Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Cause I can play this here guitar, Pt. 13

There are rock, country, classical, and folk guitarists. And then there are players who transcend a genre, who transcend every genre, and just simply master the instrument. At that point, they have mastered the language of the instrument, and any sound or voice is a possibility. Of course, these players are few and far between.

Ever hear of Lenny Breau? I didn't think so (from Wikipedia):
Lenny Breau (August 5, 1941August 12, 1984) was a brilliantly innovative American-born Canadian jazz guitarist who brought together country, classical, flamenco and jazz guitar techniques. Breau developed a great deal of technical ability; inspired by country guitarists like Chet Atkins, Breau used a fingerstyle not often used in Jazz guitar. Largely unknown in popular music, he is known today as a musician's musician.

1941, in Auburn, Maine. His francophone parents, Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody (nee Coté), were professional country and western musicians who performed and recorded from the end of the Second World War until the late 1950s. Their son began playing guitar at the age of eight, and by the age of twelve he was the lead guitarist for his parents' band, billed as "Lone Pine Junior", playing Merle Travis and Chet Atkins instrumentals and occasionally singing. Breau made his first professional recording in Maine at the age of 15, appropriately titled Boy Wonder.

Read the rest, it explains a lot.

Here's a video of Lenny showing how all styles of guitar are really the same:

And here's some video from a '68 documentary that shows Lenny's mastery of the instrument:

When he was on his game, no one showed more independance as player. By that, I mean, he could sound like 2 players at once: one playing bass & chords, piano style, while the other played the lead part. Some of his recordings really do sound like 2 guys playing at once, when in fact they are just Lenny.

I saw him play only once, at a NAMM show, with Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs playing (unnecessarily) rhythm guitar, and smiling like he had just won the lottery. Even Morse, a truly wonderful player, knew when he was in the presence of genius.

Lenny is gone now, but his legacy as a player leaves much for any of us who fancy ourselves players to strive for.

Update: from darkblack in comments: