Reviews and Quotes for Parallel Crossings

Szabó/Kastning: Parallel Crossings

Sándor Szabó, Kevin Kastning, baritone guitars. Greydisc 3504. 56 minutes.
This new disc of improvised duets by guitarists Sándor Szabó and Kevin Kastning picks up where last year’s Resonance left off. Everything I said in that review applies equally well to Parallel Crossings. These guys can really play, and the recording sounds very good, indeed.
If you liked/loved Resonance, you’ll feel the same way about Parallel Crossings.

Sequenza21 (USA)



Ekultura Magazine (Hungary)

"It is an interesting thing to write of a record when I heard its material first in a live concert. This happened now. The Sandor Szabo/Kevin Kastning baritone guitar duo has performed in Szeged recently. It is important to know of Kevin Kastning that he studied with Pat Metheny and he is a great fan of Bartok.

In that night, a third guitar player joined to the duo; Dominic Miller, the guitar player of the Sting Band. They played a fantastic concert together.

Kastning, the most modern guitar player in the US in these days, met Sandor Szabo in 2005 who is a great master of the multistring modern acoustic guitar. The evidence why they can play in so fluently and intuitive way is the three albums they recorded together.

I would like to point out in the beginning that the Parallel Crossings does not belong to the easy listening commercial albums. To meet this music demands open mind.

Concerning the deepness of the music, this album is about such a wisdom of life that only the greatest artists can create when they reach the age of their 70s. Though these musicians are far from that age but what they created and how they play it the listener can have no doubt of its deepness and credibility. The message of their wisdom says that the most difficult thing in life is to reach the clear serenity.

What they showed in these 13 pieces recreates the content of our existence: the vibrant oscillation between the constant changing, the cadence, the fantasy and structural order. The one who wants the regular will congeal, the one who wants the irregular will disintegrate. The task of our weekday life that demands a lot of braveness and stress is to be able to live and express the regular and irregular. On the one side of the river of the existence there are the intelligence and the law, on the other side all which stands above them. The struggle of these opposite tendencies often threaten as with disintegration, but these musicians disclose what the secret of this serenity is: to contemplate all from far like children.

Just like all the good movies and books this album has a promising introduction (Preludium) a meaty action and heavy ending (Postludium).

I was very happy to receive this album, the conception of this album is far beyond the habitual themes we can hear in these days.

At last we have something else and valuable instead of the cheap commercial stuffs covering everything."

- Czékus Mihály


   Sándor Szabó and Kevin Kastning: Resonance (2007) and Parallel Crossings (2008)

   "These are two collections of duos featuring New England based Kevin Kastning and Hungarian born Sándor Szabó; the latter with a number of previous releases to his credit. The two play a variety of acoustic baritone guitars, including a 12-string extended baritone guitar invented by Kastning, in a wide variety of tunings and stringings. In a nutshell, what they do on Resonance and Parallel Crossings could be thought of as loosely composed improvisations, constantly changing directions and style, although nothing here is beholden to any identifiable style other than that which suits each of the players at any particular moment in time. The overall impression is of one guitarist with four hands rather than two individual players, so empathic is the cooperation between them. Moments of frenetic activity are balanced with periods of sublime calm; off-hand bits of technical flash are spelled by passages of simple beauty. These improvisations (13 on each CD) might be classified in some sort of acoustic free-jazz idiom; way too avant-garde and captivating for ECM, and way too adventurous for Windham Hill. And adventurous it most certainly is, for after at least a dozen spins of these discs, the listener is still met with new surprises at every turn that hadn't been noticed (or perhaps paid attention to) on previous listens. There are so many moments of brilliance here to absorb, and with very little repetition and predictability, one can be sure that the surprises will continue well into the future. Surprisingly, for what is essentially atonal music, it is relatively accessible, perhaps because neither performer indulges in the acoustic-guitar equivalent of saxophone screeches. So long as a listener is into this general style of improvised composition and playing, these are albums what will keep giving as far as you want to take them."

