In the credits of his new album, One Minute Later, out now on Sunnyside, Diego Barber as listed as playing the classical guitar. Based on this album, this seems true in the most cursory, nominal sense. Maybe classic is a state of mind, maybe it’s more of a contextual thing. If it is indeed based on context, Barber’s playing alongside Ben Williams’ bass, Eric Harland’s drums, and Alejandro Coello’s assorted instrumentation may not lend itself to the name classical.
Barber is a guy from the Canary Islands who admires the Spanish guitar playing from Andalusia. It’s this kind of arpeggiated playing, like constantly flowing ripples of strings, that is the root of Barber’s sound. This is the guitar playing as it was always meant to be played and reapplied in a modern setting. The melodic dance that he and Coello have throughout this album — as Barber’s chords spiral about Coello’s clear tones on the vibraphone, marimba, kalimba, and another resounding percussive instruments — would almost be considered the engine of the album if they weren’t more the raison d’etre. The role of engine would fall to the fantastic rhythm section work from bassist Ben Williams and Eric Harland, truly a surprise on this collection of songs. One can always expect something interesting out of Eric Harland’s propulsive drumming, able to pull an ear in even the softer moments. Williams, ever supportive, fits in particularly well here. The breakdown of third track, “Pilar River”, is a great example of this kind of interplay where Barber solos sweetly while stripped down, Williams bounces around him, Harland keeping the beat but staying in the cut. They sound fantastic and adaptive.
This is an album full of surprises. It’s the kind of release that can sneak up on you and stay in rotation year round. Diego Barber’s One Minute Later is full of songs that can astound by grabbing you by the ears, not letting go, and then leaving you with a smile on your brain wondering why that kind of music doesn’t happen more often. This is one of those albums that you’ll keep playing for a while. That’s how classics exist, by staying relevant and lingering forever. Perhaps that’s what he meant by saying he plays the classical guitar.
Diego Barber – classical guitar
Alejandro Coello – marimba, vibraphone, tympani, gongs, crotales, tam-tam and kalimba
Ben Williams – bass
Eric Harland – drums