Despite an increasing number of great recordings coming over my transom, three guitarists, Anthony Pirog, David Torn, and Mike Baggetta, dominated this year’s picks with two records each. In addition to being brilliant players who have produced stellar examples of their work on these albums, all the guitarists featured here are out in the trenches preforming live on a regular basis. In no particular order.
In February of 2019, I was flown up to Montreal to cover composer/guitarist Tim Brady’s evening of 150 guitars for Guitar Player. You can read my coverage and interview about that here and see a sample below. Inspired by my conversation with Dither’s James Moore, after we finished Tim’s GP interview, I restarted the recorder for a wide ranging dialogue about the state of the electric guitar in today’s classical world. We covered a lot of ground so I am breaking it up into two posts. If you enjoy Part I, please subscribe to be notified when Part II is posted.
As Rock and Roll was turning into Rock in the Sixties, most of the great power trios retained their “roll” thanks to drummers who were rooted in jazz. When Cream entered the scene, it featured the jazziest rhythm section of them all, with Ginger Baker’s rolling, tom-tom based grooves harking back to Chico Hamilton. Baker later experimented with African music and returned to his jazz roots with a power trio of a different sort. “Time moves differently with Ginger,” Frisell once told Rolling Stone. “You could find 100 drummers to play the same tune, and Ginger would find something different to do with it.”
As advertised, Big Ears 2019 was a guitar extravaganza. My wife Liz and I were able to see Bill Frisell, David Torn, Mary Halvorson, Anthony Pirog, and Rafiq Bhatia, some of them multiple times, as well as other, non-guitar improvising legends and newcomers. Once again, venues like the Tennessee Theater, The Bijou Theater, The Standard, and The Mill and the Mine offered stellar sound quality and sight lines, and the local food was fabulous.
Big Ears starts Thursday. For those of you attending, here is a sample of the amazing guitar performances planned. For those of you who can’t make it, here is what you will be missing. There are still General Admission tix available, so if you can get to Knoxville this week, please do.
Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan
Sun of Goldfinger
Mary Halvorson and Code Girl