A new album release by guitarist John Williams is always cause for great anticipation, not only for another opportunity to marvel at his virtuosity, but also to experience music from unheralded areas of the repertoire. EL DIABLO SUELTO is a survey of the guitar music of Venezuela, a vibrant mixture of elements from the cultures of the indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and the Africans originally brought to the country as slaves. Williams demonstrates a thorough understanding of the music's heritage, and his commitment is evident in performances that are dynamic and incisive. Williams' remarkable technique allows him to easily negotiate the complexities of these intensely rhythmic pieces, but his keen musical intelligence renders these accounts more than exercises of technical expertise. He skillfully wields a broad palette of tonal colors to express the rich harmonic language and beautiful melodies in works arranged by his mentor, the great Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Diaz.
Evencio Castellanos is one of Venezuela's best-known composers, notable not least as one of the groundwork-makers for that country's much-lauded "sistema" of music education. This album presents some of his best-known works, idiomatically and enthusiastically performed by the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela under Jan Wagner. All three works are nationalistic, with plucked strings stating popular Venezuelan rhythms and melodies against various orchestral backdrops.