Album: A Bridge Between
Artists: Carbe and Durand

Carbe and Durand A Bridge Between CD coverAs the famous opening line from the British comedy show, Monty Python, goes: “And now for something completely different.” The great majority of the albums I write about in this genre are original compositions, with an occasional cover tune included. However, on the new album by Liza Carbe and JP Durand entitled A Bridge Between, 10 of the 13 songs are well-known cover tunes from the 60’s to the 80’s from folk to pop to classic rock. The artists they cover range from Simon and Garfunkel to Ozzy Osbourne, just to give an idea of the diversity. Even though some of the songs are originally from heavy electric bands, all of the versions here are performed in an acoustic guitar duet format, which makes for some very interesting renditions, to say the least. And the wildly eclectic nature of their song choices made this one of the most fun recordings I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in a while.


But first a word from (or about) our sponsors. JP Durand and Liza Carbe (pronounced lee’-zuh car-bay) are a married couple who have extensive credentials in the music industry, both individually and collectively. Liza has been playing guitar since the age of 8 and went on to earn a degree in classical guitar from Cal State Northridge. After college, she had a musical split personality that varied between classical guitar and playing in a Platinum-selling female hard rock group called Vixen which she toured the world with. After this, Liza toured with former Santana singer Leon Patillo, and later with Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, where she met JP. They soon began performing together and were eventually married. JP also had a diverse background between the music of his native Peruvian roots and the world of rock and blues. After receiving a degree from UC Berkeley, he began working in the music industry at MCA Records, and later at Spanish-language television (the powerful Univision and Telemundo networks) where he assisted in producing live music events. JP also played in a variety of bands including a Steely Dan cover band – not the easiest music to play given its complexity and eccentricity.

incendio_band_logo However, it was the combining of their respective talents that have lead to even greater levels of success for them. Together they are best known as co-founders, along with guitarist Jim Stubblefield, of the acclaimed genre-bending instrumental “world guitar” group Incendio, which has released nine best-selling albums and two DVDs available internationally. In addition to performing and recording, Liza and JP have made a name for themselves as composers, writing a wide range of music for film and TV, including the blockbuster comedy movie “Bridesmaids” to TV programs such as “Entertainment Tonight,” “Law and Order,” and “Burn Notice” among countless others. After gaining great popularity as a performing duo under the name Carbe and Durand, they decided to make a live-in-the-studio album representative of their concerts, entitled A Bridge Between.


Carbe and Durand inside (color pic 1)In my interview with Liza and JP, I asked about their creative process and what led to doing an album with mostly cover tunes. In their words: “Although we were playing a lot of our own music, we started enjoying coming up with unique arrangements of other people’s songs. We both enjoyed listening to Bireli Legrene and Luc Sylvain, and they were doing some really inspired arrangements so we started to play with some of our own. It was fun and people were really responding so well to hearing some their favorite songs done on two guitars. A friend suggested, “Paint it Black” (by the Rolling Stones). We thought that was an odd choice but we came up with the idea that became what’s on the CD. We did want to include a few original songs as well.” Continuing on about their creative process and inspiration, the duo shared: “Although we are disciplined in our work and art, the excitement of life’s unknowns is appealing. There is a randomness to our structured lives and there is some of that in our music as well.”


The album begins with the title song, one of their 3 originals. It’s a folky, easy-rolling tune that reveals the chemistry of their styles with Liza doing the finger picking and JP flat picking melodies and leads. Interestingly, the original songs were recorded on steel string guitars, while the cover tunes were all done on nylon string guitars. From there, we move on to the first of the cover songs, “Time After Time,” by Cyndi Lauper. It was an interesting adjustment, not only to hearing a well-known vocal tune being played instrumentally, but also in the more minimalist format of two acoustic guitars. But I really enjoyed it and found that here, and on many of the songs, this stripped down version revealed aspects of the song’s composition and structure that I may not have been aware of while listening to the original and focusing more on the lyrics.


