thunder heaven light
“compositional genius. … a magisterial ode to a quiet, breathing awe … a religious experience … the sense of a person playing a guitar disappears into the music … there is something happening in this collection that transcends music and reaches into the ethereal world. … astounding … cosmic.” complete review
These aren’t so much songs as they are guides, explorations into minds and emotion. Michael Gulezian … might be the most accomplished pure guitarist on the planet. The opening track on his most recent CD, Thunder Heaven Light, provides mainline accessibility into Gulezian’s compositional genius. That track, “Spirit Hovering,” uses the space between the notes to create a magisterial ode to a quiet, breathing awe. It would make an especially effective backing track for the more majestic scenes in a film now showing on Netflix called “Mountain” (see it if you can!), as would many of the 10 tracks of Thunder Heaven Light. Instrumental albums can occasionally suffer from a lack of lyrics, but in Gulezian’s case, lyrics would simply get in the way as he creates musical feelings that transcend words. Even the use of track titles can be limiting, though they can provide a nod in a particular direction (if needed). The fourth track, for example, just sounds like a friend speaking softly, floating into your brain; the title: “Orchard Whispering to Winter Sky.” The sixth track, reverential and reflective, seems a religious experience, for those so inclined: “There Were Angels, So Many Angels.” With Gulezian, it”s not how many notes he can play lightning fast (though he shows some of that mastery on “Becoming the Flame”), or how many scales he ascends and descends, or how quickly he changes keys, or how masterfully he taps out a polyrhythm. No, rather it’s about the path that the notes are on. It’s as if the notes are leading intrinsically from one to another. And here’s the thing: the sense of a person playing a guitar disappears into the music, like a drop of water being added to a pool. These songs do not focus on Gulezian as artist, for it is all about the journey, the trip. Call it Zen, call it the space between the walls, call it what you will, but there is something happening in this collection that transcends music and reaches into the ethereal world. Perhaps the coronavirus has me more in touch with the eternal vibration of life and not-life, but what is more astounding is that these tracks are not simply a path of seeking, but are of discovery. They live, they breathe. Just let them work on you — it can help to not try to actively listen, but to passively absorb them without focusing on the actual sounds. That may sound a little counterintuitive, but, trust me, it works. Finally, be sure to check out Gulezian’s CD cover photo of sky/clouds/wind, which he assures is unedited, and provides a brief series of photos of its conception. Cosmic.
© Fred Kraus
John Diliberto, Producer / Host, ECHOES – Public Radio International
“spectacular … startling … extraordinary acoustic guitar playing” – the best of echoes – top 25 albums of 2019
Matt Guthrie De Lange, Michael Hedges’ ‘Nomadland’ Webmaster
“beautiful and powerful … easily one of my top 10 favorite acoustic guitar albums of all time … guitars sound like living, breathing entities. … absolutely brilliant …” complete review
Michael Gulezian’s beautiful and powerful album, THUNDER HEAVEN LIGHT is now on Bandcamp. THL is easily one of my top 10 favorite acoustic guitar albums of all time, and top 100 albums ever—a master meditating out loud, start to finish. I must have played “Back Home to Sacred Ground” and “Becoming the Flame” hundreds of times and I always hear and feel something new, but the album works best played straight through, particularly the first three tracks, which always feel like a suite to me. The tone on this album is just nuts – so good these guitars sound like living, breathing entities. Absolutely brilliant musical/minimalist production by Justin Roth – reminds me of an acoustic version of what Daniel Lanois did on Neil Young’s LE NOISE. I recommend playing this album *very* loudly, particularly “Back Home to Sacred Ground.”
Matt Guthrie De Lange
Concert at St. Olaf College
Bob Boilen, Director, All Things Considered / National Public Radio
“Michael Gulezian doesn’t write tunes you can take away and hum. What I experience listening to his music is stories – not stories with words, but an exquisite web of tales that only notes can tell. … the CD also contains video of the concert – it’s just amazing to watch him perform.”
“A perfect live album … such a degree of emotional power and intensity … [you] forget that this is a reality expressed by only one guitar.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Public radio favorite Michael Gulezian’s latest CD is the dazzling Concert at St. Olaf College, recorded in Northfield. Gulezian always has had strong ties to Minnesota and its guitar innovators, from world-rockin’ Steve Tibbetts to bluesy Peter Lang. Yet he ranges far beyond folk, playing hard-driving music that recalls Leo Kottke and the late Michael Hedges, who called him “my kindred spirit.”
“… acoustic guitar wizardry … brings visions of another “Michael” to mind – Michael Hedges, in whose memory this release is dedicated. This 50-minute CD is nothing short of stunning. The nine tracks of “Concert …” are made up of seven original compositions with two covers, Leo Kottke’s “Watermelon” (another guitarist with whom Gulezian shares common ground), and a lush, sumptuous arrangement of J.S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” … as powerful on the acoustic guitar as it is with full orchestra and choir. … be prepared to be amazed.”
Raleigh-Durham News & Observer
“innovative fretwork … virtuosic, other-worldly, oddly tuned acoustic guitar fireworks … a percussive style that creates sonic landscapes so vivid you can practically touch ’em.”
The Aspen Times
“… infused with devotion to music’s power … Gulezian’s solo guitar work is inventive and complex; he melds rhythm, melody and harmony using just one instrument and 10 fingers. The trick is making such music something more than a mere exercise in technique, and in this concert from Minnesota’s St. Olaf College, Gulezian clears that hurdle with room to spare.”
Language of the Flame
Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“Gulezian rips … but for all his virtuosic ferocity, he never loses sight of the melody or the drama of his compositions. And he can still play sweetly … At this stage in his career, Gulezian doesn’t need to prove he can play, he just needs more people to hear his expansive and original sound.”
“[Gulezian’s place is] among the pantheon of greats including Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, and John Fahey. … stunningly beautiful. All the songs on Language of the Flame mesh together effortlessly, forming a completely resonant singularity, not merely a solo finger-picking record.” complete review
Praised and embraced by the irreplaceable guitar legend John Fahey, Michael Gulezian was signed to Fahey’s Takoma Records imprint in the late 1970s. His 12-string compositions were given a wider audience and placed him among the pantheon of greats, including Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, and also Fahey. Language of the Flame’s guitar sound is amplified acoustic, full of slides and exquisite detail. In the starts and stops, the sound recedes into the body of the guitar only to reawaken in stunningly beautiful sequences with harmonic sparkle. “The Room of Doom” has great emotional range as Gulezian is able to release expansive moods. “Oh Suzannah” uses vocals to put a twist on the familiar tune. “All We’ll Never Be” is a breathtaking arrangement with a poignant melody and full-bodied depth of sound. All the songs on Language of the Flame mesh together effortlessly, forming a completely resonant singularity, not merely a solo finger-picking record.
Accent on Music
“Some folks think of Michael Gulezian as the heir to the Michael Hedges approach to acoustic guitar … Gulezian won’t disappoint those folks with this gripping CD.” complete review
Some folks think of Michael Gulezian as the heir to the Michael Hedges approach to acoustic guitar: stunning rhythmic technique combined with an advanced harmonic sensibility. Gulezian won’t disappoint those folks with this gripping CD – he plays with full rhythmic and harmonic force in tunes like “’I’m No Seismologist,’ Chortled the Metrognome” and “The Room of Doom.”
But a gentler side of Michael is also apparent in the lightly fingerpicked “Little Meggie”, slightly reminiscent of the Allman Brother’s “Little Martha” and Kottke’s “Little Beaver.” Michael is accompanied at times by bass, dobro and percussion, and he even sings an emotional version of “Oh Susannah,” but mostly this is Michael with his roaring guitar. Great care was taken in the recording of this CD, resulting in a magnificently rich sound. (Mark Hanson)
Music Web Express 3000
“… skillful and mature … With the release of Language Of The Flame, Gulezian takes his place among the great acoustic guitar innovators of the 20th Century. … mind-boggling … startling” complete review
Dedicated to the memory of guitarist Michael Hedges and guitar maker Tom Beeston, the latest CD from Michael Gulezian covers a remarkable range of instrumental acoustic guitar-based music. Recorded in 2001 but finally released in 2003, Language Of The Flame is a skillful and mature work by an artist who was discovered early on by the legendary John Fahey, who signed him to Takoma Records. Described as “maybe the best solo guitar album since Leo Kottke’s justly renowned first effort,” Gulezian’s first major label release, 1980’s Unspoken Intentions received a fine reissue in 2002 on Fantasy Records. Now with the release of his latest album Language Of The Flame, Gulezian takes his place among the great acoustic guitar innovators of the 20th Century. Featuring a mind-boggling composite of folk and jazz-based acoustic guitar tracks, the 9 track CD features one vocal (a sterling cover of Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susannah”) and the startling set-closer “Michael Hedges Goes To Heaven.” (Robert Silverstein)
Rambles Cultural Arts Magazine
“Language of the Flame brings solo acoustic guitar to new levels, defying categorization and inventing style. Michael Gulezian draws on a rich and varied heritage of musical influences to create a challenging sound … a bright and innovative light … [Gulezian’s] music speaks a complex, intelligent and intricate language.” complete review
Language of the Flame brings solo acoustic guitar to new levels, defying categorization and inventing style.
Michael Gulezian draws on a rich and varied heritage of musical influences to create a challenging sound; the album runs the gamut of emotion from the uneasy, eerie despair of “The Room of Doom” to the soothing and uplifting “’I’m No Seismologist,’ Chortled the Metrognome.” There is only one [vocal track] on the CD, but even it escapes the familiarity expected of “Oh Suzannah,” as Michael brings a depth and delicacy of feeling more akin to a spiritual than the listener would have anticipated. Language of the Flame is a bright and innovative light in the often dismal confusion of recorded music. Gulezian’s consummate skill and flare shines through, demanding attentive listening. His rare and passionate composition and playing forms an intriguing sound one cannot ignore — his music speaks a complex, intelligent and intricate language indeed. (Jenny Ivor)
“… fully mesmerized by the array of different layers of sonority … the metaphor of night, set against the figure of a dancing flame, seems one way of describing the type of musical architecture Gulezain has created … There is in the beauty of Gulezian’s work a kind of invisible smiling face, a joyful set of eyes winking back at us…” complete review
While fully mesmerized by the array of different layers of sonority present in Michael Gulezian’s latest release Language of the Flame, I attempted to think about the language (if that is the right word) Gulezian is actually communicating to his listener. There is, on the one hand, a solidly rhythmic structure to many of the selections offered here. I can say, for example, that it is the type of rhythmic complexity that breaks free from predictable syncopation. But, at the same time, the listener cannot deny that Gulezian has a deep appreciation for the profundity of melody itself, especially on more traditional tunes like “Oh Suzannah,” where Gulezian’s voice (something I wish I could hear more of) seems projected from deep within a forgotten canyon the listener has just miraculously stumbled upon in the middle of the night.
So the metaphor of night, set against the figure of a dancing flame, seems one way of describing the type of musical architecture Gulezian has created for us… On “Little Meggie,” one of my favorite songs on this recording, Gulezian begins with a cyclical, finger-style number, organized around a set of major keys. But just as this set of themes “comes home” for the listener, Gulezian breaks the movement and fully develops the melody, infusing the song with all types of emotions and colors.
There is in the beauty of Gulezian’s work a kind of invisible smiling face, a joyful set of eyes which are winking back at us from across the stage, letting us know that the purpose of music is to enjoy its sound, while not getting caught up in the mechanics of how it is produced by the artist. Yet on the other hand, and I cannot say enough about this, there is a deep sense of melancholy that has been fully articulated in the last song, an emotion that reaches its apex in the haunting image of an ascending Michael Hedges and the woeful cry of his forgotten muse. Language Of The Flame is not to be overlooked. (Bernard Richter)
“… a master in open tunings. … gorgeous … profound … guitar music imbued with mystical, spiritual essence. … Gulezian is an outstanding acoustic guitarist.” complete review
Language of the Flame is the title of the new album from Michael Gulezian. Earlier on he released Snow and Unspoken Intentions. His acoustic guitar music has many influences, from Folk, Jazz, Blues to World music. His influences come from Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Leadbelly, to name a few. The first track is called “’I’m No Seismologist,’ Chortled the Metrognome,” which [reminds us] that Michael Hedges’ music has inspired a lot of acoustic guitar players,and that his legacy is still around us. “Undo the Buncombe” has rhythmic patterns on a nice melody line, with deep bass-lines and a dobro added. “The Room of Doom” has many percussive elements on a flowing meditative journey. “Jello Moves” is a very demanding, intimate, and percussive composition which personally is one of my favourites. “All We’ll Never Be” has all types of coloured emotions, on a perceptive melody line with gorgeous playing techniques. On “Michael Hedges goes to Heaven” there is a profound slide guitar. Michael Gulezian succeeded with Language of the Flame to make a very intimate, percussive album. His guitar music is imbued with mystical, spiritual essence. Michael Gulezian is an outstanding acoustic guitarist whose music is profound. (Henk te Veldhuis)
Cornell Daily Sun
“There are musical epiphanies only the most talented artists can bestow upon an audience, and on Language of the Flame, these moments are remarkably frequent.”
Babelfish translation from Italian CD Review (this is Michael’s personal all time favorite review)
I had listened to for before the time Michael Gulezian many and many years ago in 33 turns of the Takoma. They had made curious the notes to me of John Fahey that described it like one of the beautifulest truths of the contemporary guitarrismo. In effects “Unspoken Intentions” it was just a beautiful disc, and it is still, still, for many years more I have then not known null than this guitarrismo of the Colorado even if had recorded other discs and continued to give concerti.
New Language Of The Flame it always reveals it like dynamic, virtuoso, melodico and careful a guitarrista to the musical innovations, without being legacy to one style or to a kind, but trying to play of simple and pure music for guitar. From the smooth and modern touch, with use of beating it does not exasperate to you, Gulezian discosta from the tradition for give a complete and unmistakable album to us, above all in the melodici brain like “Little Meggie,” or in the unusual agreement of “Oh Suzannah.”
The Dare of an Angel
“… an uncommonly thoughtful and provocative work. The technical wizardry here is tremendous. … sweeping story-like melodies, multi-dimensional epics, and heartland hymns. Gulezian puts forth a smart, uplifting album which is not to be missed.” complete review
Guitarist Michael Gulezian explores all aspects of his instrument on The Dare of an Angel, an uncommonly thoughtful and provocative work. The technical wizardry here is tremendous, with unusual (and often bizarre) tunings on both six- and twelve-string acoustics serving as the foundations for many of Gulezian’s sweeping story-like melodies.
His wide-ranging influences are intertwined on cuts such as “Tumbledweeb,” with its Mississippi Delta blues core, and the doodled tone poem “I Remember Walnut Avenue”. Gulezian executes multi-dimensional epics (“Whale in the Sky”, boasting brassy splashes of harmony) and heartland hymns (“Mile High Country”) with uncommon grace.
Small ensemble pieces make effective (though sometimes spare) use of Gulezian’s sterling support players, including bassist Michael Manring, pianist Ira Stein and violinist Charlie Bisharat, whose contrast-effect duet with Gulezian on “Answer Silence With Silence” is one of the album’s most engaging moments.
