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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

ACOUSTIC COLLECTIVE (article first published : 2003-11-19)

What do I say about Tony Cox and Steve Newman that I haven’t said before? The reviews are all there in the artSMart archives for those who wish to hit the search button where I’ve talked about their “sheer honest artistry”, ”wry humour and casual patter”, and “technical brilliance”.

Back in Durban at the moment for a short run at the Catalina Theatre, their programme contains many old favourites from shows they have done together. With a combined wry sense of humour that is never far away, they can produce a musical joke by the merest change of accent to the tempo as is evidenced in their opening number. If some members of the audience don’t catch their impish meanderings in this piece, they will certainly enjoy what Tony and Steve describe as “Dave Brubeck’s affair with Julie Andrews”. Here the melodies are very clear in a whacky mix of Take Five and My Favourite Things!

Rondale Tico combines the James Bond and Pink Panther movie themes. There’s also a piece by Fernando Sor in which they admit they have “messed around” with a section in the middle! Favourites include Sweet Georgia Brown where their expertise makes it sound as if there are at least four instruments playing. There’s also their hilarious take on Duelling Banjos and Esteves (called “Steve” in South Arica, quips Tony)

Their solo items are riveting and mesmerising. These include Tony’s evocative In the Distance and his new number Shweet (“short and sweet”!) which has exquisite melody lines mixed with sudden dramatic chords. In an intriguing number, Steve Newman demonstrates the percussive abilities of his guitar, one of four instruments that he uses. One of these is dubbed “Oupa” and it sounds like an acoustic double bass mixed with an electric bass guitar with attitude. As are all his guitars, the instrument was custom-built for him. In Broederstroom, nog al!

An interesting introduction to the programme is the impressive Spinning Wheel which the pair last played 18 years ago.

Even if acoustic guitar music doesn’t normally grab you, this show is worth attending for the sheer joy of watching two masters of their craft weave their magic. They’ve worked together for over 22 years, have the same second name and back-to-back birthdays! With a musical rapport that is almost tangible, their tried and tested numbers are as crisp and uncluttered as the first time you saw them. They don’t try to be tricksy or flamboyant. Just two guys doing what they do best – stretching acoustic guitar music to exciting limits, playing around with some numbers but being respectful to the original composers and not losing original styles.

To plagiarise Mr Shakespeare: Let not to the marriage of true musical minds admit impediment. May these guitar genuises continue to make their fascinating music for many years to come.

Acoustic Collective has a short run at the Catalina Theatre until November 23. Don’t miss it! CD’s are on sale in the foyer during interval. Book at Catalina on 031 305 6889. - Caroline Smart




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