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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 Benedetti 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.

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WayneSRiker April 19, 2012 @ 9:22 a.m.

A few spelling and musical clarifications from the artist: Bass player on track 1 is Burt Newman Bass player on track 3 is Mike Craig Track 1 contains no diminished chords, they are all dominant 13th & major 6th voicings. Track 2 contains no suspended chords, the open string voicings are minor 11th's, altered dominant and major 7ths, a major 6/9 & a dominant 11th chord. Track 6 contains one eight bar wah wah solo, otherwise the similar sounding effects on my guitar are flange and phaser effects.

Wayne Riker


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