Leo Abrahams has led what is possibly the ideal modern guitarist’s life: touring Russia performing improvised solo shows through a laptop; playing with Brian Eno AND Bryan Ferry, not to mention Imogen Heap, Jarvis Cocker, and Paul Simon; as well as co-writing or arranging a variety of film soundtracks, including Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and Steve McQueen’s Hunger. Last year he was part of two terrific recorded projects, Visitations, a series of guitar duets with Shahzad Ismaily; and Krononaut (listen to tracks below), a record of improvisations with drummer Martin France, bassists Tim Harries and Shahzad Ismaily, Arve Henriksen on trumpet, and Matana Roberts on saxophone. For more background I recommend our first interview here, and our later conversation here .
When an artist and session player like Leo Abrahams is continually involved in so many varied and interesting musical endeavors, it is essential to catch up. For the first time we actually spoke rather than emailed and an interview turned into a conversation, starting with a discussion of another wide-ranging guitarist we both love, Chris Spedding (Elton John, Bryan Ferry, John Cale, Robert Gordon et al), before getting into gear and aleatory music concepts.
One of the first interviews I did for Guitar Moderne was with Leo Abrahams. His career would arouse envy in any modern guitartist: studio and live work with Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry, film work with composers on the level of Howard Shore, and a slew of magnificent solo records. If the music in this video is any indication, the new solo record coming in the fall should be another fascinating work.
You would be perfectly justified asking, “What is a review of a Bryan Ferry DVD doing in Guitar Moderne?”
Sometimes modern guitar is a question of context. Bryan Ferry has employed many fine guitarists over the years including Neil Hubbard, Alan Spenner, Chris Spedding, Waddy Wachtel, Oliver Thompson, Leo Abrahams, David Williams, and Phil Manzara, as well as star guest guitarists David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Robin Trower (who produced Ferry’s Taxi record), Johnny Marr, Jonny Greenwood, and, long before Daft Punk, Nile Rogers. None of these guitarists would normally be called modern in the sense we use at Guitar Moderne, save for Greenwood, and Abrahams whose work with looping, laptops, and Eno more than qualifies him. But sometimes modernity is a question of context.
Oliver Thompson and Neil Hubbard on the new DVD Bryan Ferry Nuits de Fourvière Live in Lyon
One day I was reading Leo Abrahams’ blog when I turned to my wife and said, “I want this guy’s life.” He had been describing the week’s activities, which might include a session with Brian Eno, live gigs with the likes of Bryan Ferry and Marianne Faithful, a solo guitar gig performing tunes from his instrumental records Scene Memory and Honeytrap, composing film music for The Lovely Bones, arranging strings for Ed Harcourt, or producing an up and coming band like Frightened Rabbit. Recently, with little time for his own music, he has managed to cobble together an EP of six-songs, Zero Sum. Though not a “guitar” record per se, it is chock full of guitar generated tones that will prick up your ears. I have interviewed the British musican before, most recently for a piece on using a laptop in live performance. Here we get a glimpse of the man’s beginnings, influences, and gear.