Exposé Magazine, Fall 2008  (USA)
- Peter Thelen & Jon Davis


Sandor Szabo & Kevin Kastning,
Parallel Crossings
(Greydisc, 2008)

"Parallel Crossings has 13 duets by Sandor Szabo and Kevin Kastning, both of whom play 6- and 12-string baritone guitars. Kastning developed the instrument with Santa Cruz Guitars.

These ambient duets are difficult to classify. They do not fit easily into either folk or jazz. They have an ethereal, avant-garde feel. The titles of the pieces indicate this. They include "Cartesian Vector," "First Pleochroism" and "Aeshna Cyanea." The improvisations are not completely "free." Each piece has melodies, but it is as if they are crossing over from a parallel universe.

Sometimes there is a sense of foreboding, since you cannot pin down where the music is coming from, or where it is going. On the other hand, it is sometimes soothing, since Szabo and Kastning perfectly complement each other, and the playing is always on an even keel. There are also moments of otherworldly beauty on this CD that lasts nearly an hour.

This is highly recommended for those who like acoustic guitar music that is far from ordinary."

- (USA)
January 2009



"Last year, I was hugely gratified to find this pair's previous release as toothsome as it was, a moody set of improv tunes by two guitarists steeped in a mindset not often displayed nowadays, pensive, dark, and hypnotizing. The lead cut here, Preludium, only affirms my best hope: more of the same composes the new outing, and that's a very good thing indeed. Both musicians play the rarely seen baritone guitar (John Abercrombie long ago picked up on the equally mysterious piccolo guitar, as has Srinivas, in order to attain the timbres desired—these guys have done up the opposite end of the sound scale), adding a richly resonant greymist to everything. As before, one can't help but return to ECM's moodier fusion days when guys like Ralph Towner and Bill Connors were composing for exactly this purview, a shadowland between darkness and light, the place where wandering souls pursue elusive thoughts and unsettling sentiments.

Preludium also pointed up a device I'd not as readily detected in last year's disc: the occasional use of the secondary guitar to match the lead in such a way that it can seem to be a drone synth, close attention paid to sonics and frequencies. Under an Evening Sky follows as one of their sparer cuts, more balladic, possessing a greater sky of negative space than is usual for the duo and with a much clearer top line, a story-telling aspect. Improfugue I speeds that process up but not to any degree of flashmanship. Even when this pair desires a brisker tempo, they never sacrifice a single note to achieve it, setting the pulse rate up only to contrast the underlying laconic atmospheres, often depositing mildly skewed confusions, hesitations, existential ruminations.

This is night music, what classicalists call 'nocturnes', and so aptly laid that it provides not only superb background and foreground material, as mood might dictate, but also perfect fall-asleep sounds, the listener drifting off to dreamland, giving way to a spell of interior complexities. Cordulia Aenea switches the norm, positing the secondary guitar's place into a bass-substitute not as a rhythm device but rather a second lead strictly kept to the bottom strings, thick notes rumbling off the prime position. The listener, before surrendering to lethean visions, utters a silent "Ahhhhh!" then sinks beneath consciousness. Only in such composers as Harold Budd, Roger Eno, and others will one locate such fare otherwise…though you won't find such marvelously agitated work as in Second Pleochroism there, here a jangly jarring affair strongly evoking Towner's Solstice period, as does Aeshna Cyanea, its connubial partner. Through everything, though, one finds constant intrigue within a set of songs compelling revealed that, perhaps ironically, are strangely settling. Maybe it's just the comfort one finds in knowing that two individuals can set the more unusual of our thought processes to music so perfectly. Therefore, investigate this work when you're athirst for maturer landscapes dotted with myriad sound sculpturing, philosophically more tantalizing than what 95% of the market could possibly offer."

- Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (USA) by Mark S. Tucker


Sándor Szabó & Kevin Kastning, "Parallel Crossings," (2008_

"The phrase "Parallel Crossings" poses a Zen-like conundrum, and foreshadows an equally enigmatic music. This is music which is freely improvised on two acoustic guitars, and though such a concept would likely produce senseless noodling in the hands of lesser guitarists, Kevin Kastning and Sándor Szabó have the requisite skill and telepathy to create musical magic in the moment. Ambient improvisation has been done before by the likes of Eno, Hassell, and Oregon, but a similar endeavor with this kind of minimalist instrumentation is beyond recollection... truly innovative. With no electronics or loops to bolster instantaneous compositional choices guided purely by chance, Kastning and Szabó demonstrate the kind of interplay and the confidence to delve into unknown territory which is usually associated with master jazz musicians. Many of the tracks are dreamlike and meditative, as on the opening track "Preludium" and "First Pleochroism." Others, such as "Improfugue I" and "Cordulia Aenea" might be called pleasantly meandering. "Cartesian Vector" is haunting, perhaps even disturbing. All, however, will challenge your musical preconceptions -- spin "Parallel Crossings" only with a very open mind."    © Alan Fark

Minor 7th Magazine; August 2008  (USA)

Listen to Sándor Szabó & Kevin Kastning at the minor7th podcast


"Dear Kevin,
I was on tour with Sandor and he gave me your duo recordings!  Every time when I listen to it, I discover something new.  Your meaning of counterpoint is unique - it is like a net of the spider. Rhythm carpets appear ....and disappear......the pieces do alternate between beautiful melodies and a kind of noise - natural paintings/abstract paintings. .........a very interesting planet of music......a beautiful body of sound...."

Claus Boesser-Ferrari  (Germany)


"Today, Mr. Kastning's new CD, “Parallel Crossings” arrived.  I elected to listen to the CD on my drive to work which I wouldn’t normally recommend for these recordings. Besides the sophistication of the music itself, the recording quality of these CD’s really demands a more pristine listening experience. Knowing I was compromising the experience, I did elect to use ambient-sound headphones. These primarily improvised guitar duets defy categorization in any popular sense. I am going to offer this comparison only to attempt a crude beginning point of reference. The music is kind of like a convergence of 20th century chamber music, Ralph Towner or Egberto Gismonti improvisations, and any number of ECM label soundscape artists. The instruments themselves - 6-string baritone guitar, 12-string baritone guitar, 6-string extended baritone guitar, and 12-string extended baritone guitar – and their tunings are forays into new territory. The music itself is dense and complicated but also ethereal. The recording is a superlative example of truly capturing the ambience of the acoustic instruments in a consummate final mix. This is NOT easy listening and best listened to without distraction and in pristine audio conditions. Kastning and Szabo clearly have established new territory.  That said, many sections are really marvelous ’soundscapes’ that hold up as meditative ‘background’ music. I have actually looped a few sections for contemplative times, though I’m not sure what kind of endorsement the artists themselves might give for relegating the music that way. It’s my impression that Szabo brings a slightly detectable East-European influence to his part as Kastning brings a more chamber music sound to his side of things. There are some parts of some tracks that lean to the chamber music side with invention or fugue-like motifs but they never bog down there (bog down admittedly indicating this listener’s bias). Both Resonanceand “Parallel Crossings” CD’s are in my frequent rotation stack of CD’s. If you like music that is challenging intellectually AND spiritually provocative, you should dig this."

- Kenneth Moreland; multi-instrumentalist; Austin, TX (USA)


""Parallel Crossings" takes off where "Resonance" left, from what I understand both CDs were recorded at the same time last year. This beautiful collection of duets between Kastning and Szabo explores a little further the sonic possibilities of the 12-string baritone guitar. As usual with Kevin's recordings the sound quality is amazing, although a little more processed on this one. Where "Resonance" was sparse "Parallel Crossings" is more tense. The music is at times denser, the harmonic complexities enhanced by intervallic tunings on the 12-string baritones are spellbinding. Again it is difficult to know what's improvised from what's written, a testimony to the alchemy between the two musicians."

