This CD (dare I say album?) was very well performed and the material was artfully chosen. I am very pleased. I am waiting patiently for his project of Twisted Sister acoustics!
“My first review of an album, this is just plain awesome. The selections are great and hearing them on an acoustic guitar is wonderful. Every song on the CD is really good. I would highly reccomend it to any Beatles fan (who isn’t?) or anyone interested in artful acoustic guitar pieces. The tuned down guitar is an exceptional fit to these songs.” -Amazon.com review
In the words of Tom Wheeler, Consulting Editor, Guitar Player:
Latarski takes his time to set up his melodies, which makes the tunes ultimately more memorable than those too-typical endless jamfests. When he does solo, it's always provocative and worth repeated listenings. He can syncopate with ease and shift in and out of various grooves, his modified Gibson ES-165 and his funky little bargain-basement Supro amplifier lending just the right amount of sweaty rudeness to his otherwise jazzy tone.
Don's solos (and those of his guest guitarists) sparkle with spontaneity and immediacy; there's no sense of that cut-and-paste, fit-it-in-the-mix approach that on so many records shifts the focus from the players to the engineers. Here the emphasis is on soul, tone, and groove.
As they cruise along Rue Two, Don Latarski and friends take detours through funk, barn-dance country jazz, Delta blues, Texas shuffle, laid-back New Orleans-style rhythm & groove, blistering rockabilly, all the way to what Don calls “urban voodoo.” Despite the versatility, Latarski says, “It's all blues to me.”
“Don Latarski and company are back, and it’s good to have them. This is their second CD of blues and soul, and it cooks like the first one.
Latarski is a guitarist of great taste, and chops to match. You might recognize his name from some instructional materials. He’s an excellent teacher who specializes in beginners to intermediate level guitarists. Well, his playing level is far above any of those areas; ranging from biting and slashing to thick and jazzy, and it never falls back into cliches.
Check out his snaky lines on the rumba blues of “The Lucky Fin,” or the country-esque rocking lines in “Rockit Sauce.” There’s also some heavy soul playing, complete with nice wah rhythm work (“Born Ready”) and the lovely jazz ballad duet with Charlie Baty (from Little Charlie and the Nightcats), “Shoreline Blues.”
It’s a wonderful CD, full of interesting guitar work and killer songs. A welcome addition to any collection.”
“Guitarist Latarski’s jazz background allows him to improvise way beyond the same old shuffles.
That he’s able to do this without sacrificing an ounce of soul is a tribute to both his talent and his blues sensitivity. Marilyn Keller’s vocals and George Mitchell’s B-3 playing make significant contributions to a well-rounded and well-presented set.” (Rooster’s Pick award)
- Blues Access magazine
While many musicians with such prodigious gifts would find the temptation to showboat irresistible, on Deep Play the song and the groove always come first. This kind of performance requires musicianship of the highest order and, on occasion, some high-wire, without-a-net guitar. Even when whompin' on the whammy or bending strings almost to the breaking point, he's ever mindful of the intrigue of a remark left unspoken, the way a deft sketch engages the eye in a manner that a detailed painting cannot, the seductive mystery of spaces between notes. Less is more.
- Tom Wheeler-former editor of Guitar Player magazine
“Oh Babies, they got a thing goin’ on don’t they?”
-veteran blues DJ Gavin (The Rooster Man) Fox
“...his playing brings to mind Robben Ford...always tasteful, with a percussive feel that punches and pops through the music like a knife through butter.”
- John Heidt
“Better than sliced bread. Rue de Blues is a street I want to live on.”
-Tom Morgan (WTJU)
“Great mix of blues and jazz. Hot guitar! Cool stuff!”
Marty Scarbrough (KASU)
“Without a doubt one of my top favorites of 1996. Let’s hope the whole country discovers what Crescent Records and “Shuffle Shoes” already knows about Don Latarski and
Rue de Blues.”
- “Shuffle Shoes” (D’arcy Ballinger - WKBM)
“Their sounds are extreme but smoothly blended.”
- Our Town Magazine - Portland, OR
“I definitely felt the “deep play” mood of all cuts, especially the instrumentals. Play your hearts out babies!”
- Brook -( KVLR)
“NOT the latest French blues import, but a jazzy group from Oregon, led by guitarist Don Latarski. Marilyn Keller’s soulful vocals put the exclamation point on this talented aggregation.
“His authoritative multi-faceted guitar is all over the CD, which contains some fine vocal work from longtime collaborator Marilyn Keller as well.”
- Dave Gingold - Eugene Weekly
“Anyone looking for a first blues album should buy something by B.B. King, but anyone looking for a second one should buy Deep Play.
