My years of making music in New York City coincided at various times with Elliot Sharp’s. Our musical worlds, however, rarely overlapped. I was playing blues and country music; accompanying singer-songwriters, both struggling and famous; and playing in pop bands that were trying to get record deals (my more avant-garde efforts would come later). Elliot, on the other hand, was at the nexus of all the art that was pushing the envelope during that period, and is still to this day. I never saw him perform live or met him until shortly before I left New York to move to Nashville in 2012, and then it was in a wonderful duo performance with Mary Halvorson.
I am heartened by how it gets harder and harder to pick the best of the year. It means that there are more and more great records of modern guitar being issued all the time. This year was made a little easier by the fact that veteran masters like David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Eivind Aarset all appeared on one or more records. The list is rounded out by younger players like Julian Lage, Max Kutner, and Anthony Pirog, as well as the introduction of new faces: Justus West, Rafiq Bhatia, and Igor Osypov.
EarthQuaker Devices corralled Nels for their Board to Death series. He talks about and demonstrates his gear alternating between brilliant playing and hilarious commentary.
Vessel is the latest recording by über-modern guitarist Dan Phelps. GM has spoken to Phelps in the past about his more group-oriented projects like Modular, Arc, and Spirits Drifted, but Vessel is representative of the guitarist as he more often appears live: alone on stage with guitar, effects, laptop, guitar amp, and full range speaker system. Recorded as one 45 minute take, it incorporates techniques Phelps has described in earlier interviews and in some newer videos included here.
My grateful thanks to Henry Kaiser, a modern guitar pioneer himself, for taking time to review the new book on modern guitar icon Keith Rowe. —mr
Three guitarists in the 20th Century made unprecedented and giant leaps in technique, personal expression, improvisation, and musical conception. Sonny Sharrock, Derek Bailey, and Keith Rowe each introduced innovations that were to become bedrock upon which most of the guitarists covered in Guitar Moderne built their careers.