Q: What’s gandivaus?
A: It’s really Gandiva US, as in USA. In ancient Hindu religious tradition, Gandiva is the name of the bow given by the divine being Lord Krishna to the warrior Arjuna. One of Gandiva’s own divine qualities was an inexhaustible supply of arrows. As every stringed instrument -- from the harp to the piano, and everything in between -- is descended from the bow, it’s inspiring to think that my instrument has divine origins.
Q: What’s a maghrib?
A: The Maghrib refers to a geographical region that once extended from Moorish (or Southern) Spain across all of North Africa except Egypt. The term no longer includes Southern Spain, but the history persists. And the guitar is one of the ways that it does.
Q: But the guitar isn't a Moorish instrument.
A: True. But it's the instrument the Spanish invented to fill the void created when the Moors, and the oud, were expelled. Even though it took a while for the guitar as we know it to evolve, the oud is a direct ancestor of the guitar.
Q: What kind guitar is that on moonlight over the maghrib? On the liner photo, you don’t notice at first that it has nylon strings, but it’s not a classical guitar — is it?
A: It’s what the builder — master luthier Abraham Wechter — calls a “jazz nylon” guitar. Between the guitar’s extraordinary capabilities and what Mr. Wechter told me about his own background, I take the term to mean that the instrument is (a) meant to be played with a plectrum; and (b) meant to be equally competent with extended-chord voicings, single lines and arpeggiated lines. In other words, it's meant to do everything a good jazz guitar can do. Plus, it has a 14-fret neck, which immediately disqualifies it as a classical guitar.
I’m deeply indebted to Maestro John McLaughlin for many, many things. But I’m most grateful to him for being the first person to commission this instrument from Abraham Wechter in the 1980s. Mine is a 2004 model, and after this many years it still blows my mind every time I play it.
Q: You say it’s intended to be played with a pick. You played everything on moonlight with a pick?
A: The opening motive on "sun on sudden snow" is hybrid picking, a combination of a plectrum and fingers. The only other fingerstyle playing on the record is by Billy Stewart, who always uses classical technique.
Q: You use a pick even on “still life, with stemware?”
A: Even on “still life.”