sound that the other group had,” Morin says. “We’re not gaining our experience alone now.”
The California and Montreal Guitar Trios perform Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Carriage House Theatre at Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga. Tickets are $44-$49 at montalvoarts.org or 408-961-5858.
Source: East Bay Guitar trios are united in their different playing styles