The pieces on Pritchard's last recording under his own name, “Vertical Eden” (Molecular Music, 2008), can be heard casually or intently with equally rewarding results. He will typically construct modules of pattern and sound that repeat, as sonorities build and morph in very subtle but fascinating ways. Pritchard's music is something akin to an audio kaleidoscope.
He will lead his Guitar Quartet, with guitarists Kevin Tiernan and Ioannis Markoulakis, and hand percussionist Chris Garcia at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena on Wednesday.
Guitarist and composer Andrew York has played Pritchard's “Henniger Flats” as a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The piece has gained a measure of respectability with its inclusion in “The Real Book” — the shorthand manual of familiar and worthy pieces for working musicians.
In comparing Pritchard to serial composers like Philip Glass, York says, “David's music reminds me a little of Steve Reich's, but it's more accessible: I find that his patterns are a little more mellifluous in the way they blend together. David's gifted in the way he's able to make complex music sound pleasing to an audience.”
An early milestone for 63-year-old Pritchard was when he joined vibraphonist Gary Burton's quartet on a 1969 tour. Their introduction happened at the late, lamented Shelly's Manne-Hole on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood. “It was such a great place to hear music and mingle with the artists,” Pritchard notes with a hint of wonder. “Jerry Hahn was playing guitar and I was able to sit in. Four months later, Gary was on the phone; he flew me to New York for an audition.”
In the late '60s, Burton's band was a forum for an exciting merging of styles — jazz, country, rock and classical music. It was also a focal point for hot young musicians, including violinist Richard Greene, tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus, bassist Steve Swallow, and guitarists Hahn and Larry Coryell. “It was a great band to be a guitarist in,” Pritchard recalls. “We were playing in different genres — it was subtle chamber music. Everyone had to be a soloist and accompanist.”
While improvisation is not a large component of Pritchard's present modus operandi, jazz is an ingredient in his music. “Jazz influences the way I write harmony,” he explains, “and the way I work with melodic elements. I also like early Baroque. My son is a Fulbright scholar and he's turned me on to a lot of that music.”
The music of many of the minimalist composers, like La Monte Young and Terry Riley, is informed by East Indian music. “I never formally studied it,” Pritchard says. “I wouldn't say that Indian music is a part of what I'm doing now, but rhythm is very important to me. I like working with polymetric sections superimposed onto each other.”
“Arpeggiation is a big part of the way I write,” Pritchard adds. “It involves an unusual technique for a guitar because it's flat-picked. I do that because I like the timbre so much more. For most of my music, I need another guitar player; I need another line going on. I'm thinking more vertical in the way I write — that assures that everything will be blending.”
As a composer and instrumentalist, he doesn't see his work as having an ultimate goal. “I don't think I'm attempting to do anything,” Pritchard says. “It's just a process where I'm not repeating myself.”
Where: Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena
When: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Info: (626) 441-5977, fremontcentretheatre.com
KIRK SILSBEE writes about jazz and culture for Marquee.