The new Dance Place Studio in Takoma Park inaugurated its music series Friday night with a concert by one of the country's lesser-known but most promising acoustic guitarists: Michael Hedges. Hedges records for Windham Hill Records, the San Francisco folk-jazz label that emphasizes a crystalline pastoral music similar to that of Germany's ECM Records. For a young guitarist, Hedges sounded strikingly original and accomplished. His own instrumentals and songs were based on cyclical folk figures that were transformed by his inventive use of altered tunings, hammer-ons, pull-offs, bell-tones, muted notes and dual lines.
All these techniques were used to greatly increase the possible tonal colors from his Martin guitar, but were always subordinated to the emotional demands of the piece. On "Silent Anticipation," Hedges struck brusque chords and as they died picked out trickling notes that captured the antsy feeling of waiting. On "The Magic Farmer," he set in motion simple arpeggios that gradually grew into elaborate embellishments and melodies as naturally as the garden the song evoked.
Michael Manring, who effectively employed sliding notes and strong melodic lines on his fretless electric bass, intuitively joined in with Hedges on half the pieces. While Hedges' singing and lyrics were likable, they weren't as spectacular as his playing and compositions.
The Dance Place is a small dance studio with folding chairs in renovated offices over an auto parts store. The setting was makeshift but intimate, and the music was spectacular. Saxophonist Jim Sivard will be the second musician at Dance Place next Sunday.