by Jonathan Widran
While the title Europa may have you expecting some sort of connection to the
masterpiece, what guitarist Chris Spheeris and keyboardist
achieve is stirring in its own right. Often when artist credit is billed to two equals, one winds up playing all the melodies while the other provides some supportive harmonic structure. Here, there is an even trade off. Spheeris takes command acoustically before his partner slinks in for an extended solo, and vice versa on the next track. As is typical of artists associated with the gray area between jazz and new age, the two aim for a soothing vibe rather than a chops explosion. The effect of the exotic if understated percussion is gorgeously hypnotic, like a hang glider soaring into a fertile terrain of clear sky and wind. Despite the soft veneer, Spheeris stands out as a surprisingly plucky guitar master. In time, some of the pieces run calmly together. But for all intents and purposes, it's a conceptual project, so it must be part of the grand design.