Tintype Portraits by Thomas Mezzanotte
Guitar Player Magazine 4/16/2011
Cavaliere crafts eight oddly engaging “etudes,” mostly using processed acoustic guitars and drums (with the occasional voice and keyboard), all of which unfold in surprising ways. Inventive playing techniques and unusual rhythms combine with wacky delays, modulators, reverbs, distortion, filters, and other effects in the creation of Cavaliere’s idiosyncratic sound paintings.
ALARM PRESS 12/2/10
With his self-released album Monrovia Suite, multi-instrumentalist Christopher Cavaliere presents a tightly wound collection of worldly instrumental tracks. Accessible yet avant garde, the album exudes a patience and grace towards composition that may be best demonstrated by those schooled in jazz and classical music.
The young virtuoso, hailing from Bridgeport, Connecticut, has a knack for turning his solo routine into a swelling symphonic experience. In the same style as Frédéric Chopin and other great composers, Cavaliere has titled his songs as études. It’s a compelling choice warranted by the album’s dynamic lushness, timeless guitar intercessions, and rhythmic complexity. The songs can be heard as studies in the sense of composition, arrangement, and tone. For listeners, it’s a helpful way to frame the album, imagining the songs more like movements or motifs in the traditional classical sense.
Renting a house off the Historical Society in the neighboring town of Monroe, Cavaliere spent half of his time writing and ironing out tracks in the 300-year-old residence. Named after the vintage setting that inspired much of the album, Monrovia Suite is a cascading collection of classical exercises from a modern composer’s state of mind.
The record features eight original compositions recorded at the American Fabrics Building, an old fabrics factory turned art space in Bridgeport. What can be easily mistaken for a subtle chamber group is the sole work of Cavaliere using a mixture of digital and analog recording gear, with a heavy emphasis on guitar pedals, to create an electronic soundscape.
Beginning with “Étude 1 (Percuss),” there’s no denying Cavaliere’s technical ability. Layering guitars in multiplicity and bass and drums in a ferocious complexity, the composition is highly melodic yet slightly dissonant. “Étude 6 (Idiot Box)” showcases the same inventiveness, as the instruments converse with one another in a dynamic that sounds like a full band.
But it’s études like number 2 (“Parmagina”) where Cavaliere really flexes his classical training. It’s a picturesque composition, bittersweet and familiar in delivery — a song whose loneliness lingers long after it’s over. In a brilliant transition into “Étude 3 (Chorale),” the somber guitar fades and Cavaliere’s falsetto begins a choral performance in the album’s only vocal outing. It’s a dense exercise of vocal harmonies that appear to unfold as they become more complicated; the track seems to show Cavaliere’s musical process taking shape as he’s experimenting with his own voice.
Cavaliere’s instruments, much like his vocals, are audible extensions of his body. Though there are more challenging tracks than not, the album is rewarding to those who appreciate Cavaliere’s musical manipulation. As the études show, he takes guise as a modern composer when, really, he’s rooted in tradition and continuously pushing the art of composing as a whole. With its endearing arrangements and inspired originality, one can only hope for Monrovia Suite to be the first of many in Caveliere’s solo ventures.
FAIRFIELD COUNTY WEEKLY | Best Instrumentalist-winner
It’s strange to hear Best Instrumentalist-winner Christopher Cavaliere speak, as if his only means of communications should be through his guitar, bass or drum set. His proficiency as a multi-instrumentalist is such that these pieces of musical equipment appear to be extremities of his being. He speaks with them; his livelihood depends on them. He is a full-time musician, making a living through his original compositions and as a private instructor. Cavaliere (who shed his long-time stage name, 930 Moon, in anticipation of his up-coming albumMonrovia Suite) lives with his wife, painter Marcella Looketha, in Bridgeport. “Living with an artist, a visual artist, basically I get really influenced by the color I see,” he reflects. “Like how my wife improvises with color and form, I do it the same way with notes and composition. Really the notes are like colors.”
As an entirely instrumental artist, Cavaliere has relied on inventiveness and genre bending in order to hold the attention of his audience. A virtuoso on both the guitar and drums from an early age, he has the unique ability to turn a solo performance into a symphonic experience. His songs are more like movements or motifs, drawn from his classical and jazz training.
Cavaliere spent his high school years rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. He then attended WestConn and studied jazz. “During my time there I got a chance to listen to, and play, a lot of different types of music,” he says. “I just really wanted to expand my horizons as far as music goes, so I felt like I needed to learn about jazz and classical music.”
Over the last year, Cavaliere wrote and recorded the music for Monrovia Suite, splitting time between his studio in an old fabrics factory and a house he was renting. “My wife and I rented a house in Monroe off of the historical society and the house is like 300 years old,” he reminisces. “I just got a big burst of inspiration and it was just a wonderful setting, so I titled it Monrovia Suite.”
The album is to be released on Aug. 13, via iTunes and CDBaby, and features eight original compositions. The 53-minute record plays like a psychedelic re-imagining of Mozart, on guitar. Cavaliere uses a mixture of digital and analog recording techniques in order to paint a surreal picture that is both modern and rooted in tradition.
“Guitar, bass and drums are at the core,” he explains. “But I used a lot of pedals — guitar pedals — and analog gear to be able to produce electronic sounds.”
Cavalier sees himself less as a musician and more as an artist or an explorer. His true talents lie in the intangibles, things not easily categorized or given awards for, like creativity, inventiveness and an ability to push boundaries. If the Weeklycould give awards for all of these small, yet important traits that contribute to a musician’s clout, Cavaliere would surely be at the top of that list as well.
“It’s interesting that Chris titles each of the songs on his new CD, Monrovia Suite as etudes…they ARE studies…as much for the player as for the listener. They are studies in experimentation…in composition, tone, and arrangement…he’s not afraid to go out on a limb rhythmically, or harmonically…
Is it self-indulgent? In the best way. It challenges you to keep up, to switch gears, to LISTEN, not just to hear what’s being done. Don’t expect a free ride here…Some of this music is difficult to get a grip on at first listen. But, like any good piece of art, the deeper you look, the more you are rewarded.
And although the tracks vary stylistically, the entire group holds together well…like a voyage, fraught with light and dark, confusion and convergence, beauty and danger…
Do yourself and anyone you care about a favor … take 33 minutes of your life and appreciate Chris. You’ll be glad he’s around and making music.”
-Paul Bernstein (Composer)