Fans listening for Latarski’s guitar virtuosity can find it on the instrumentals ‘El Don Blues’ and ‘Nannabocca Blues,’ the funky ‘Comin’ Home Baby’ or the Wes Montgomery tune ‘Four on Six.’”
- John Thompson
Finally and closest to home we have How Many Ways..., by Don Latarski, Christopher Stevens with Marilyn Keller. This is the most commercially-oriented of the three albums, with the requisite synthesizer sounds, back beats, and vocal of today’s jazz-pop scene. As such, this album succeeds admirably, standing up quite nicely with releases by Tom Grant, Dan Siegel, and Richard Smith.
The tunes are short and to the point, the playing is first rate, everything is in the sonic ballpark for a crossover album, and Marilyn Keller’s vocals (she reminds me of Esther Satterfield, Chuck Mangione’s former vocalist) add variety to what is primarily an instrumental date. This should be the album that finally gets Don that major label notice that he’s been looking for.
- Northwest Independent Music News
The best of this year’s crop of Christmas albums is the gorgeous offering by Eugene guitar legend Don Latarski, NorthWest of December.
Here’s the bottom line. If you’re looking for a new Christmas album, buy this one. You will treasure it for years to come. And give a copy to your friends. Latarski’s remarkable artistic gifts make NorthWest of December the perfect holiday gift. On the Crafts scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Don Latarski’s NorthWest of December a 10!
- Fred Crafts (Critic-At-Large KUGN)
“There are some real bright spots on the Northwest music scene this year. Don Latarski has given us a true gift with NorthWest of December, a collection of original and traditional Christmas acoustic guitar solos.
Gentle acoustic tribute to the season, a good example of how less can be more when it comes to holiday music...I’m partial to guitar music; this would be great to relax to...Windham Hillish with long and winding intros, but simple, quiet, and most important, not annoying ...Almost as good as John Fahey....”
- Register Guard Review (Eugene, OR)
“I’ve been following Don's Music for 20 years, and have always enjoyed his playing. Don is a tremendous guitar player and he knows how to put fine music together.”
-Tom Krumm (PD KLRF)
“Guitarist Don Latarski has released a gorgeous seasonal CD, NorthWest of December. His approach to the Xmas chestnuts is refreshing and original including a haunting “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”
- Dave Gingold (What’s Happening)
“Well recorded, well played. Traditional with a twist. One of our best sellers this Christmas.” -Bill Harkleroad (Face the Music)
“Hello Don! I want to tell you that I am sitting in my dorm room listening to your CD for the third time in a row and it is truly amazing!!! It really captures why I fell in love with the guitar in the first place. Thank you so much for making it.”
- Molly McClure (student)
“Don Latarski’s Northwest of December is a special recording. His warm fluid guitar technique is impressive and seems effortless. The pleasing blend of traditional holiday songs, classical themes and original compositions faithfully capture the feeling of the Great Northwest in winter. Northwest of December is more than just a holiday offering. It will be on my CD player all year long. Bravo Don!”
-Michael Canning (MD at KLCC)
“In a similar vein, but pumping much more blood and creativity, are NorthWest of December (Crescent Records) by the Oregon guitarist Don Latarski, and Road to Joy (Sheffield Lab) by Freeway Philharmonic, a Chapman Electric Stick (an electric guitar/bass hybrid) quartet. In these hands even such tired horses as “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” move with a fresh step.”
-Marty Hughley (The Oregonian)
“Fantastic recording! Outsold Mannheim Steamroller. This CD was one of our top five best selling Christmas releases. Can’t wait for the next one.”
- Morgan Davies (Balladeer Music)
“My dentist sent your CD with his a Christmas card. I don't play music much anymore and, frankly, I didn't expect to like an album of guitar, but I really enjoyed it. The only CD player I have is on this laptop, but it seems to lend itself to the intimacy of your music.”
- Jackie W.
“Somehow, Eugene’s noted jazz guitarist manages to take original tunes, juxtaposed among the hooks of a few familiar carols, and make them fit the season as well as the old standards.
It’s all solo acoustic guitar, starting with the original title song, moving through “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” Bach’s Sarabande, and “Good King Wenceslas.” Along the way are Latarski originals “On the Wing,” “Ice Party” and “Ode to a New Angel.” The album was released in 1995. This, along with the four above, is definitely an album worth having - especially for those of us for whom the first strains of holiday music usually evoke not chestnuts on an open fire but traffic jams at Valley River Center.”
- John Thompson (Register Guard)
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