- Laurent Brondel, luthier, producer and/or mixing engineer: Cuong Vu, Myra Melford, Bill Frisell  (USA)


"Hey Kev,

I've got the new album on in the background as we speak, what a gorgeous and hypnotizing sound you get! It is astonishing to think this is all improvised, you two have some pretty serious wavelength stuff going on. I suppose with all the collaboration you've done, this comes naturally, but it's entrancing to hear it play out in real time.

"No limiting on this album," ain't that the truth.

Thanks again, beautiful, beautiful job."

- Joel Patterson, Mountaintop Studios (USA)

"Kevin, your new album "Parallel Crossings" is quite simply put, amazing. Indeed the resonance between Sandor and you is remarkable.  That last song was pure magic. So much so, that I couldn't just listen once, or twice, or three times. The placement of the songs was perfect, such that each one led wonderfully into the next and there were these divine still moments interspersed within the movement of it.  I cannot get over that last piece. Brilliant. Sonorous. And it filled me up with its gentle movement, feeling almost like that "hum" that seems to happen on lovely late summer afternoons. It just kept humming within me long after the notes ended.  You really do create these universes within universes. The music is deep, filled with nuance such that each time I listen I find myself discovering new universes within. Layer upon layer, this is music to find oneself in, to find new selves."

- Sora, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist (Canada)



"Hey Kevin...
You ROCK.....This is some awesome work, you and Sandor have another CD in the works I hope. Where did you get your early influences from, Kevin? WOW! I was gonna tell you which track I dig the most....but at this point I'm throwing my arms up in the air. Keep up the superb work!  After again really getting into your sounds yesterday, I was struck with the reality that your music is indeed a reflection of your surroundings. You are so in touch with mother earth and the creator's wondrous designs that the beautiful sounds you produce transpose themselves into the beautiful landscapes you are exposed to. I wonder what you might produce after a few weeks out on the open Kanza Flinthills. As an American Indian that has been caught between tradition and contemporary, your music helps define the meaning of respect for nature, and I hope other people can see this connection. Your photography and visual arts are another part that show off your connection with Nature. Yokoke, my friend. Thank you for your uplifting talent. May the creator walk with you on your journey."

Fan for life. Thanks so much!

-P. Kennedy; Wichita, KS (USA)





Yesterday I received the CDs ... WHAT A GIFT FOR ME!!

For me it's something much more important of a precious jewel... money will never buy a feeling, or a true emotion!!

I have a secret (I speak only for myself..) that permit me to appreciate at maximum level your music, Kevin, that is:

"When you hear something from KK, you have to forget everything you knew before".

Now I will 'dive' in this new ocean, living new experiences in music....

At first hearing, let me say, I finally can hear the whole extension of the guitars, low tunes are something really new for me.. some chemistry between wood and gauges.. but also the high ones sound so clear.. is it a miracle? For sure you know the secret!

This for the technical impact of the sound on my ears.

But, if you want, I will tell you the most important part of feeling that I have with your music: the emotional one!

So, dear Kevin, you give me a complete new experience with music, the one that I love, so how can I thank you enough??

With this thanksgiving I salute you, be sure that your fan is now enjoying your wonderful creations.

Now I have your CDs, I'm listening the marvelous sound of two guitars, I'm starting from the heart (tracks 4 5 6 7 8) of Resonance going toward the frontiers of it and then exploring Scalar Fields, learning and appreciating the differences between the playing of Szabo and Siegfried...they are great musicians; now I can recognize your playing in the tracks, and it is the one that I like so, so much, (it's a matter of feeling, not easy to explain)..., than, as final, I will explore Parallel Crossings.

I'm happy to hear that you are working on new albums, I will sure buy them when they will be available.. you are the kind of Artist that I appreciate so much, a never-ending research and work for music. I'm in good company now, listening your music I feel like to live in a magical world. Thank you so much, Kevin, have good & creative recordings as (only) you are able to do, I'll wait for them.

Ciao, Kevin, e arrivederci a presto."

 - Daniele Demunari, guitarist (ITALY)