It’s hard not to feel nostalgic hearing a song like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” especially for someone like me who is of the generation of many of these iconic songwriters. But one thing I particularly liked about Liza and JP’s version is that, while the song is clearly identifiable, they do take some liberties, putting their own spin on it and jamming out a bit. The next song, one of their originals, has a deeply personal meaning for the duo. Entitled, “A Thought For You (For Larry),” it serves as a tribute to a dear departed friend, guitarist Larry Weber. They even borrowed Weber’s Lowden guitar to play on the track to help capture his spirit. Although, because of the subject matter, I expected it to be more melancholy, it was actually quite lively and upbeat.


maxresdefault Back in 1968, one of the few acoustic-guitar instrumentals to ever crack the Top 40 pop charts was “Classical Gas,” by Mason Williams. Carbe and Durand’s version of it is a real toe-tapper, infused with spirited energy and perhaps a touch of Nuevo-flamenco. According to JP, “This one lends itself to Liza’s classical technique.” Speaking of flamenco, their Spanish-flavored take on The Rolling Stones “Paint It Black,” is as unique as it is incendiary. Be sure to fasten your seat belts before listening to this one!


In an interesting segue, it goes from The Rolling Stones “Paint It Black,” to “Blackbird” by the Beatles. There is also quite an energy shift from sizzling to sweet, which in a nutshell, kind of encapsulates the perceived contrast between the Beatles and the Stones. About “Blackbird, Liza shared: “It’s a great finger-style piece that works well for two guitars. The Paul McCartney melody-line is so active and beautiful.” After that, we go from sweet to swinging as the duo offer a jazzy version of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” I was greatly impressed by Liza’s amazing skills as a rhythm guitarist over such a wide range of styles, as well as with the walking bass line she played on guitar in one section of this song. JP’s melody and lead guitar work was equally impressive on this breezy tune, as it is throughout the album. A slightly jazzy treatment was also applied to their rendition of “Wichita Lineman,” that was a huge hit for country pop artist Glen Campbell in 1968.


Lisa_CarbeThe last of their original compositions is “Mountain Song,” which was the first piece of music they ever wrote together from 20 years ago. According to Liza: “Some music just has to wait for its moment to be recorded.” So like a fine wine, this song has been gracefully aging, until now when it could be poured for us to experience its sparkling Americana-tinged flavor. One of the more unexpected song choices (on an album of unexpected choices) was the 1985 hit from Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Although once the song started playing, it made perfect sense and fit very nicely into the guitar duo format. One of my favorite arrangements on the album was on “Fragile” by Sting. The song starts off expressing the delicate nature of the theme, and then in a middle section, picks up the tempo into a spirited upbeat groove with a bit of Spanish flair. This musical detour provides ample space for JP to showcase his formidable lead guitar chops, before winding back down to the original tempo.



jp-small But the song I was the most interested in hearing was the final one, an acoustic guitar version of “Crazy Train”by Ozzy Osbourne. Although I’m a big fan of classic rock, Ozzy was never someone I was that into, however, I’ve always really liked this particular song a lot. I wondered how an acoustic guitar version of it would work, considering the song’s heavy metal roots but Carbe and Durand’s version of it knocked my socks off. There are actually a lot of different parts to the song and I especially appreciate how it alternates between a darker minor feel in some sections and a brighter, more major feel in others. Liza totally rocked the rhythm and JP’s leads were absolutely smoking. For me, this song was the cherry on top of this luscious sundae of an album.


It certainly was a trip down memory lane hearing all these classic songs and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every unique rendition by this immensely talented duo. One thing I particularly liked throughout the album was hearing JP play a familiar melody line and then add his own flavor to it with a little riff here and a little improv there. As a guitarist myself I was often blown away by his stunning technique and passion on the fretboard, as I was with Liza’s masterful rhythm playing and her ability to go from one style to another with such virtuosity in each. Very impressive! A few times they brought to mind Rodrigo y Gabriela, another acoustic guitar duo that I have the highest regard for. JP and Liza are both consummate musicians in their own right and provide a perfect balance for each other, making this recording such a stellar listening experience. I absolutely love this album and give it my highest recommendation. If there were such a category, I would definitely nominate A Bridge Between for “Feel-good Album of the Year.”



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