Placing his unique approach to guitar technique within the context of these sensitive compositions, Gulezian puts forth a smart, uplifting album which is not to be missed.
Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine
“[Gulezian’s music] meets and exceeds anything being offered by the ‘real’ industry … [what] people expected from Michael Hedges after Aerial Boundaries…”
“(Gulezian’s) elegant embellishments and imaginative compositional tracings confound such facile labels as minimalism. … messes with space and time in ways [French composer] Erik Satie could only dream of. … succeeds in bringing a starry sky down to the canyon floor.” complete review
One is flummoxed trying to describe Michael Gulezian’s music. The chords have a slightly off-kilter feel, while his elegant embellishments and imaginative compositional tracings confound such facile labels as minimalism. Melismatism comes closer to describing the Gulezian sound. French café composer Erik Satie drifts by while listening to Gulezian. But then, Satie played piano, not bottleneck slide guitar, where the manipulation of metallic strings on carved wood by glassy medium messes with space and time in ways the absinthe soaked Satie could only dream of.
Half this album was recorded nearly solo at Amerisound in Columbus, Ohio. The San Francisco sessions overseen by avant garde guitarist Henry Kaiser sound, oddly enough, more conventional, as Gulezian arranges his Big Sky Country tone poems for a small ensemble. Pianist Ira Stein is underused here, with the dense melodic strains of his previous recorded work thinned out to mere melodic accents. Michael Manring’s mellow, music-of-the-spheres sustained bass, Charlie Bisharat’s langourous violin, and Ian Dogole’s impressionistic percussion harken back a decade or so to classical cellist David Darling’s jazzy chamber groups exploring moody and weathered landscapes.
“I Remember Walnut Avenue” sounds like a wistful touchstone to Gulezian’s memorable debut on John Fahey’s Takoma label many moons ago. It is a sentimental counterpoint to such conceptual breakthroughs as “The House That Blocked Kansas,” “Tumbledweeb,” and “He Planned to Expand.” Gulezian’s delicate, yet rough around the edges handling of lovely resonating six- and twelve-string acoustic guitars succeeds in bringing a starry sky down to the canyon floor. (Mitch Ritter)
“Gulezian’s compositions build bridges of sound that lift us to a higher, brighter place. Acoustic musicians will delight in the rich tones and powerful mastery of the twelve-string guitar …” complete review
Enjoy this album by a warm fire during a rainy night. Gulezian’s compositions build bridges of sound that lift us to a higher, brighter place. Acoustic musicians will delight in the rich tones and powerful mastery of the twelve-string guitar. “Answer Silence With Silence” treats us to a special violin / guitar interplay. The tapestry of “Tumbledweeb” weaves itself from tension into satisfying resolution. Classically trained, Gulezian was influenced by early Mississippi Delta guitarists. Guitar Player magazine described Snow, Gulezian’s first album, as “epoch-breaking.” His second album, Unspoken Intentions, received international recognition. Don’t miss this one. (Jan Jacquet)
Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“… echoes of Michael Hedges … imaginative, adventuresome, and non-traditional.”
Twin Cities Reader
“… deserves to find a ready audience among fans of Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Adrian Legg. … a superbly recorded and engineered set …” complete review
Michael Gulezian’s intricate, seductive six- and twelve-string creations deserve to find a ready audience among fans of Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Adrian Legg. Gulezian’s song titles are often as hip as his guitar work, including “Meandering Jelly: a Contraceptive Failure” and “Wet Hair, Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” The Arizona-based picker’s latest CD, The Dare of an Angel, co-produced by renegade guitar star Henry Kaiser, is a superbly recorded and engineered set, again featuring some colorfully named original pieces. The funky “He Planned to Expand” reportedly includes creative “input” from rocker Slash, while the kalimba-driven “House That Blocked Kansas” represents world folk at its charming best. (Tom Surowicz)
Music Design in Review
“An acoustic musical experience never sounded better … Gulezian’s completely unplugged music is miles and miles away from so much techno-pop and electrical gimmickry … a real physical effort to produce beautiful music … extraordinary …”
The Music Paper
“… downright gorgeous”
Distant Memories and Dreams
CD Review (awarded four stars, and named Runner-up Disc of the Year)
“Eastern rhythms, with the open space of the American heartland. … a sound that’s somewhere between classical chamber music and Pink Floyd. …there’s no doubt in the permeating lyricism of (Gulezian’s) songs and the gorgeous settings of guitar / piano duets and world chamber ensembles in which he places them.” complete review
Michael Gulezian picks up where Leo Kottke left off about a decade ago when he decided he wanted to be a country / folk singer instead of a guitar icon.
It’s also understandable why Gulezian was a Takoma Records artist, the former home of Kottke and John Fahey. Tracks like “Mood Rub-A-Dub” are frightening in their approximation of Kottke’s slide and laconic picking. Gulezian also displays the unmistakable sound of Ry Cooder in his slide guitar reverie, “Almost Made It to Guam”.
While Gulezian hasn’t escaped his influences, he does have his own spin on things with music that draws upon Eastern rhythms, but with the open space of the American heartland. Cellist David Darling lends a sound that’s somewhere between classical chamber music and Pink Floyd. World percussionist Ted Moore and tabla player Manjul Chandola surround Gulezian’s melodies with exotic rhythms and colors.
There’s no doubting Gulezian’s sources, but there’s also no doubt in the permeating lyricism of his songs and the gorgeous settings of guitar / piano duets and world chamber ensembles in which he places them. Overall, Distant Memories and Dreams lingers with you. (John Diliberto)
“Like Bela Fleck, Gulezian has a knack for combining earthy folk techniques with contemporary Jazz harmonies and exotic influences – only his approach remains entirely acoustic. … a wondrous sense of lyricism … unforgettable.” complete review
With his independently released album Distant Memories and Dreams gaining significant attention nationwide, guitarist Michael Gulezian has come a long way since he began touring. Among his first “professional” engagements were appearances at the Rawlins, Wyoming Post Office, the Colorado State Penetentiary, and the Greyhound bus depot in Truth or Consequencs, New Mexico. These days, however, he can count Michael Hedges, George Winston, and Garrison Keillor among his fans.
It was acoustic guitar hero John Fahey who gave the Tucson, Arizona-based artist his first big break – a recording contract with Takoma / Chrysalis. When Gulezian’s Unspoken Intentions was released on the label, High Fidelity hailed it as “the best solo guitar album since Leo Kottke’s justly renowned first effort.” However, at the peak of what seemed to be a thriving career, Gulezian dropped off the scene. “I had spent too much time on the road,” he explains. “And besides, my experience with the record company was like the acoustic guitar equivalent of Spinal Tap.” So he took an extended break from touring and went back to college.
Armed with degrees in entrepreneurship and marketing, Gulezian released Distant Memories and Dreams on his own label, Timbreline Music. The start of a new company, a new decade, and a new approach to the record business demanded a new musical approach as well. “My first records pretty much established me as a virtuoso acoustic guitar soloist,” he concedes. “I knew I was a good player in that context, but I wanted to take the guitar out of its North American folk tradition. I always loved what Ralph Towner had done with the group Oregon. On Distant Memories and Dreams, I was shooting for an improvisational world ensemble kind of sound, only featuring the guitar a lot more heavily. I also really admired what Bela Fleck was doing in the sense that he’s not playing bluegrass much anymore. He’s broken down so many barriers and has traveled across so many different musical borders.”
Like Fleck, Gulezian has a knack for combining earthy folk techniques with contemporary Jazz harmonies and exotic influences – only his approach remains entirely acoustic. On “Mood Rub-A-Dub,” his glassy bottleneck guitar ambles across fields of subtle third world rhythms courtesy of Fernando Saunders. The piece is similar to the tasteful yet haunting guitar-percussion duos that Steve Tibbetts and Marc Anderson have explored.
