Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Lenny Breau's Five O'clock Bells from 1979 [acoustic guitar] [lossless]
My favourite record from him. If anyone doesn't know this gentleman well-known in jazz circles, please listen to this. There is no one, repeat, no one who has ever played the guitar like him either before or since (he passed away in the early 1980s).
Why do I say this? Have a listen to the trademark harmonics plus chords style that makes one gape open-mouthed in disbelief. Anyone who has ever attempted to master the picking of harmonics on the guitar especially can appreciate what he does with these in some of his scales made up entirely of these notes.
In his own words:
"I approach the guitar like a piano. I've reached a point where I transcend the instrument. A lot of the stuff I play on the 7-string guitar is supposed to be technically impossible, but I spent over twenty years figuring it out. I play the guitar like a piano, there's always two things going on at once. I'm thinking melody, but I'm also thinking of a background. I play the accompaniment on the low strings."
You think he's showing off a little? Not at all-- have a listen to the opening to the first track, in which he's clearly indulging in a little gratuitous virtuosity:
Admittedly it's an idiotic old jazz standard again, but man, does he ever play it beautifully.
A very basic bio from discogs;
Accomplished guitarist who developed an unique playing style blending, country, classical, jazz and flamenco. Often in the same arrangements. In the beginning, he found inspiration in musicians like Merle Travis on traditional fingerpicking style, and Bill Evans when it came to harmonics and approach. He has been sited to be one of the most influential guitarist by many pro guitarists both while he was alive and posthumously, and gained recognition by the likes of Chet Atkins, who he became great friends with and collaborated with in the studio. Over time he sought to continue the development of his playing styles by using custom made 7-string guitars. He had an long battle with drug use since the 60´s and was found drowned in his pool in Los Angeles.
This bio glosses over his intense heroin addiction which led to his demise (an unsolved homicide), and really, was the most significant aspect of his adult life. An excellent documentary was made on the subject by his daughter. Like artists Chet Baker (not Atkins), Curt Kobain, my favourite singer Marvin Gaye (who was shot by his father!) his art surely became great due to the profound suffering he must have experienced. These people (perhaps Radka Toneff was one of them), have such an excess amount of sensitivity and emotion that they inevitably become drawn to the cheap promises of drugs as a fix for their pain and tragedies, though in the interim, they are able to toss off the most astonishingly beautiful ideas to the rest of us in the audience who watch with jealousy when we really should be terrified of the horrors they have experienced...
Rest in peace now, Lenny (August 5, 1941 – August 12, 1984) ...
A recent release of an LA 1984 bootleg, produced by none other than Randy Bachman, was publicized quite a bit lately. I haven't heard it myself, I've listened to all the original 70s albums and this one is-- by far-- the most beautiful, due mostly to the fact he composed almost all the music here, and the melancholy, gentle, and thoughtful sound of his playing is just heartbreaking when you read a bit about his life. You can even hear him sing on the title track in his gruff, druggy baritone voice, clearly unpracticed, but gorgeous in its intense sincerity:
Here one of the oddities is the polyrhythm after the chorus in which the Bflat strummed chord and the e-c-d-g 'bell' melody are in different rhythms (4 over 3?)-- something one virtually never hears done on a guitar, unless there are two guitarists of course. On a piano it's easy due to the separation of hands. A classic old story about him tells of Atkins, before he met him, walking by a studio and saying, who are those two great guitarists playing? to which they answer, actually there's only one man in there.
As I've said before of other music, this song is so beautiful it's like magic.
At the end of the record is a track penned by McCoy Tyner called Visions, and it's the big masterpiece here. Pulling out a nice slightly fuzzy electric guitar you will be shocked by the simultaneous two-guitar sound on this track in which melody or solo and bass comp are in different rhythms again (here simplified by the fact it's in E), and the brilliance of the soloing and the mystical sound. Note towards the end when the modal E minor transforms as if in a period of enlightenment into E major: wow. That's religion, for me.