Thursday, November 08, 2012

Guitar Thoughts

It has been my privilege to live during a great guitar renaissance. Great classical virtuosos competed with highly successful songwriters who know all of four chords. You see the whole range of guitar displayed. It is an awkward instrument. Lends to an odd type of personality. Musically geared it's very strange. Capable of orchestral harmony but so limited in range. Steve Vai doesn’t breathe when he plays. You can’t tell where he leaves off and the instrument takes over. Nor does Ynwe. With Al DiMeola and Steve Morse you don’t have that problem since they insist on picking every note. You’ve got to hear Johnny Guitar Watson. He breathes. Then we've passed through the age of virtuoso jazz guitar players: Howard Roberts, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Les Paul (the only guitarist to give Nate King Cole a run for his money), Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, et al; then came the shredders, and now comes the international flotilla of excellent classical players playing the most boring-ass music ever written, Giuliani, Fernando Sor. When David Russell came out with his Giuliani CD I gave up on the classical world. The extreme rush, in the classical world, to go backwards. Not good. Go forward in error, at least go forward. Anyway seeing Al DiMeola play up against Steve Vai you begin to understand Dimeola's virtuosity. His articulation was important, as opposed to the legato of Vai whose playing ceases to sound like a guitar after a while; it becomes a synthesizer. Problem is that virtuosity often ends up serving itself. Look at the difference between Paganini and Mozart.

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