Gulezian’s bizarre sense of nostalgia is demonstrated on the happy-go-lucky “Zucchini Beach,” where he lets David Darling dust off one of his ‘60s wah-wah pedals and bow like a drunken sailor.
But there are plenty of serious moments as well, most notably the opening cut, “Five Loaves, Two Fish,” which has a wondrous sense of lyricism that sets the scene for some unforgettable soloing by Gulezian, cellist David Darling, and pianist Lance Kaufman. “With artists like David Darling and Fernando Saunders in the studio, how can you not have great work?” he asks. “They really just nailed the pieces every time, if not in the first take, then in the second take. It was an absolute pleasure to work with musicians of that caliber.” (Linda Kohanov)
Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“… absolutely first rate … Gulezian’s guitars sound big, deep, and full. ethereal twelve-string … spacey, sliding bottleneck … superb percussion … strongly echoes some of Kottke’s better work … a recording that is exceptionally rich in tone color and three-dimensional atmosphere …. superb. complete review
Drawing from a broad palette of instruments and voices, including cello, tabla, fretless electric bass, percussion, and background vocals, Michael Gulezian makes something of a comeback with Distant Memories and Dreams on his own Timbreline Music label. You may remember Gulezian as the six- and twelve-string guitarist who made an impressive debut on Takoma Records with a collection of solo guitar instrumjentals called Unspoken Intentions. In the liner notes of his latest effort, Gulezian describes his experience with Takoma as “the acoustic guitar version of the movie Spinal Tap,” and he cites the experience as the motivation for establishing his own label for this and subsequent outings.
The sound quality of this analog-to-digital recording is absolutely first rate – elaborate close-miking techniques make Gulezian’s guitars sound big, deep, and full. Digital reverberation is used to great effect, creating the feel of a natural, open space that enhances the richness of the instruments in much the same way that a good concert hall enriches an orchestra.
Compositionally, the disc reflects a few of the musical ideas Gulezian offered on Unspoken Intentions. The ethereal twelve-string solo “Almost Made It to Guam” is reminiscent of “Café on the Rings of Saturn” (from the first album) with its spacey, sliding bottleneck chords set against sustained, sometimes dissonant bass notes.
While the guitar is the centerpiece, it is David Darling’s cello and Fernando Saunders’ fretless bass that bring alive the melodies in selections such as “Five Loaves, Two Fish” and “Morning Star.” The blend of cello, percussion, and background vocals on “Five Loaves …” is particularly haunting, lingering in memory almost like the hook of a pop song.
On each cut, Gulezian sets up the general structure and mood, while the other instruments define the recurring theme. On “Zucchini Beach,” for instance, a nicely arranged theme played by piano, cell, and bass recurs between segments of more impressionistic solo guitar. In “Sunrise Over Lock and Dam #5A,” Gulezian paints and impressionistic musical picture of dawn breaking, but it seems one “had to be there” to fully appreciate what Gulezian and the ensemble are portraying.
Ted Moore’s superb percussion adds much life and texture to this music, for example on “Mood Rub-A-Dub,” where Gulezian plays a melodic twelve-string riff, alternating bold bottleneck chords and delicate cross-picking. Although the melody gets a bit muddled in the middle, the basic guitar / percussion theme strongly echoes some of Kottke’s better work in a similar instrumental setting.
Gulezian deserves credit for creating a recording that is exceptionally rich in tone color and three-dimensional atmosphere. If he can combine his ear for superb sound with more works like the better ones offered here, he will indeed be onto something that we could all learn from. (Jim Ohlschmidt)
“Michael Gulezian stirs up hauntingly primeval shards of cosmic consciousness in Distant Memories and Dreams…” complete review
Guitarist Michael Gulezian stirs up hauntingly primeval shards of cosmic consciousness in Distant Memories and Dreams. Melding folk and new age currents with sounds-of-nature in tracks such as “Five Loaves, Two Fish”, Gulezian strikes an attractive though at times dewy back-to-nature pose. Also contributing significantly are cellist David Darling, bassist Fernando Saunders, and percussionist Ted Moore. For further examples of Gulezian’s engaging naturalism, try “Zucchini Beach”, “Amber Waves Goodbye”, or “Morning Star”. (Chuck Berg)
Guitar Player Magazine
“This is a record that immediately dates many guitar players. It puts many pretentious record raters and imitators of older guitar players in their proper place as hacks and plagiarists. It is a strikingly original record. It is an epoch-breaking record …” complete review
This is a record that helps you see into the future, and the future, although to a great extent incomprehensible from our present vantage point, is not as bad as we had anticipated. We glimpse a great deal about the future, not only about guitar playing and music, but about reality as a whole, our position in it, and all of reality’s spectrums – time, birth, death, the Cross, eternity, and God. The frailness of time, the beautiful, the Good.
Technical discussion of this record is pointless since it so vitally transcends all such attitudes and thoughts, and quietly, gracefully inclines one toward the core of Reality.
A discussion of Gulezian’s evolutionary relationship to other guitar players is important, precisely because his playing on this record helps us understand more clearly where we in this acoustic guitar tradition are, and have been. This is a record that immediately dates many guitar players. It puts many pretentious record raters and imitators of older guitar players in their proper place as hacks and plagiarists. For this record, while taking up within itself all previous American guitar styles (I believe it is solidly established in the tradition), goes further and far beyond anything that has hitherto been accomplished. It is a strikingly original record. All of the songs are Gulezian’s own compositions, not inferior hack jobs or specious, incomprehensible cheap imitations.
It is an epoch-breaking record like Leo Kottke’s 6- and 12-String Guitar. Gulezian, while obviously familiar with Kottke’s playing, is a more relaxed player – what the hell is there to be relaxed about these days? Gulezian seems to know. Gulezian, with complete authority, marches, or rather scurries, up and down the dreamy landscapes of impressionism/expressionism. A new synthesis, strikingly and subtly original.
Gulezian does not walk up to you and sock you in the jaw like Larry Coryell or Leo Kottke. No, rather he sneaks up on you and slips in sideways without you really noticing. But by then he’s already there; it’s too late. Gulezian takes the previously existing and distorts it deliberately – destroys it in order to get at the truth, or emotional reality. His songs are not descriptive but analytical, internal, and seemingly only subjective. They are emotive and soul searching; they have the ability to penetrate the formal qualities, the tried and true, the already known nature of reality, and approach essence more closely. As a result Gulezian and the listener get caught up in the truth and lose themselves in it. Thus, the listener to this record identifies himself and to some extent becomes one with something greater and more powerful than oneself. One finds oneself in a truer contemplation of the nature of the vastness and emptiness than one has had previously. Dreamlike and amorphous-sounding on first listening, the core of beauty and truth in this music, its subtle integrity and essential musicality, are soon discovered. For that which we thought was a dream is indeed the heart of Reality, that for which we have been searching.
One would think it would be heavy to be the vehicle of this new showing – but Gulezian does not play as if it were a burden or act like it is. I saw him once in San Bernardino … it is always the nature of truth to appear to be ordinary to the undiscerning such as myself.
Our glimpse into the future is essentially optimistic and easygoing. Things aren’t going to be as bad as we thought. The Apocalypse is NOT NOW. The world seems to deserve to be destroyed soon, but this fresh, lyrical new recording answers a new springtime which we only can dimly perceive from our earthbound temporal perspective.
“All will be well,
All will be well –“
I wouldn’t take that from anyone else.
