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Originality and charm: from Blessed Assurance to Nora Jones

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Jerremiah Smith opened the second concert in the Bermuda Guitar Festival's annual show last weekend.

A guitar teacher with the Bermuda School of Music, he offered a selection of lyrical and atmospheric ballads which included two compositions from his three-piece movement Bermuda Suite — Barcarole and Reverie.

His delivery was perfect, his phrasing precise and firm and the overall effect one of dreamy relaxation; as he said himself, perfect for a Bermuda Day holiday on or in the water.

He included an exquisite slow waltz by the Brazilian composer Paulo Bellenati and, by way of contrast, the Pibroch-like Farewell to Stromness by contemporary Scottish composer Peter Maxwell-Davies as the envoy.

Visiting musician Walter Rodrigues was born in São Paulo, Brazil, where his father was a minister; as a young boy he immersed himself in church music while learning guitar.

Today, he is a master jazz guitarist.

The originality and charm of his performance lies in three things: a blend of diverse, rich musical traditions which all blend seamlessly together under sure control; his own self-effacing charm, which had us all chuckling; his philosophy of “make it short”, which had us all wanting more.

He performed a dozen compact masterpiece items in quick succession including two of his own compositions, Swing Waltz, a bossa nova-like fast waltz, and Much More, a frenetic samba taken at dizzying speed.

Two Nora Jones numbers, The Nearness of You and Don't Know Why, contrasted with two hymns, Amazing Grace and Blessed Assurance.

He gave the latter an up-tempo walking bass which had a unique “real” string bass slap to it.

Rodrigues used understated amplification on a semi-solid nylon strung guitar which enabled his melody line to have a violin-like sustain.

There were two final standards, Erroll Garner's 1954 Misty played as bossa nova and Autumn Leaves, played as a jazz ballad, but with a bit of Ernest Gold's theme from Exodus thrown in.

And why not? The chords are the same.

These pieces brought us to our feet to applaud this wonderful musician.

Organised by Bermuda School of Music, the 16th annual Bermuda Guitar Festival was held at various locations on May 23, 25 and 27

Guitar man: master jazz guitarist Walter Rodrigues played at the 16th annual Bermuda Guitar Festival
Bermuda School of Music guitar teacher Jerremiah Smith

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Published May 30, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 30, 2019 at 8:25 am)

Originality and charm: from Blessed Assurance to Nora Jones

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