Guitar Hero 

Washington-based experimental guitarist Anthony Pirog loops in St. John’s Church.

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Experimental, improvisational music may be an acquired taste, but some players make it easier to acquire than others.
Washington guitarist Anthony Pirog uses looping to build sweeping sonic landscapes through which to soar and occasionally rampage. His critically lauded new CD, “Palo Colorado Dream” (Cuneiform), reveals a musical voice ranging everywhere from psychedelic lyricism to cutting-edge rasp. His explorations may be free-form, but they’re grounded in melodic beauty. His layer-by-layer looping process provides a listener’s guide to the underlying structure of a piece, the rationality behind the abstraction.

Recently returned from Europe, he will appear at St. John’s United Church of Christ on Stuart Circle on Dec. 17. It’s a side trip from a tour of East Coast jazz venues, arranged by guitar and bouzouki-playing psychiatrist, Ayman Fanous — who’s organized some of the most adventurous and charming Richmond musical events of the past decade. Fanous has been host to small-group appearances by a who’s who of great improvisers, including the great avant-garde bassist William Parker, violinists Mark Feldman and Jason Kao Hwang, cellists Frances-Marie Utti and Tomas Ulrich, and guitarist Bern Nix.

Multipercussionist and frequent Fanous collaborator Tatsuya Nakatani will add depth and detail to the program. The acoustic clarity of St. John’s is perfect for the subtleties of his convention-transcending style.

Many of these events have been delivered to ridiculously small audiences, given the quality of the musicians. This paradoxically makes them all the more intimate and memorable. With increasing national exposure from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Downbeat, JazzTimes and others, Pirog may find that 2015 is his breakout year. This event could be an opportunity to see an artist before the venue size and the ticket prices swell. Or it may just be an opportunity to hear some very good music in an ideal location.

Either way, it’s a sound investment of time and money. S

Anthony Pirog and Tatsuya Nakatani perform at St. John’s United Church of Christ on Stuart Circle on Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10.



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