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.
Wow! Last week saw Guitar Moderne’s viewing stats more than triple, with a slew of new subscribers signing up and a host of new followers on Instagram. First, thanks to all the new fans; I will try to keep posting things of interest to guitarists interested in everything about moving the instrument forward. I am trying to figure out what caused the jump. All I can imagine is that I put up two posts about Bill Frisell in rapid succession. I deduce it was the Guitar Moderne equivalent of Guitar Player magazine putting Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn on the cover to boost sales in years past. I will, of course, continue to cover this modern guitar pioneer, as well as other icons like David Torn, and Nels Cline. I would hope you also check out the lesser known players I post as well.
Someone posted some pictures of the guitars Bill Frisell used during his four night residency at the Freight & Salvage in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of them looked very unusual. It was not the typical Tele, Jazzmaster, Strat, or archtop shape he usually favors. I emailed him to ask, “What is that guitar?” Bill was kind enough to answer in detail, as well as sending gorgeous pictures of this unique instrument.
The new releases are coming thick and fast these days. In addition to recordings featuring veterans like Torn, Baggetta, Pirog,and Cline, there are terrific projects from numerous countries by a batch of names new to me.
I hope you will indulge me in a little personal reminiscing. I was living in New York City, sometime between 1982 and 1984, when I saw an ad in The Village Voice announcing bassist Percy Jones playing at The Bitter End, a small club on Bleecker Street with a band called Stone Tiger. I was a fan of Jones from his work with Brand X. The ad may have mentioned the other band members, but I had no idea who they were and it was Jones’ name that enticed me to go. Stone Tiger was a trio, with drums and guitar. The guitarist was wielding a Roland 300 guitar synthesizer, but it was not the primitive synth sounds he was getting that astounded me. Whether using the synth or the typical guitar pickups, this was the most revolutionary rethinking of the electric guitar I had heard since Jimi Hendrix played my college gymnasium almost two decades prior. He used a volume pedal to swell notes in from the ether, only to return them through delay and reverb. Echoes of country licks appeared amidst jazz harmonies. The abstraction of his solos made Jeff Beck’s seem hyper-linear. Who was this guy??!!