Blue Note

* * 1/2

Some may find that Fareed Haque's second Blue Note recording reminds them of Ottmar Liebert, Strunz & Farah or other guitarists who mine the current fascination with flamenco and other world-beat styles. But "Opaque" is more compositionally ambitious than Liebert's recordings, and less dependent on speed and technical display than Strunz & Farah's. This isn't to say that Haque lacks technical facility. He just doesn't rely purely on ability to stir up emotion.

Examples of his prowess come in quick snatches: the 19-second "Unison" or the interludes during the Middle Eastern-flavored "Tabriz." But what separates this album from the pack is Haque's cosmopolitan sense of composition, his orchestration of acoustic and electric guitars and a variety of rhythmic approaches and instruments played by percussionists Mark Walker and Hamid Drake. Occasionally, as on the title tune, the backgrounds become soft and predictable. But the majority of Haque's album marks him as a serious guitarist-composer who places craft above commercial appeal.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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