New life has been breathed into the art of contemporary instrumental guitar with the first solo album of original material from veteran guitarist and composer Shambhu, aka Neil Vineberg. (Shambhu has a long list of impressive credits, having performed with Narada Michael Walden, Carlos Santana, and Clarence Clemons and recorded with Whitney Houston.)
Sacred Love is one of the most beautiful and most impressive guitar albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. One of the photographs on the CD, of Shambhu smiling meekly with his hand over his heart, might lead listeners to think that they are about to hear a collection of ponderous instrumental musings typically associated with New Age music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this is not that album. (Incidentally, the photograph is appropriate in that it conveys the sense of the music coming from Shambhu’s heart and making its way into those of listeners, which it does).
The CD is brimming with masterfully played, boundary-crossing tunes touching everything from New Age and fusion to world music and smooth jazz. In fact, several cuts are radio-friendly and would be right at home on commercial jazz stations.
Shambhu wrote most of the compositions, co-wrote two or three, and plays acoustic and electric guitars. He also plays electric sitar, which reinforces the exotic Indian sounds of several tracks. This Southeast Asian influence is also reflected in the guitarist’s name, a Sanskrit word meaning “source of happiness,” which is an apt description of his music as well. Shambhu’s guitar and composing skills are comparable to those of Andy Summers, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour, and Larry Carlton, as well as fellow independent newcomers such as Devin Rice and Erin Aas.
The rich, full sound of the CD is fleshed out by an amazing lineup of musicians, among them – to name just a very few – Tony Levin (John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Andy Summers) on bass, Jeff Haynes (Pat Metheny) on percussion, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn, and Charlie Bisharat on violin, with enchanting wordless vocals provided by Claytoven Richardson and Noah Wilding. Album producer Will Ackerman of Windham Hill Records and Private Music fame also lends his guitar and piano talents separately to a couple of tracks.
Sacred Love is an album that will satisfy many musical palates, not just those of guitar music fans. Shambhu is an artist to keep a close eye on. Hopefully this is the first of many more wonderful new albums to emerge from his creative vision.