Salt Lake Community College students and community members gathered inside the Grand Theatre on Tuesday for a special backstage performance and open forum with the California Guitar Trio.
The Trio plays a variety of rock, classical, jazz, and world music on their acoustic steel-string guitars. They have a full, gorgeous sound that most three- and even four-piece bands only dream of. The goal of the Trio is not to showcase what an individual can do, but what can be done as a group.
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They lean on each other, gesture toward each other and watch each other closely. Early in the show, they showed the audience a technique called “circulation.”
Using a Johann Sebastian Bach tune, one guitarist plays the first note, the second guitarist plays the next note, the third guitarist plays the third note, back to the first guitarist for the fourth note, and so on. This takes tremendous teamwork.
In their mini documentary, the Trio says they have been playing together for so long, that they almost know what the others are thinking.
As well as playing classical and original compositions, the Trio plays covers.
“This song is our most viewed YouTube video,” band member Paul Richards said as they launched into a rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The musicianship of the Trio shines in this song; you can almost hear Freddie Mercury singing through the steel strings.
After playing a few more power-packed songs, the Trio opened up to questions from the audience and talked about their past.
Hideyo Moriya came from Japan, Bert Lams is originally from Belgium, and Paul Richards was raised in Bountiful, Utah. All three started playing guitar around the age of twelve and studied music after high school.
The Trio met in 1987 at Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft course and the three have since created a lasting friendship.
“Hideyo and I were friends… we would ride the bus together,” Richards said. After the three began playing together with Lams, something just “gelled.” They knew they had something special.
In 1990, the three lived together – with Lams’ wife and child – in a tiny house in Los Angeles.
They began to play shows, dubbing their experiment the “California Project,” which eventually evolved into the “California Guitar Trio.” The three never expected that they would be playing this long.
“We didn’t know how long this would last. Maybe a few months…” said Lams. But the Trio is still going strong more than two decades later.
The California Guitar Trio played a show on Wednesday night at the State Room in Salt Lake City and will be continuing their tour until April. They plan to start recording their fifteenth studio album later this year.