Bits 'n' Pieces: A fingerpicking good holiday show

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While they don't dub themselves a "supergroup" — a moniker used to brand famed rock music combos such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — Acoustic Guitar Summit is about as close as you're likely to get in the world of finger-strumming instrumentalists.

The group, composed of three acclaimed finger-style guitarists with varied playing styles and backgrounds, meets up throughout the year to play concerts as a trio. Their shared passion for acoustic guitar binds them, letting each showcase their individual chops, while connecting as a cohesive whole to offer a mix of classical, jazz, blues and folk.

This eclecticism creates a special spark when they get together a handful of times a year, said member Doug Smith, who lives and teaches guitar in Vancouver. The other members of Acoustic Guitar Summit, Mark Hanson and Terry Robb, live in Oregon.

But it's their annual Christmastime concerts that really let them pull out all the stops, Smith said.

Soon after the release of their first album as a threesome, "O, Christmas Three," the group will play Dec. 15 at the Old Liberty Theater in Ridgefield, 113 N. Main Ave. Similar to their holiday album, the shows on their December mini-tour promise to be a mishmash of classic and modern, solemn and upbeat.

"We run the gamut," Smith said.

Smith said he's proud of the magic the group was able to capture on their holiday release.

"It sounds great," Smith said.

Recorded over four long days at Falcon Studios in Portland, the album kicks off with a rollicking version of the 19th-century carol "Masters in This Hall" before transporting listeners in completely different directions across nine more tracks, from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" medley to "O, Holy Night." It's full-spectrum Christmas cheer.

While most of the songs are covers, Robb contributed two originals to the album, "Christmas in Istanbul" and the bluesy "Lowdown Christmas."

Their holiday concerts routinely get rave reviews. Acoustic Guitar Summit's Nov. 30 Hillsboro show was called "perfection" by Oregon Music News.

The guitarists formed as a foursome 18 years ago and transformed into their current lineup 10 years later when Paul Chasman moved out of the area.

Smith won the International Fingerstyle Competition in 2006. Hanson has authored many manuals on guitar playing. Robb was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in 2009. And those achievements are just the tip of the guitar pick.

While they all have decades of individual experience -- and in Smith and Hanson's case a 2005 Grammy award for their contributions to the "Henry Mancini: Pink Guitar" tribute album -- there's still plenty of room to grow, Smith said.

"I definitely learn from them," he said.

Call 360-887-7260 for tickets to the 21-and-older Dec. 15 show. The concert is $15. Buy "O, Christmas Three" at Accent on Music. Learn more at Acoustic Guitar Summit.

— Stover E. Harger III

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.