Perhaps the most poignant aspect of album by Sandro Norton Flying High…At the Heart of It – a marvellously descriptive title – is the fascinating manner in which the various narratives unfold in orchestral terms. All of this has to do with the sublime ability that Mr Norton has, not only as a composer, but also in his ability to re-harmonise the work given to him by the other composers who have contributed to this recording. Furthermore, Mr Norton is plainly a realist too. He grasps the scope of his instrument and has wisely chosen to add instrumentation provided by the violin, the cello and the harmonica to dramatically change the harmonic topography of the music here. 

The clever balance between these instruments adds a sustained resonance to the music together with the piano, of course, and where the notes on the guitar – because of the very nature of its physical limitations – tend to die more quickly, musical phrases played by the strings grace the air with elongated endurance prolonging the beauty of the musical phrase. One has only to savour the atmosphere of “The Storm” to perceive how well this works for Mr Norton. Its dramatic melody is superbly bolstered by the dark harmonies that are brought to bear on it by the violin and cello together with the piano and Mr Norton’s guitar, of course. And this is no mere fluke. All through the ten songs orchestration is utterly wonderful and creates a truly evocative atmosphere for the guitar to soar high into a rarefied realm.

Mr Norton brings compelling virtuosity to the guitar. Switching between steel guitar, electric and nylon string-guitar, he makes playing seem easy. His liquid sound often rustles like raw-silk especially on songs such as “At the Heart of It” and “Side Steps”. But Mr Norton can also raise the bar on pizzicato playing as he raises the level of his theatrics. Most dramatic of all is the performance on “Percussive Talk” where Mr Norton effectively deploys a huge vocabulary of sounds and effects combining to make his instrument sound as big as an ensemble. These range from harmonics and pizzicato to technique exotica such as ‘nut-side’, ‘nail-sizzle’ and ‘multi-tone tapping’ plus a battery of percussion sounds suggesting magically that his guitar comes with a set of a myriad tuned drums strategically attached.

Clearly the music of Sandro Norton encompasses a very large sound world and embraces the richness of the instrument. He is an all-round artist-technician who seems to have embraced all sorts of music – from very high-brow classical to rock. And if the guitar were a small country Mr Norton would be the general who would lead it to independence playing some the wonderful music in evidence on this memorable disc. 

Track list – 1: The Storm; 2: Andaluziana Song; 3: At the Heart of It; 4: Eight Years; 5: Side Steps; 6: Night Out; 7: Percussive Talk; 8: Afrikando; 9: Too Many Changes; 10: Landing

Ensemble – Sandro Norton: steel, electric and nylon string guitars; Filipe Raposo: piano; Yuri Daniel: double bass and fretless bass; Carlos Miguel: drums; Luis Trigo: harmonica, violin and vocals; André No: percussion; Jaume Pradas: vocals; Claudia Fier: vocals; Bruno Cardoso: cello. With guests – Leandro Leonet: drums (2); Filipe Teixeira: double bass (1, 2); Elisa Trigo: flute (1 – 3); João Salcedo: synthesizer (1 – 3, 6, 8, 9); Carl Minnemann: electric bass (6); Joaquim Albano: percussion (1 – 3, 6, 8, 9)


Like you might expect in the 21st century, I met  Sandro Norton online, exploring various musical issues. As we got better acquainted, Sandro wondered if I would be interested in coming to Portugal to play with his musicians. After a year or so of working out details, I was on my way to Lisbon and Porto for a couple of very enjoyable weeks of concerts. This was one of my last touring projects before moving on to retirement, so it has remained quite memorable for me. I had already learned that Sandro Norton was the leading jazz guitarist in Portugal, and it’s probably fair to say he is also the leading jazz musician in Portugal.

For my trip to Portugal, I really got to connect with great players and discover new music. We rehearsed and prepared a mix of pieces composed by Sandro, and some by his musicians and myself. The styles of music covered a pretty big range, so it

made for very interesting performances. We played in Lisbon first, then Porto, Sandro’s home town, which soon became my home too, for my visit. The audiences for all the concerts were warm and supportive, truly enjoying the music. I liked the combination of instruments, it was especially a treat to have violin and harmonica in the group, both expertly played by Luis Trigo. One thing I noticed about a typical Sandro Norton concert, there were a lot of guest musicians included, as well as singers. That created a lot of variety, which is fun for us musicians since the setting keeps changing. And I was very impressed by the other members of Sandro’s main group: along with Luis, there was pianist Joao Salcedo, drummer Mario Barreiros, and Carlos Barreto on bass.

 As for the leader and producer for all this music, it was a great pleasure to work with Sandro. I had become familiar with his guitar playing from hearing him on recordings before we met in person. Still it was a revelation to not only hear Sandro play live, but also to discover that we had a very easy time playing together. There is a magic that happens when improvising musicians find easy rapport. With Sandro, it was like we had been playing together for four or five years already, instead of for just four or five concerts. Sandro is not only quite a versatile guitarist, he also is a very prolific composer and I found his music very natural to play. These concerts were some of the easiest and most fun that I can recall.

 We had not intended on making a recording, so the final surprise was that a decent professional-quality recording from a concert was saved and now we have  “ FLYING HIGH, “ which is actually the final recording project of my career. I am pleased that it will be available for listeners around the world, and that there is now a historic documentation of my very lovely collaboration with Portugal’s best in jazz.

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