URI-connected guitar trio The Great Necks lands on Billboard chart with new album

‘Impressions of Spain’ reaches No. 2 on Traditional Classical list

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 27, 2022 – When internationally known classical guitarists Adam Levin, Scott Borg and Matt Rohde came together seven years ago to form The Great Necks trio, their goals were both straightforward and ambitious.

“We came together to make great music together,” says Levin, a teacher of classical guitar at the University of Rhode Island, “and do what’s never been done before.”

“There are a lot of classical guitar ensembles that sort of stay in the lanes of the traditional and of the safe,” adds Rohde. “We were interested in making great music, as Adam said, and having a great time together, but we also really wanted to push the limits of the instrument and introduce a repertoire that maybe another ensemble wouldn’t even dare.”

With the release of “Impressions of Spain,” the trio has now accomplished those goals with its first two albums. And more. Not only is the music challenging, critically acclaimed and expanding the repertoire for three guitars, but it’s selling.

The week after its May 20 release, “Impressions of Spain” (Navona Records) debuted at No. 2 on the weekly Traditional Classical Billboard chart, one spot below cellist Yo-Yo Ma and one above legendary composer John Williams. Their first album, “Original Arrangements for Three Guitars” (Frameworks), reached No. 10 on the Billboard chart in 2018.

“It’s very validating and, frankly, thrilling to see our ensemble on that list, especially when it’s next to someone like Yo-Yo Ma,” says Rohde. “This is a group that we all really, really believe in, and we’re doing something that no one else in the guitar world is doing. To see people respond to that in a positive way is really rewarding.”

“Growing up as a kid, you don’t ever really imagine yourself being on these charts,” adds Borg. “It’s a pretty phenomenal feeling.”

“Impressions of Spain” features the works of four Spanish master composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, Joaquín Turina and Manuel de Falla, and French composer Maurice Ravel. Like the trio’s first album, “Impressions of Spain” introduces new arrangements “never conceived for classical guitar,” Levin says. Noted arranger and classical guitarist Gregg Nestor adapted the pieces – originally meant for such formats as piano, voice or orchestra – for three guitars.

“Spanish music is so deep at the heart of the classical guitar, but often the same repertoire seems to bubble up in concerts and in recordings,” Rohde says. “This is a very fresh take on Spanish music that a lot of people will not be familiar with. And it still taps into the very important part of the soul of the guitar.”

The pieces on the album span nearly three-quarters of a century, from Albeniz’s “The Magic Opal” to de Falla’s “4 Piezas Españolas.” The recorded collection provides a representative sampling of each composer’s Spanish sound during that period of time, Levin says.

“That identifiable Spanish sound was actively being cultivated among the composers on the album, and to hear how each composer brought their own flair to this music was educational as well as inspirational,” he says.

“The music is very accessible,” adds Borg. “It’s definitely enjoyable and fun to play. There are so many different levels of complexity to it. Each time we play it, we hear something different and try to create an even more nuanced interpretation. It’s one of those albums you can listen to over and over again. Each time you listen you get something else from the album.”

Levin, Rohde and Borg, who met during their years in school – Levin and Borg at the New England Conservatory and Borg and Rohde at Yale University – formed The Great Necks almost as an afterthought.

In 2015, they started the Kithara Project, a nonprofit that aims to improve the lives and opportunities of young people through classical guitar. Today, more than 120 students are taking part in free, comprehensive guitar programs in three low-income areas –

Boston, Albuquerque and Mexico City, where the organization recently completed construction and inaugurated a new music school.

The trio had so much fun establishing the nonprofit together that they decided to take the relationship on the road, starting as the Kithara Project Trio, which morphed into The Great Necks (named for the neck of the guitar, not Great Neck, New York).

All are solo artists, recording artists and educators, with numerous overlapping projects, including regular festival and concert appearances on multiple continents. Rohde, who lives in Mexico City, has also composed and recorded the score for an HBO documentary; Borg, who lives in Washington, D.C., has conducted guitar orchestras in Baltimore and Boston; and Levin, who lives in Boston, has twice previously appeared on the Billboard chart with solo and duo projects and is the artistic director and founder of the URI Guitar Festival.

From their corners of the globe, the trio comes together as The Great Necks to record and perform. “Impressions of Spain” was produced at Futura Productions recording studio in the Roslindale section of Boston with engineer John Weston. Borg, Levin and Rohde began rehearsals five days before, all showing up ready to bounce ideas off each other in time-consuming sessions.

“Because we live in three different places, we rely heavily on having our parts prepared prior to rehearsing,” says Borg, who plays an eight-string guitar in the trio. “One of the great things about playing together is that we share the same understanding and sensibility when it comes to music and performance.”

“So many new and fresh ideas come together when we are in rehearsal and later, spontaneously, on stage,” Levin adds. “We’re constantly forcing one another to be more consummate musicians and better listeners.”

Along with touring with their new album, Borg, Levin and Rohde have started commissioning a half dozen new works for three guitars for their next album. Already signed onto the project are renowned Cuban-Spanish composer Eduardo Morales-Caso and French composer and guitarist Mathias Duplessy.

For more information on the trio, please visit: www.thegreatnecks.com