(John Fahey, Los Angeles, California)
“… this may well be the best solo guitar album since Leo Kottke’s justly renowned first effort, Six and Twelve String Guitar.” complete review
Each time I have listened to this record in the last week or so, it has glided over me, its charms more insinuating than obvious, its effects subtle but uplifting. But even after repeated hearings, I’m still puzzled as to how Unspoken Intentions should be described. Suffice it to say that this may well be the best solo guitar album since Leo Kottke’s justly renowned first effort, “Six and Twelve String Guitar.”
By no coincidence, Kottke’s album was also on Takoma. What’s more, Michael Gulezian is also a superb exponent of the acoustic twelve-string, although his touch is a bit lighter than Kottke’s. And like Leo, he uses a slide, which makes for some mighty striking sounds. Finally, Gulezian has a way with wacky song titles (like “Meandering Jelly”), something he may have picked up from Kottke titles like “When Shrimps Learn to Whistle.”
To some ears, Kottke’s work took a turn for the worse on later albums when he began using rhythm sections and singing. Gulezian is lucky: while realizing that a guy doesn’t always have to play alone, he can learn from the excesses of his predecessor and perhaps continue to make recordings this good. (Sam Graham)
“Gulezian [gives] voice to a playfully innocent sensual spirituality on fretted steel-string guitar. The mystery … rests on how this unassuming kid could so gracefully integrate America’s regional acoustic guitar traditions into such a sonically free and harmonically fresh sound.” complete review
“The Apocalypse is not now. The world seems to deserve to be destroyed soon, but this lyrical new recording answers a new springtime which we can only dimly perceive from our earthbound temporal perspective. All will be well … I wouldn’t take that from anyone else.” So wrote the normally cranky John Fahey in 1979, introducing an ancient soul masquerading as a recent high school graduate, whose self-released debut LP, Snow, had just been picked up for modified reissue and national distribution retitled Unspoken Intentions, on Fahey’s influential, if soon-to-be-lost Takoma Records label.
Son of Armenian oud great and pre-Islamic Middle Eastern ethnomusicologist Aram Gulezyan, Michael subtly Americanized his last name, reflecting his sublime musical synthesis. Gulezian’s roots are not left behind. A secret integration is at work. Gulezian simply gave voice to a playfully innocent sensual spirituality on fretted steel-string guitar. The mystery that hooked café audiences in Colorado, before Fahey and note-writing iconoclast Henry Kaiser caught on, rests on how this unassuming kid could so gracefully integrate America’s regional acoustic guitar traditions into such a sonically free and harmonically fresh sound. Unspoken Intentions is spacey and celestially attuned and is as personal and intimate as pillow talk.
“Arcosanti,” “Café on the Rings of Saturn,” “Ian and Nisa,” “The Moon Under Her Feet,” and “Meandering Jelly: A Contraceptive Failure” may read as beguiling boho free verse. Try giving this musical slipstream a listen on a winter’s night with the windows iced over, and herbal tea or spiced cider steaming up a cozy room. The melody that has held up best in the 20-plus years it has taken for the out-of-vinyl LP to make it to market as an expanded edition CD is the chordally inverted variation on “Arcosanti.” Named “Ninth and Main,” it leads into the album’s only patch of existential desolation, toward the end of this naïve aural Ulysses. It is an evocative and deeply lonely piece, filled with restless yearning for communion. “Ninth and Main” is cinematic in a Super 8 loft screening sort of way. Gulezian develops his expression of desolation into a night blossom on the gently bending slide guitar of the LP’s old closer, “Goodbye, My Friend”.
Fantasy has found in the Takoma stash two additional tracks from the original Snow sessions. Both “Stepping on my Thumbs” and “Golgotha” show the acoustic guitar colors that inspired Okie hippie Michael Hedges and the northern California carpenter school of instrumental solo guitar that came to be incorporated – with much diminution of charm – under the trade name Windham Hill. (Mitch Ritter, 2003)
“Stunning album by acoustic six- and twelve-string wizard; highly recommended if you’re into Renbourn, Graham, Fahey, Basho, Kottke. Wonderful playing here, with flash and depth, technique and soul. This CD will knock you out.”
“Gulezian is a blazing finger-style player who emerges from John Fahey and Leo Kottke’s marriage of folk and blues to classical, finger-style technique…” complete review
Michael Gulezian “coulda been a contenda.” He was tagged by guitar legend John Fahey and his Takoma Records just as the acoustic guitar renaissance was blossoming in the early ‘80s. But Takoma was in transition toward oblivion and Gulezian’s major-label debut was released, just barely. Resurrected 23 years later, we can now hear what we missed. Gulezian is a blazing finger-style player who emerges from John Fahey and Leo Kottke’s marriage of folk and blues to classical, finger-style technique. He has that meandering, slightly fractured storytelling approach of Fahey, and tracks like “Ian and Nisa” sound like they’re just waiting for Leo Kottke to start singing. But Gulezian was already showing an individual style with music that speaks of the austerity of the American midwest on songs like “Meandering Jelly: A Contraceptive Failure,” a slide guitar refrain that sounds like it wandered in off the prairie despite its incongruous title. Gulezian has released three subsequent self-produced albums, which all fulfill the promise of this debut. (John Diliberto, 2002)
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
“… a charming, unpretentious guitarist … he succeeded in commanding the attention of a restless Roxy crowd with nothing but an acoustic guitar.”
St. Olaf College Manitou Messenger (review #1)
“Irony was absent as Michael Gulezian took the stage for an expectant and packed Lion’s Pause last Saturday night. Gulezian’s unassuming and almost timid gait was greeted with a rupture of applause from a crowd that he himself has generated …” complete review
Platitudes and Honesty
Irony was absent as Michael Gulezian took the stage for an expectant and packed Lion’s Pause last Saturday night. Gulezian’s unassuming and almost timid gait was greeted with a rupture of applause from a crowd that he himself has generated, one CD sale at a time. Even three years ago, the name Gulezian carried as much water as a frozen sieve, and now it is synonymous with ingenuity and mastership. Evidently, many in the audience were veterans, and it was likewise evident that the remainder would some day be veterans too.
Something lay behind the dazzling technicality and a pristine sound Eric Clapton would be jealous of, an intangible that the audience refused to get enough of. It wasn’t just his enigmatic titles (“Undo the Buncombe,” “Little Meggie,” and my favorite, “’I’m No Seismologist,’ Chortled the Metrognome”) which kept the crowd tuned in. Perhaps it was magic.
“I don’t care for the cities out West that much,” Gulezian has said, “but there’s definitely something magic about the countryside out there … I tried to put some of that into my music right here.” Gulezian was simply introducing “Mile High Country,” but he could have been speaking of any or all of his compositions. Magic has a part in them all.
Listening to Gulezian can be both passive and active. It is possible to approach “Mile High Country” as if it were atmospheric, and it is likewise possible to play Brahm’s 4th in an elevator. “Mile …” could be appreciated as though it were a painting of tones, but what makes Gulezian’s music unique is that it can be listened to as a study. Complex meters and outlandish key changes only serve to frame Gulezian’s melodic artistry.
Nothing on this page, however, is able to approach the level of honesty within Gulezian’s ode to nature’s awesome wrath, “The Room of Doom.” As “The Room of Doom” depicts natural phenomena, it occurs that he who is depicting is himself a natural phenomenon. This is why his music can be so honest; the song is not two steps away from what it attempts to describe, it is the very product of the description.
By contrast, his touching cover of “America the Beautiful” borrowed loosely from the chord progression of this overdone nationalist lullaby. Yet Gulezian galvanized “America” with his own melodic intuition and genuine patriotism.
It is small wonder that he fits in well here – the college where good music is old hat. Being somewhat of an elitist musician myself, I wondered aloud if Michael ever got nervous knowing the musical proficiency of his St. Olaf audience. “They’re still people, right?” he responded rhetorically.
Suddenly, like a French augmented seventh, it hit me: Gulezian only uses his guitar as a medium to pour out his soul. Showmanship and stardom are cheap, and are not the mirages that Gulezian chases. As he has said, some people just don’t understand that it’s more than just “wiggling your ass up on stage.”
I have come to believe that what Michael’s music is after is not the lowest common denominator (as any trip to the radio will find), but the human fundament within all of us. Every note that comes from Gulezian transgresses our indoctrinated notions of what music is and what music does. Leonard Bernstein once said, “Music can name the un-nameable and communicate the unknowable.” This maxim is more than a platitude, and Gulezian convinces us of this. (David Stanton and Brenna Rausch)
“…witty and personable … Gulezian does masterfully complex things on the twelve-string guitar [and] spins some delightful stories …”
The Record Courier
“Geniuses often come in the form of eccentric musicians, and guitarist Michael Gulezian is no exception. I don’t think anyone else knew what to expect, but whatever the expectations, they were blown away … a powerful set … a gifted guitarist … a master storyteller …” (read complete review)
St. Olaf College Manitou Messenger (review #2)
Michael Gulezian has never been shy about saying exactly what he thinks about St. Olaf. Saturday night, students repaid the compliment by showing up 604 strong in the Pause for his performance. “This is my favorite place to play in the whole world,” Gulezian said. “Period.”
“Everywhere else, he’s just a guy,” said Alex Memmen, a former St. Olaf student and senior at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Memmen returned to Northfield just for Gulezian’s show. “Here, he’s a rock star.”
Gulezian began the concert asking for 60 seconds of silence; “We obviously live in a world that could use some heart and soul and love and tolerance.” He bowed his head for a minute, then broke into “Mile High Country”… Guitar wizardry … dramatic, chaotic … magical …”
Syracuse Post Standard
“A guitar player’s guitar player, capable of masterly technical virtuosity … But Gulezian the instrumentalist is also something of an offbeat comic, displaying a disarming stage manner and a keen, understated sense of humor …” complete review
Guitarist’s Guitarist Adds Humor to Archbold Theater Performance
Michael Gulezian is, first of all, a guitar player’s guitar player, capable of masterly technical virtuosity on both six- and twelve-string acoustic guitars. But as he showed between songs at his After Ours concert Saturday night at the Sutton Pavilion, Gulezian the instrumentalist is also something of an offbeat comic, displaying a disarming stage manner and a keen, understated sense of humor.
The late-night audience knew something different was under way as the Tucson-based guitarist began his show by testing the vocal microphone with an a capella rendition of Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” While some in the audience nattered about this “soundcheck” opening of the show, Gulezian reassured the crowd: “You’re getting more for your money – this is a look at show biz behind the scenes.”
Once he began playing his instrumental compositions, Gulezian impressed with his varied, often complex, fingerpicking styles. Shifting the fingers of his left hand in a non-stop assortment of chord formations, Gulezian used his right hand to pick, strum, and hit the guitar strings for both melodic and percussive effect. Sitting casually on a stool as he played, Gulezian moved his head to the dynamics of each instrumental piece, gently shifting the guitar back and forth to sustain every last resonant sound.
For all his instrumental skill, two surprising highlights of the show were vocal numbers. Gulezian’s moving rendition of Stephen Foster’s “Oh Suzannah” showed a Paul Simon-like quality in Gulezian’s vocal phrasing. Later her was joined by John Leslie Wolf and Meg Bussert from the Syracuse Stage production “Closer Than Ever” for a crowd-pleasing, impromptu sing-along of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” (Larry Hoyt)
John Diliberto, Producer/Host, NPR’s ECHOES Living Room Concerts
“Michael Gulezian is a thoroughly modern finger-style player … Since the early days of Echoes, Michael Gulezian has dazzled us with his albums; he dazzled us even more when he sat down at the Echoes Living Room Concerts for live renditions of his music …”
St. Olaf College Manitou Messenger (review #3)
“Nearly 500 people filled the Pause Saturday night to experience the artistry and quirkiness of Michael Gulezian. Not only did Gulezian perform his traditional concert, he also offered a guitar workshop on Thursday night and brought yet another gift to St. Olaf this year …” complete review
Grand Return for Gulezian
Nearly 500 people filled the Pause Saturday night to experience the artistry and quirkiness of Michael Gulezian. Not only did Gulezian perform his traditional concert, he also offered a guitar workshop on Thursday night and brought yet another gift to St. Olaf this year: a multimedia CD that he recorded at last year’s concert, complete with video footage.
Gulezian feels a special attachment to the college. “I never take this artsy college for granted,” he said. Gulezian commented that playing at a college year after year is not assured for any artist, since the quick turnover of the student body can lead to shifts in musical tastes on campus. Nearly half the audience members on Saturday were new listeners, according to [a show of hands]. He also discovered that a large chunk of the listeners were fellow guitarists. Gulezian singled out Bobby Klein, who he met at the guitar workshop, as a particularly gifted artist.
Gulezian is apt to sound nearly gushy when talking about St. Olaf, both one-on-one and onstage. He cited the school’s emphasis on character development and its musical focus as reasons for the rapport he has with students. “So many people have become really dear friends,” he said. Before the concert, Gulezian mentioned that he and his wife even incorporated music from a St. Olaf student into their wedding.
Gulezian said he appreciates the high level of musicality among the student body, which allows many of his listeners to appreciate the artistry it requires for him to compose and perform. Many students can appreciate his complex meters and key changes. Others, unencumbered by music theory knowledge, can simply revel in the experience.
Gulezian inquired about several students during the concert, and was dismayed to hear that many of them had graduated. However, there were still enough returning audience members left for him to do a recreation of last year’s “Lutefisk Song” with Shenandoah Sowash, Rachel Winter and Jill Zaspel humming in the background. Gulezian tried to include those audience interactions in his live CD, deliberately incorporating “very goofy” video footage. He explained that because he plays serious music, it is difficult to picture him as a “bundle of twisted humor” just by listening [to the instrumentals].
Gulezian’s music, humor, and complete comfort onstage drew the audience in … his candor, both in his music and conversation, was refreshing. He performed an intense set that lasted nearly three hours without a break. He played some familiar tunes – “Little Meggie,” “’I’m No Seismologist,’ Chortled the Metrognome,” and the infamous “Room of Doom.” He also gave the audience a break from his passionate playing to spoof Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.”
Gulezian’s music was complex, requiring more from the listeners than any three-chord pop song. By the end of the night, Gulezian was not the only exhausted one in the room. However, his outpouring of music, energy, and praise of St. Olaf and its students, as well as the audience’s enthusiastic response, foretell a warm welcome for Gulezian the next time he chooses to venture on campus. (Lisa Gulya, Staff Writer)
Iowa State University Daily (review #1)
“Gulezian delivered … more than any reasonable person would have expected. It was a thoroughly engaging three-hour concert. … deeply emotional and technically astute playing. … an evening of superb guitar music – plus the intangible excitement a fine live show brings.” complete review
Michael Gulezian is a young and technically-accomplished acoustic guitarist. His work shows a heavy Leo Kottke influence, along with John Fahey and James Taylor references. He uses six- and twelve-string acoustic guitars to express his technical ability and his emotional depth.
Those are facts. And as facts, they are cold, dry, and hardly give an idea of what Gulezian’s M-Shop show was like.
The first thing Gulezian did, before he even played a note or even sat down, was wave off the applause that greeted him and say, “You guys must be expecting me to be good.” The surprisingly large Shop crowd gave out a small laugh, not knowing exactly what to expect.
But what Gulezian delivered was more than any reasonable person would have expected. It was a thoroughly engaging three-hour concert. His expressive playing was the anchor that held the show together, with his slightly shy manner and smartly twisted sense of humor carrying the evening.
It would be easy for Gulezian to let his winning personality eclipse his guitar work – even guitar work as fine as his. His imitation of an elephant and a Nebraska cheerleader and his encounter with “Barky the Wonder Guitar” might prove to be the focal points in a show by a lesser artist, but fortunately that was not the case.
Not that he wasn’t funny. But the bluegrass-rooted joy of “Ian and Nisa,” the spacey impressionism of “Café on the Rings of Saturn,” and the “disco acoustic guitar” of “Wet Hair, Lather, Rinse, Repeat” were the real highlights. Bits like “Killing Me Softly With Kung Fu” complemented, rather than detracted from, his often deeply emotional and technically astute playing.
In the final analysis, you just had to be there. It was an evening of superb guitar music – plus the intangible excitement a fine live show brings.
Frostburg State University Bottom Line
“Gulezian emitted an instrumental ability unseen ever before by this reviewer. … pushed the instrument to amazing and uncharted limits.” complete review
Gulezian Displays Versatility of Guitar at Café Frostburg
Quietly, he approaches the stage. He is prone to running his fingers through his hair – a nervous twitch to his behavior that reminds one of a small child preparing for the first recital. He hops up and down from the stage with a quiet informality, joining the crowd like an amateur performing for the local pub’s open mic night.
However, Michael Gulezian, who appeared last Friday as the final installment of Café Frostburg for the academic year, was the consummate veteran once he hit the stage. Displaying a musical virtuosity and a calm yet energizing stage presence, Gulezian proved himself a worthy performer for the Frostburg, as well as any other, stage.
His two sets, which stretched a cumulative two and a half hours, spanned the musical continuum. Launching his performance with an audience request, “Slugbug,” Gulezian emitted an instrumental ability unseen ever before by this reviewer. Flailing about his six-string and twelve-string with all the subtlety of a madman, Gulezian pushed the instrument to amazing and uncharted limits.
Using the full length of the instrument, Gulezian was able to effectively create the illusion of a quartet or quintet during many of his compositions. At one point, his instruments assumed sounds and reverberations associated with instruments ranging from a thundering bass drum, to thumping cello, from the mystical harp to the hollowing sounds of the pipe organ.
His repertoire stretched from Blues to Bluegrass. His own compositions reached from the Pink Floyd-like “Meandering Jelly” to the emotionally charged “Our First Dog Together,” to a gruffly delivered version of “Singing in the Rain.” Eyes closed and head swaying, signifying the nirvana many musicians describe but never substantially display, Gulezian hit the high point of his performance with his rendition of “St. Louis Blues.” (DS Gray, Editor in Chief)
Iowa State University Daily (review #2)
“When Michael Gulezian plays the guitar, it is with the skill and care of a man who knows and loves what he is doing. Gulezian didn’t just play the six- and twelve-string guitars Thursday night – he related stories (good ones), told jokes (bad ones), and made lots of friends …” complete review
Gulezian Charms Crowd With Humor, Talent
When Michael Gulezian speaks, it is with the excitement of a child awaiting Christmas. When Michael Gulezian plays the guitar, it is with the skill and care of a man who knows and loves what he is doing. Gulezian didn’t just play the six- and twelve-string guitars Thursday night – he related stories (good ones), told jokes (bad ones), and made lots of friends.
He told of a rich Texan who bought land around Pikes Peak, wanting to make it into a Texas State Park and admit only Texans. Predictably, the people of Colorado were not very happy about it. Gulezian did his part by writing an instrumental solo acoustic guitar protest song entitled “If God Wanted Texans to Ski, He’d Have Made Bullshit White.” He not only played it, he adjusted the tuning of a string in the middle of the song without missing a beat.
Gulezian wriggled on his stool, remembered that it’s almost Christmas, and played a Bach chorale – “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” – on his twelve-string, using bottleneck slide on a verse or two. Unconventional, maybe, but the most beautiful and tender version I’ve ever heard, with the melody chiming as if on a tiny carillon.
He brought out Barky the Wonder Guitar, a relic that looked (and sounded) as if it could have been made from cardboard. Gulezian made noises on Barky that, according to him, sounded like they were coming from a stethescope on the underside of a hippo with indigestion. I belived him. He played “Steamboat Gwine Round de Bend” and had Barkey bow to the audience.
Unlike some performers, Gulezian sang only when there was reason to. He performed a Reader’s Digest version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” stopping abruptly after twelve words. The crowd them prompted him to sing “Killing Me Softly With Kung Fu.”
After hearing references to the Nudist Christian Church in much of his rapport with the audience, Gulezian was intensely curious about Zevs Cosmos. Zevs obligingly appeared after the show to meet Michael, and Gulezian was the bewildered recipient of not only a button and the Book of Zevs, but a Nudist Christian Church T-shirt. No wonder Gulezian counts Ames as one of his favorite places to play.
Gulezian seemed genuinely and acutely embarrassed by applause, accepting it with all the grace of a five-year-old. He squirmed through the adoration with a pained expression, shyly mumbling his thanks and pleading with the audience to quit clapping and sit down. (Sylvia Lynn Hauser, Daily Staff Reviewer)
Michael Gulezian, a quirky thirty-something acoustic guitar player with incredible technical prowess and emotional range, played the Indigo last night. The production, sponsored by the Flip-Side Committee of the Impact Team, attracted well over 150 curious concert goers. Gulezian did not disappoint. complete review
Gulezian Enchants Indigo Crowd
Michael Gulezian, a quirky thirty-something acoustic guitar player with incredible technical prowess and emotional range, played the Indigo last night. The production, sponsored by the Flip-Side Committee of the Impact Team, attracted well over 150 curious concert goers. Gulezian did not disappoint.
Over the course of the two-hour concert the audience was introduced to Gulezian’s style of music, which defies normal conventions of musical classification. Alternating between six and 12-string acoustic guitars, he worked his way through seventeen songs.
From the onset of the concert it was apparent Gulezian was more than just a simple guitar player. After the first song, an upbeat instrumental number he wrote in celebration of leaving Los Angeles, he asked the audience what they thought of him so far. (Applause.) He then deadpanned, “I’m sure you’re really worried wondering whether or not I’m going to like you.”
He gently guided the audience into understanding the context of his works. It would have been difficult for the audience to truly appreicate his work without the insight he gave, information such as how he came to write a particular piece. The concert, aside from a few vocals, was strictly instrumental. He hedged the heavy format with a playfulness that belies a veteran performer. His jokes were silly – he imitated an elephant when he took off his sweater. After all was said and done, his virtuosity was remembered. Gulezian walks the tightrope between instrumental proficiency and emotional appeal.
Gulezian has recorded three albums … He was unpretentious on stage when he explained how he came to owning his own record company. Timbreline Music was born out of artistic differences with the company that released his first recordings.
One thing seems to be evident; he has never sold out. With the amount of talent Gulezian has, he could have easily made serious money pandering to the popular. Instead, he remains on the college and university circuit. And being true to himself, I’m sure.
Indigo gets a thumbs up for opening their evolving establishment’s entertainment schedule with Gulezian. Flip-Side and Kristen Schrader get a thumbs up for introducing this generation of MSU students to Gulezian. He has appeared here three other times, most recently 8_ years ago. Gulezian himself gets a double thumbs up for putting on a show that was a must-see. Live music at MSU would gain quite a following if all subsequent acts did half as well. (D. Thul, Asst. Editor)
Oklahoma State University O’Collegian
“The Starlite Terrace hosted one of the most splendid shows ever, a concert by acoustic guitarist Michael Gulezian at the Student Union. … a musical delight. … the concert was a hit, proving to be a feast for the ears.” complete review
An Acoustic Treat
The Starlite Terrace hosted one of the most splendid shows ever, a concert by acoustic guitarist Michael Gulezian at the Student Un ion. “I was here last year,” said Patrick Casey, sociology senior. “I was blown away by his music. I bought his CDs right away. He is superb – that’s why I’m here again. I am a guitarist myself, so I know how good he is. I’m looking forward to the concert.”
As the concert began, Gulezian was greeted with a round of applause from the audience. He played song after song, and the audience was absolutely enthralled. The subtle lighting effects and the reverberations from the sound of the guitar filling the room made it a musical delight.
The concert was marked by instances of humor and jokes that he cracked between songs. “I didn’t expect so many people to turn up,” he said after looking at the packed hall. Gulezian told the story behind each of his pieces during his performance. “’Jello Moves’ was inspired by a bowl of lime green Jell-O. It resembled a wiggling emerald,” Gulezian said. “Sometimes an ordinary thing at the right time can take you out of time and space.”
Gulezian spoke a message to people in the audience. “For those of you who are voices of conscience, just speak your mind. Speak your heart. There’s too much at stake these days not to,” Gulezian said.
He said the concert meant a lot to him. “I play music from my heart. If I’m able to express something from the deepest part of my soul that connects and resonates with other souls like it happened tonight, then I believe as an artist I’ve been true to myself. It’s not work at all when you love what you do. This concert was a beautiful affirmation of what I do as an artist.”
Gulezian also spoke of coming back to Oklahoma State University. “It’s so sweet to be here again this year. I’ve played at the University of Tulsa and in Oklahoma City, but this is the largest, most appreciative, and most attentive audience I’ve ever had in Oklahoma. I played here fifteen years ago, but in recent memory this is the second time. I hope I can see you all again next year,” he said.
The event was organized by students for students. The Student Union Activities Board invited Gulezian after listening to him previously. “We heard his music,” said Kristen Davis, entertainment chair of the SUAB. “We liked it, so he’s here. The students find this as a place where they can relax and entertain themselves and get to hear a wide variety of music.” The concert was a hit, proving to be a feast for the ears. (Lakshmi Thamizhmani)
Penn State University Daily Collegian
“Gulezian overwhelmed students with his profound music … a style that is original and provocative …”
“A great guitarist. My kindred spirit.” Michael Hedges
“Better than the best of the best of the best … uber ninja.” Andy McKee
“… I wish there was a video component to what we do because Michael positively dances with the guitar, if one can do that sitting down. … incredible spiritual relationship with his instrument. A great discovery.” David Dye, WXPN / National Public Radio’s WORLD CAFE
“If I could play guitar the way Michael Gulezian does, I would just sit in front of a mirror and watch myself do it.” Garrison Keillor, on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
“… a formidable player …” Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The name Gulezian … is synonymous with ingenuity and mastership. Michael Gulezian uses his guitar as a medium to pour out his soul. Every note that comes from Gulezian transgresses our indoctrinated notions of what music is and what music does … name the un-nameable and communicate the unknowable.” David Stanton and Brenna Rausch, Staff Writers, The Manitou Messenger, ST. OLAF COLLEGE
“… a one-man guitar orchestra. A brilliant guitarist, a sensitive and soulful vocalist. And … he’s hysterically funny.” Terry Meyer, Programming Director, BIG TOP CHAUTAUQUA
“… one of the most amazing acoustic guitarists on earth. Michael Gulezian puts his entire heart and soul, his entire being, into every song he does live. He just goes all out on every song … incredible passion, and unbelievable technical skill.” Dore Stein, Producer/Host, TANGENTS MUSIC RADIO
“Michael Gulezian is the AntiChet.” Tim Sparks
“Total virtuoso … [If] you saw Michael Gulezian open for Shawn Colvin this summer … you know he is one slick acoustic guitarist. Great music …” Dan Nailen, Music Critic, THE SALT LAKE CITY TRIBUNE
“If the Rocky Mountains had a soundtrack, Michael Gulezian would compose it.” Matthew Lester, Contributing Writer, The Baylor Lariat – BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
“Michael is a stunning guitar player …” Ken Heffner, Director of Student Activities / Concert Programmer, CALVIN COLLEGE
“Michael Gulezian’s music is a wonderful representation of the man who plays it – playful, reflective, and deeply engaging.” Kyle Dyas, Music Director, KUNC-FM (NPR / Community Radio for Northern Colorado)
“… one of the most respected (if unknown) jazz-folk instrumentalists in the country. Gulezian, who is Armenian-American, brings a touch of Eastern exotica to his John Fahey-influenced picking, embracing the tactile excitement of virtuoso playing and the richer spirituality of New Age.” Noel Murray, Critics Picks, NASHVILLE SCENE
“Quite simply, Michael Gulezian is the reason this series was created.” John Harlow, Director, HUB Late Night / Gallery Music Series, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY
“Virtuoso guitarist Michael Gulezian has boosters both national (a clever, glowing quote from Garrison Keillor seems to follow him wherever he goes) and local (WXDU’s ‘New Frontiers’ show has given him a lot of airplay). His inventive yet always melodic playing is worthy of that kind of devotion and has earned him same-breath mention alongside the likes of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and Michael Hedges.” Rick Cornell, Music Critic, THE DURHAM INDEPENDENT
“One of the most dazzling solo acoustic guitarists in the world today … To see Gulezian alone on stage with his guitar is to watch a master at work.” Wallace Baine, Entertainment Editor, SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL
“Michael Gulezian plays guitar the way Salvador Dali painted.” Roger Clodfelter, Asst. Dean of Students, HIGH POINT UNIVERSITY
“One of the hidden treasures on the fall lineup … Michael Gulezian’s last visit to campus found him playing a generous three-and-one-half hour set that left an enthusiastic audience on its feet. The down-to-earth sensibilities of his lyrics involve his audience, and his frenetic fingerwork, coupled with a liberal dose of harmonics, makes his guitar sound like two or three players in perfect synchronicity with each other.” Pat McDonough, Contributing Writer, Old Gold and Black, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY
“… his giddy sense of humor, his passion and sincerity – it all leaves you wanting more. You can’t help but love Michael Gulezian.” Julie Amacher, National Music Host, MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO
Campus Performance Report Quotes
“Listening to Michael play helps you re-discover your soul. Michael is simply the finest acoustic guitarist. The students here would lynch us if we failed to bring him back.” NORTHLAND COLLEGE
“The sounds from Michael’s guitar transported the entire audience to a state somewhere between Heaven and Maine.” UNIVERSITY OF MAINE at ORONO
“… breathtaking, complex, and beautiful. …a terrific performer. Audience members clutched their sides as he composed an improvisational piece around their laughter.” ST. MARY OF THE WOODS COLLEGE
“… truly gifted. … an absolute must-have performer for any coffeehouse-type program.” UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA at WILMINGTON
“… a phenomenal guitarist. His wit and love for life are displayed throughout his art, both verbally and musically.” CHRISTIAN BROTHERS UNIVERSITY
“The combination of Michael’s good humor, deep sincerity and incredible guitar playing took the audience on an emotional roller coaster. We began in community laughter and ended in reflective silence.” DRURY UNIVERSITY
“The reason the event was successful was his ability to build a relationship with every person in the room. During the two-hour set almost no one left – that isn’t normal. Attendance 600-700, and there were three standing ovations.” ST. OLAF COLLEGE