Doug Wendt: Classical Guitar (CD review)

Doug Wendt, guitar. Wendt Recordings.

Classical guitarist, jazz guitarist, pop guitarist, bluegrass guitarist, folk guitarist, blues guitarist, teacher, and experienced chef to boot, Doug Wendt is pretty much an all-around performer. According to his bio, he earned a B.A. in Guitar Performance from California State University of the East Bay (CSUEB). Also an experienced chef, including over ten years as sous-chef at a top-class Italian Restaurant, Doug decided to make his part-time music activities into a full-time career about fifteen years ago.

As a classical guitarist, Doug has worked and performed extensively with Gordon Rowland of www.guitarwork.com. What's more, Doug has maintained a longtime collaboration with vocalist Tré Taylor including their current jazz quintet "Dangerous Martini." Earlier bands with Tré included "Soul Attraction," a 10-piece R&B soul band, and "Earl Slide Ride," featuring Motown and Blues.

Doug's wife, Deborah Kuhl, (singer, songwriter, and pianist), who regularly performs a repertoire of French music, borrows Doug on occasion and featured both Doug and Gordon Rowland on her CD "Carte Postale."

On the present disc, Wendt plays classical guitar, the program running high to his favorite composer, J.S. Bach. The selections include Bach's "Prelude" from the Cello Suite No. 1, "Gavotte," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," "Little Prelude," "Double," and "Bouree." In addition, we get Alessandro Scarlatti's "Gavotte"; Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata in A" and "Sonata in Em"; Antonio Lauro's "Preludio Venesolano," "Andreina," and "Natalia"; and two anonymous tunes, "Romance" and "Greensleeves."

Doug Wendt
Doug brings to all of this material the same warmth and affection I've heard from him live: low-key presentations that never call attention to the performer but always showcase the music. In other words, you'll find more flamboyant guitarists around, ones who revel in the dexterity of their finger work and virtuosity of their playing; but one can hardly find anyone more committed to bringing to life the spirit of the composers and their music than Doug Wendt.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting Wendt is another Angel or Pepe Romero, John Williams, Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, David Russell, Narciso Yepes, or the like. But he is good, and he projects an agreeable sweetness in his music. So, onward....

Among my favorites on the disc is Wendt's playing of Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata in A," an item I've heard any number of times performed on solo harpsichord, piano, and guitar. Some musicians seem intent on attacking it full throttle, while others appear content with providing cozy, almost sentimental interpretations. Doug does neither; he comes at the score gently but firmly, caressing each note without unduly emphasizing each one. The result is a performance that sounds neither sensational nor lackluster but just right.

Wendt chooses fairly modest tempos throughout the program, so, again, he's not trying to impress the listener with wild flights of fancy or gushy, maudlin outbursts. The familiar "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Greensleeves," for example, come across charmingly and effortlessly, with the guitar producing a warm, rich sound that well complements the compositions. As my wife remarked, the chords are so simple, but they're soft and beautiful. Indeed, they are. It's a lovely album.

Thomas Martin and Jamie Bridges recorded the music in 2010. The sound appears fairly close but very well detailed and realistic. There's a modest amount of resonance involved, too, which helps to gives the guitar a lifelike sense of presence. Fortunately, the close miking is not so severe as to spread the instrument across the entire soundstage but keeps the guitar nicely focused between the speakers.

To learn more about Doug Wendt and his work, visit http://www.dougwendtguitar.com/.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa