Last Friday night was a night that I had been anticipating for a very long time. After two illness-related cancellations in the last two years, legendary Scottish guitarist Bert Jansch finally made it to Pittsburgh, one of only a handful of US performances this fall. The man should need no introduction, but for the unfamiliar, Bert Jansch came to prominence in the British folk and blues revival of the 1960’s, both as a solo artist and a member of the jazz/folk fusion group Pentangle. His playing and songwriting have been enormously influential in the folk world and beyond, and his praises have been sung by everyone from Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (who pinched Bert’s arrangement of the traditional “Blackwaterside”, and without crediting him) to Neil Young, for whom Bert served as opening act on his last tour.
On this latest trek, Bert was headlining, and his support was Pegi Young (Neil’s wife) and her band, The Survivors, who were all seasoned west coast session musicians. The setting was the First Unitarian Church, which proved a great sounding venue for both Pegi Young’s country rock and Bert’s solo acoustic set. I wasn’t sure how many people would be attending the show, so I purchased tickets well in advance, not wanting to chance a sell-out. As it turns out, there were a fair number of empty pews that night, which I considered mind-boggling… this was Bert Jansch!!! How many times was he going to come back to Pittsburgh?! I didn’t dwell on it for very long… being a friend of the promotor, I knew that Bert would get paid no matter who showed up, and the modest crowd (100-125 people, maybe?) made for a memorable, intimate night. Continue reading →
Philadelphia based guitarist Eric Carbonara achieves a rare state of beauty with his third full length release, The Paradise Abyss. With his 34 year-old handmade spruce and cypress flamenco guitar, Carbonara has created an album where technique and feel harmonize perfectly with composition. Listening to this record gave me the kind of feeling I usually only get from instrumental records from the finest gypsy flamenco players… or say, from the music of Ornette Coleman! This is the kind of feeling that transcends time and reveals the true spirit of it’s inspired maker. The Spanish call this Duende, and when listening to The Paradise Abyss, I could feel it’s presence!
The album begins with the composition “Abortion of Autumn”, a piece elegantly expressed through the use of flamenco and classical techniques, Carbonara’s skilled use of tonal colours conjuring a scene of natural warmth and beauty. On “Draw Me Out From My True Self”, aggressive rasquedo technique gives way to another gorgeous melodic progression. “Dawn Never Dusk” begins with a slightly dark melody that exudes a deep, contemplative feeling, which eventually flows into a cascading waterfall of plucked notes, shifting to blissful calm before ending in a light dance. Both “Gaggle to Jolly” and “Dance of the Sinister Nymph” are driving, spirited pieces, full of Andalusian dynamics and colour. “Charles Smokes a Cigarette” lands squarely in Davy Graham territory with it’s moody jazz-blues feel. The record finishes with the composition “Infinite Breath of Lady Greenland”, a simply stated, picturesque folk melody that reveals infinite intent with circular picking patterns that seem to dance into the heavens.
To get more insight about this album, I interviewed Eric during the month of November.
W&W : How would you describe the evolution of your playing and composition as it relates to The Paradise Abyss?
The Paradise Abyss is much more composed than [previous album]Exodus Bulldornadius… there’s still a good bit of improvised bits throughout Paradise, but during the writing of this album, I was much more aware of what I was doing, that I was writing autobiographical narratives… that I was telling a story, with every note being a word. Exodus felt way more cathartic as just raw expression, while Paradise feels more like i was thinking before speaking. During Paradise, I often felt conflicted when a composition started to become something that wasn’t in harmony with the truth of what the story was about… I was even a little worried that I would start to make life decisions based on a subconscious desire to have the songs sound sadder and more evil! Continue reading →
This is not my own scoop, but a re-blogging of a recent article by Marshall Newman. It’s interesting, considering that Renbourn has never been known to play a Martin… but then again, as my friend Steve commented, “Linda Ronstadt has a signature model Martin, and she’s never even played guitar!” In any event, sounds like it’s going to be a fine instrument! Martin doesn’t seem to have made a formal announcement yet, but Newman’s article let’s us know what’s in store:
John Renbourn’s musical influences range from folk, blues and jazz to early music and classical, and all – separately and in combination – have found a place in t he rich musical landscape he has created during his long career. One of the world’s most brilliant fingerstyle guitarists, Renbourn has dazzled, confounded and inspired, whether solo, paired with Bert Jansch or Stefan Grossman or as a member of Pentangle, and he continues to create music of uncommon beauty and depth.
Over the years, John Renbourn’s acoustic guitar preference has evolved; beginning with a round-hole archtop, he moved to round and square-shouldered dreadnoughts, and eventually settled on orchestra models from both American and European builders. So joining forces with C.F. Martin & Co. – which originated the orchestra model in 1929 – to create the Martin OM John Renbourn Custom Signature Edition is the natural culmination of a lifelong quest.
“I am over the moon about this guitar,” Renbourn commented. “The goal is to combine the best of American and European lutherie; a guitar that has design features that recall the European influence on early Martins, but with all the innovative qualities that Martin has developed since. My own priority is simple – I am after the very best tonal quality and balance.” On both objectives, the Martin OM John Renbourn Custom Signature Edition succeeds spectacularly. Continue reading →
It was about five or six years ago in Chicago. We both used to play at the Hothouse, which was a world music place, one of the first in the city. Their booking agent decided to do a show with both of our groups.¹ We’d sort of heard of one another, through the newspaper, but had never actually met or heard each other’s music. We met up after the show and, after that, began to hang out, spending time as buddies, playing pool and ping-pong. Eventually, we started arranging and composing music together, then playing shows, and booked our first tour in Colorado and Arizona. The response was fantastic. We recorded our debut CD and the response was overwhelming. We decided to take it on the road full-time, give our bands a little break. I think we’ve been on the road now for three or four months straight.
W&W: Given the way your collaboration evolved, was it natural to present the new work as guitar duets, rather than forming a group?
Yes, absolutely. Sometimes people ask “why not add a bass player or drummer?” We have those groups already, what would be the point? I think Chopin once said, “the only thing that’s more beautiful than solo guitar is two guitars.” (laughter) We like playing around with the limitations of the instrument. Continue reading →
Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing an amazing guitar duo for the first time… Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic hail from Chicago, and they describe themselves thusly :
“A guitar duo that not only celebrate the tradition of guitar performance of the old and the current rapport, but also as composers they are a part of a movement in the states whose aim is to build the new repertoire for the next generation of guitar players.”
The only thing that I knew about the duo going into the show was that Ivanovic leads the Balkan jazz-fusion group Eastern Blok, and that I could expect “Lotsa notes”. No doubt, there were many, many notes! Continue reading →
As many of our regular readers know, this summer saw the release of Petrifidelity, a new CD and Tablature book of original guitar duets, featuring myself and my fingerpicking cohort David Leicht. It being a limited release, and not (yet) available in any online/digital format, it seemed a good idea to take the record to the people, to go on a little musical jaunt to the east coast and back, raising awareness about our latest work. Longtime readers of this site might remember my similar trip from last year, promoting 2009’s Holykyle LP. The summer 2010 journey ended up being a lot of fun, and different for a few reasons. I had a new touring partner, a beautiful new guitar, and got to catch up with some good folks that I hadn’t seen in quite a long time. Continue reading →
Like a lot of relationships these days, Laurent Brondel and I began talking through the internet, and our first conversations were about guitar making. We initially agreed to meet at an open mic that my wife Shanti and I were hosting in Lewiston in 2006, and have been friends ever since. Laurent is an amazing musician, master craftsman, and supremely talented guitar maker. His instruments are gorgeous and inspirational, and his aesthetic and sound are uniquely his own. It was a pleasure to officially interview him for Work & Worry.
W&W : You are originally from France. Where did you grow up and in brief, what is your musical background?
I grew up in Paris and spent a lot of time with my grandparents in rural Picardie, 100 miles east of Paris. Nobody played or listened to music in my family, but when I was around 5 or 6, I insisted to get Beethoven 5th symphony, don’t ask me why. My Godmother bought me the 6th, the Pastorale, maybe the store was out of the 5th, who knows? I had to wait a year to get an old tube record player from the ’60s, the ones with the speaker in the cover. My father’s Godmother gave it to me. So the Godmothers were really active and involved in my family. Continue reading →