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By fusing the European classical tradition with Haitian folk elements, Frantz Casseus, the “father of Haitian classical guitar” developed a distinctive vocabulary on his instrument that was at once full of contrapuntal complexity and teeming with driving rhythm. Those qualities caught the ear of Chicago-based Fareed Haque, a modern guitar virtuoso. “As I began playing through it the biggest epiphany for me was feeling that this was not exclusively classical guitar music but music that had an ensemble conception behind it. And as I learned more about him, I discovered that he rearranged and recomposed these pieces many times.”

As Haque began adapting Casseus’ solo guitar pieces for his working quintet he found that both players and audience alike were energized by them. “We started playing these tunes in my band and it was such a groove,” he recalled. “We had one rehearsal and then we played in front of an audience for the first time at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. There are such strong ideas in Casseus’ music,” said Haque. “It definitely comes out of the melodic tradition of Haitian music, so there’s an inherent connection to the French language, French phrasing, French words, French impressionistic music. I’m sure the influence of Ravel and Debussy was very strong in someone like Casseus. So it is elegant music with a French feeling in there, but there’s also an African feeling coming through in the rhythm. And to me, if you could take all of this incredible impressionistic music and distill it down to its essence and put it on one guitar, that would be Casseus.” — from liner notes by Bill Milkowski

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Fareed Haque

Classical and Jazz Guitarist

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