Album cover

Guitar Decathlon

CD Review: Guitar Decathlon, The Wayne Riker Collective - Robert Bush, April 16, 2012

Guitarist Wayne Riker has spent a lifetime in music, developing skills and mastering many genres of music. He is extraordinarily versatile, and his latest record Guitar Decathlon is a celebration of his stylistic range.

The disc pairs Riker with 10 of the areas top guitarists, fronting a variety of rhythm sections.

Opening strongly with "Hurdles", Riker's partner on this "jump-blues" is the remarkable Laura Chavez, a real find. "Hurdles" swings from the get-go, powered by the protean string bass of Bert Newman and Tyler Buckley's drums. Chavez has a great, crisp style--she and Riker lay down some slurring diminished chord mayhem.

"Discus" an acoustic steel string guitar duet with Jimmy Patton and the percussion of Frank Lazzaro features lots of open-string suspended voicings and dexterous fret-work. Stylistically, it falls somewhere between the iconic John Abercrombie/Ralph Towner duets and some of Al Dimeola's later acoustic work.

"110 Yard Dash," is billed as a rockabilly track, but it sounds closer to the new-country style of Vince Gill, maybe, to me. Jim Soldi teams with Riker for excellent, idiomatic solos, and the upright solo from Mike Curtis nearly steals the show.

"400 Meter Blues," brings local heavyweight Robin Henkel in for a duet of acoustic guitar and dobro--both players flexing their slide chops over a chord progression that reminds me of "Black Water," the old Doobie Brothers tune.

The theme from "Pole Vault," sounds like it was lifted from a 70's porn sound track (not that I would know what that sounds like), or, a Crusader's tune from that era. Featuring the very Larry Carlton-esque string bending heroics of Andy Tirpak, there's lots of wah-wah guitar over the solid beat of Steve Araujo's bass and the drums of Walt Riker. Conga sweetening courtesy of Monette Marino-Keita.

Straightahead jazz gets a nod with guest Dan Papaila sitting in on "The Roman Mile," wherein Papaila and Riker do their best to out "Wes" each other over the Herculean bass of Bob Magnusson. It's a great track--one of the strongest--but it's hampered by an disappointing fade-out at the end.

"Shotput Blues," is a Chicago styled affair with the heavily trebled-out Tony Tomlinson in tow. He and Riker exchange string-bending heroics on this track which alternates between shuffle and quasi-Latin grooves.

"Long Jump Bossa," features the phenomenal Peter Sprague. Bob Magnusson's thick bass tones outline the vamp, while Riker's electric guitar slurs and coos the gentle theme over Sprague's nylon-string wizardry. He hits the gates first with zigzagging arpeggios and sweet chord-melodies. Riker's solo isn't quite as successful until the tune morphs into double-time at which point he shadows Sprague in a satisfying exchange of ideas. Again, though, there is a fade-out, which seems curious.

"High Jump Etude," is the mandatory rock tune, with guest Mike Pfahler trading "shreds" with Riker over a kind of formulaic sounding progression. Both guitarists perform with impressive speed and trade harmonic-minor ideas throughout.

Finally, "Javelin Concerto," finds Riker in tandem with noted classical guitarist Fred Benedetto jamming on a theme that marries flamenco ideas with a progression that reminds me of producer George Martin's work with the Beatles. Very inventive.

All in all, Guitar Decathlon is an enjoyable listen, with some great playing by guests and host alike.


1. Hurdles

2. Discus

3. Pole Vault

4.The Roman Mile

5. The 400 Meter Blues

6. High Jump Etude

7. 110 Yard Dash

8. Long Jump Bossa

9. Shotput Blues

10. The Javelin Concerto

Group: The Wayne Riker Collective

Desciption; Ten top shelf guest guitarists from ten different musical worlds, from the greater San Diego area, join me in playing ten Riker instrumental compositions.

Wayne Riker, electric & acoustic guitars

Featuring guest guitarists: Laura Chavez (electric guitar), Jimmy Patton (acoustic guitar), Andy Tirpak (electric guitar), Dan Papaila (electric guitar), Robin Henkel (dobro), Mike Pfahler (electric guitar), Jim Soldi (electric guitar), Peter Sprague (electric guitar), Tony Tomlinson (electric guitar) & Fred Benedetti (acoustic guitar)

Bass guitarists: Sam Johnson, Bob Magnusson, Steve Araujo, Burt Newman, Mike Craig & Billy Fritz

Drums & Percussion: Frank Lazzaro, Monette Marino-Keita, Walt Riker, Enrique Platas, Dino DeLuke & Tyler Buckley

Recorded at Studio West, San Diego, engineer: Darrell Harvey


Gimme DeCath - Wayne Riker's All-Star Local Guitar Decathlon - Jay Allen Sanford, March 29, 2012

“All of these players I’ve either heard of over the years, or I’ve played with, and they’re all guitarists that have a high musical IQ,” says Wayne Riker, whose new full-length Guitar Decathlon features ten tracks, ten styles of music, and ten top San Diego guitarists, one on each song.

Asked about his guest choices, Riker starts with 28 year-old Laura Chavez, who plays a jump-blues number. “I caught her with Candye Kane's group back in 2010, where I was immediately impressed with her command of the fretboard as a rhythm and lead player.” Jimmy Patton performs an acoustic fusion track. “I remember seeing Jimmy on some of the local TV morning shows, back when he was a teenager, playing two guitars at once with an amazing sense of melody and improvisational skills.”

Jim Soldi appears on a rockabilly track, “I first met him in 1981, when the country scene was bubbling over during San Diego’s Urban Cowboy phase…[this is] the first time we’ve played together.” Andy Tirpak takes on a funk number. “He’s been a longtime veteran bar band musician, playing in numerous bands [like] Atomic Groove and Mother Belle.”

Dan Papaila’s jazz track stems from when he and Riker both taught at Old Time Music in North Park, circa 2007. “We were wall-to-wall in our teaching studios, and would often trade licks back and forth, in between students.” Robin Henkel appears on an acoustic blues song. “We’ve shared many of the same students, particularly blues and jazz.”

For the rock track, “Mike Pfahler is currently with Nemesis, now celebrating 25 years on the local scene.” A Latin number features Peter Sprague, with whom Riker has only performed with publicly once, in 1992 (backing Deborah Liv Johnson). The recording also includes Tony Tomlinson playing urban blues, and Fred Benedetti on a classical tune.

Riker wrote and plays guitar on all the tracks, as well as producing.

“I liken the recording process to an Alfred Hitchcock production, meaning, for the most part, unscripted. There are no overdubs, and most of the tracks were done anywhere from one to three takes, creating a strong live vibe. The absence of keys, horns, or strings keeps an emphasis on the two-guitar theme.”

“Many of the musicians on on this recording are ones I’ve played with or known about over the years here, and culminates a great spotlight for so many deserving local musicians. Some of the personnel, in each group, were combinations of players just meeting for the first time, and some who play together regularly.”

The idea, he says, was to record “An album that authentically represents many of the styles I’ve played, taught, and transcribed, featuring ten of my instrumental compositions, written specifically for ten different musical genres, each featuring a top local guitarist, as a representative in each style, joining me on each track, with shifting rhythm sections of bass, drums, and percussion to accommodate each changing genre.”


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