Voltarol - related music

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The twang's not the thang

Having been only briefly enchanted by Duane Eddy (see Pop and Me), I remained vaguely interested in guitars. Unlike most of my contemporaries I didn't necessarily want to play one at this stage. I just quite liked the noise they made, provided that it was allied to some sort of actual content.

My next guitar-orientated record purchase was an EP (if you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know that term by now) by a musician called Laurindo Almeida, entitled 'Guitar Music of Spain'. I was, I admit, primarily attracted by the word 'guitar'. I had no idea who Laurindo Almeida was and not the remotest idea what Spanish guitar music might be, or how it differed from any other kind of guitar music. So when I pulled that sleeve out of the rack and asked the shopkeeper to play me a track I had no idea what to expect.

What a revelation that was. As the sound of Fernado Sor's Study No.12 washed over me for the first time I moved swiftly from 'vaguely interested' to 'totally hooked' in the space of a few minutes. It wasn't so much the Spanish guitar as the guitar itself that embedded itself in my consciousness. I could suddenly see that it was an instrument which allowed you to play more than one note at a time, that it was possible to play melody and accompaniment simultaneously, in the same way that you could on a piano. I played that record endlessly. It was my introduction to an entirely new world - that of Sor, Tarrega, Turina and Albeniz. It was also, unbeknownst to me at the time, my first record by a Brazilian artist.

The next guitarist to seriously grab my attention was Tal Farlow. (Here's a clip from, I think, the early eighties). This was another accidental discovery. My friend Mole (see Wonderful, round, black, shiny things) had an older brother with an interest in Modern jazz. Mole turned up at our mutual friend Dave's house one day, with a selection of his brother's LPs under his arm. One of these was a Tal Farlow album (there were also records by Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck, but that's a different strand of this tale). Once again I was transfixed. The music was totally different and yet it 'spoke' to me in the same way that the Laurindo Almeida record had. Needless to say I was soon hunting in the record shop for Tal Farlow recordings, but because my dad (a) kept me very short of pocket money and (b) would not allow me to get a paper round so as to earn money for myself, I could not afford to buy LPs, and there were no EPs of Mr Farlow available. But I had discovered modern jazz guitar and soon found an EP called 'The Train and the River' by the Jimmy Giuffre 3, which featured a guitarist called Jim Hall.

This was yet another revelation of a find. Not only did it introduce me to a guitarist who has remained one of my favourite musicians of all time, but it let me see that a musical group was could be more than the sum of its parts - that at the highest levels some sort of gestalt seemed to operate. Here's another, much later clip of Jim Hall (this time with the late, great Michel Petrucciani) which I think illustrates that gestalt at work, as well as demonstrating just what a great musician he is.

Followers of this blog will realise that I was dipping into all sorts of music at the same time and that I'm just trying to pursue some individual strands here. My burgeoning parallel interest in folk music had led me to trust the Topic record label, so when I came across a guitar instrumental EP on Topic called 3/4 AD, I thought it was worth checking out. It was by someone called Davy Graham. The tracks were 'Angi', 'Davy's Train Blues' and a duet with Alexis Korner called '3/4 AD' Once again, this was a revelation. It was a whole new musical arena: it wasn't folk or jazz or blues or pop but it had elements of all of those things. Whatever it was, I found it deeply satisfying. Davy inspired a whole raft of players to follow in his wake and I subsequently bought albums by disciples Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, both of whom reached fame in their own right. But with hindsight I realise that Graham was the man and that what he played was not folk or jazz or blues or world music or guitar music. It was just MUSIC. (Alexis Korner will feature in yet another strand of this blog, as will Bill Leader, who recorded Graham, Jansch and Renbourn (see also Keeping it in the family)

After that there were many players that whose work I fell in love with, in all spheres of music - Segovia, Narciso Yepes, Django Rheinhardt, Eddie Lang, Tony Rice, Mike Marshall, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, Jim Mullen, Julian Bream, Baden Powell (no, not that Baden Powell)...the list is endless and I will come back to them, but if you've checked out any of the clips in this piece then you'll know why Duane Eddy never made the final cut!