The Stick Center in Spain

Guillermos Cides's Stick Center has released its first compilation of 22 Stick artists from seven countries:
Stickistas, a Compilation of the Art of Hispanic Chapman Stick Players and Composers.

Stickistas, CD $15, is now available from Stick Enterprises.
Review by Greg Howard

As unique an instrument as The Stick may be in the world of music, the phenomenon of people coming together to pursue a common interest is as old as the cave. So it should be no surprise to find that Guillermo Cides's Stick Center in Spain has released this compilation of music by like-minded folks.

What is surprising, however, is finding such a diversity of musical visions so well tied together. Cides's influence as the Center's founder is more behind the scenes in this compilation album, not so much expressed in the musical styles as in the "ethic" of the school he has nurtured.

There are also contributions from several Stickistas outside of Spain, who have been simultaneously pursuing their own art. This is a truly contemporary collection of original music, with varying degrees of influential Spanish and Latin-American rhythms, harmonies and instruments woven into the mix. Cides has explored diverse genres himself, from Bach to progressive rock, and he has delivered it all impressively by wielding his Stick and array of electronics to craft a sound that is unmistakable. An occasional reflection of that sound emerges from this new release, but each track is distinguishable and unique, reflecting more of Cides's international reach as an influential artist than as an organizer.

These 22 tracks come from Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and the US. Stick®, Grand Stick® and Stick Bass® are all presented solo and in concert with everything from traditional flamenco percussion and classical guitar to synths, electric guitar, and sampled percussion and loops. They are all very brief (from 2:07 to 4:34). This fact and an excellent mastering job by Tónica Records' Guillermo Zuloaga give the record a great flow that's never jarring, even when making dramatic stylistic shifts.

The anthemic "Concerto for Stick" by Spanish 10-string player Juan Serna, is a perfect entrée – intricate "fingersticking" patterns and overdubbed melodic lines that stretch the initially simple harmony rising ever higher and higher, driven on by "marching" hand percussion. Two Argentines follow with a perfect pairing of classical guitar (M. Torres) and its contemporary electric extension, the Stick Bass (Miguel López), in "Gauchito" a duet accompanied by shakers, hand drums and claves. It's great to hear Stick Bass played like this, clearly the next generation in a long line of instruments that started in Spain with the guitar. Two later tracks each present a different take on the Stick Bass, Brazilian Andreas Guenther's catchy pop tune "Crónica" with its seamless layers of overdubbed bass, rhythm, melody, solo and textural parts, and Argentine Gustavo Vidal's wispy interlaced solo "Los Recuerdos." These two pieces are thoroughly contemporary in their conception.

On "Alrededor del Chapman Stick" Spain's Guialberto plays nylon-stringed guitar and 10-string Stick over a slow flamenco rhythm track, and then throws in electric guitar, dobro, and sitar to complete his lilting pan-cultural overdubbed ensemble. José Albarracín (Argentina) explores some surprising harmonic twists and turns on this tango-inspired duet with electric guitarist E. Pucci. Here we can hear something of Cides's sonic influence, but the melody and harmony are distinctly Albarracín's.

Whatever role the players assume in presenting their music, the clear focus of this compilation is on the compositions. Stickistas is about "soul" as opposed to "chops", though there is some brilliant and intense soloing, as on "Grabado en el Cerebro," by the Uruguayan duet of Stickist Zecharies and Zendrummer Boismenu.

The liner notes declare:

The artists who we have presented here are not the best artists.
To be the best one would imply a weight too big and too ephemeral.
They have made their own universe molded by hand

An artful conveyance of this concept shows up in the images presented throughout the package, photographs of contemporary ceramics by artist Simon Levin.

It's not until track #7 that we get our first of three vocal tunes, "Amor de Bandoneón," a heavy rocker sung by American Sticksit/vocalist Linda Cushma, with Cides on Stick and Primus drummer Tim Alexander. According to the liner notes this track will be on a forthcoming release by this trio. Like so many of the songs here, it has a strong, memorable melody. The other two vocal tracks are more along the lines of "electronica" from two Spanish players Germán Fas, and Pat Benadon Oks's group Microchic.

The rest of the instrumental pieces are all over the map in terms of arrangement, style, instrumentation, electronic treatments. More recent influences like King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are as clear as the traditional ones. One sonic standout is the beautiful, high-energy "Stick Dúo" by Cabezas de Cera's Mauricio Sotelo and Hugo Santos (Mexico), just two Sticks without effects.

Rather than delve into each track, though, it seems most fitting to let the listener discover them as presented. I'd suggest istening from the beginning to the end in one sitting if you can. Don't stop until you've gone all the way through the bonus track, a duet by Cides and Emmett Chapman. "Gonnawannaland" can best be described as two musicians each doing what they do best, together for the first time. While Cides lays down a lush, expansive electrified soundscape, Emmett dances around his Spanish Gypsy modes. I'll leave the rest to your imagination, and theirs.

Here are some words from Cides about the project:

Many years have passed since The Stick first came to be in my hands, along with the passing of thousands of concerts, many tours, overseas travels, original compositions, and personal connections made with this instrument. So, you can imagine what it means to me to have produced this Stickistas Compilation and to have recorded this song with Emmett Chapman. I am grateful to him for his confidence and enthusiasm in making this collaboration together as a part of the CD album. Emmett has a musicality that is very special and ingenious, as much so as the instrument that he invented.

© Stick Center Archives

1 Diego Blanco (Argentina)
2 Gustavo Vidal (Argentina)
3 Matias Betti (Argentina)
4 Xavi Oro (Spain)
5 Dirseus (Argentina)
6 José Albarracín (Argentina)
7 Andreas Guenther (Brasil)
8 Miguel Menocal (Spain)
9 Teddy Baxter (Spain)
10 Silvio Paredes (Chile)
11 Juan Serna (Spain)
12 Zecharies-Boismenu (Uruguay)
13 Gualberto (Spain)
14 Germán Fas (Spain)
15 Mauricio Manchón (Argentina)
16 Sotelo-Santos (Mexico)
17 Pablo Gigliotti (Argentina)
18 Bernardo Dominguez (Argentina)
19 Pat Benadón (Spain)
20 Cides-Cushma-Alexander (preview future album)
21 and 22 Cides and Emmett Chapman (Bonus track, inedit song)
For more information about the recording
and Guillermo Cides's Stick Center in Spain, please visit

Stick, Stick Bass, and Grand Stick are registered trademarks of Stick Enterprises Inc.