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Thread September 26, 2015 editorial: comments

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1 September 26, 2015 editorial: comments

Never Say Never

I had the good fortune to see two memorable concerts in the last week or so, both featuring amazing musicians. First, it was the Earls of Leicester, which is the band formed by Dobro great Jerry Douglas as a tribute to the legendary bluegrass duo of Flatt and Scruggs. I was at the show with my wife, who is not a bluegrass fan, and even she was blown away by the musicianship. It wasn’t just Douglas — although he was his usual virtuoso self — every single one of the band members was a world-class player.

Then, this past Thursday, I saw acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel perform, and once again, I was astounded. I’d heard him on recordings, and I expected him to be good, but live he was at an even higher level. He has unbelievable chops, both finger style and with a pick, and an equally impressive knowledge of the fretboard.

When you’re a musician and you see such overwhelming talent, there are a couple of different ways you can react. Some people get so overwhelmed by the abilities of the performers that it makes them feel inadequate as players, and they leave the concert depressed. Others, get inspired, and want to run home after the show and start playing.

Fortunately for me, I fall in the latter category. I consider it a learning experience to watch such masters in action. As someone who plays both Dobro and guitar, it would have been easy to be intimidated watching musical wizards like Douglas and Emmanuel, but I think it’s always better to look at it from a positive perspective. Try to emulate some of what you saw at the show and integrate it into your playing, rather than brooding about how you’ll never get there. Never say never!

Although I would have liked to have spent the entire week watching concerts, I was also busy editing Audiofanzine’s latest video, “Inside the Gibson Guitar Factory,” which we posted on the site a few days ago. Over the summer, we were given the opportunity to tour the Gibson factory in Nashville, TN to shoot video of how they make solidbody electric guitars. The process was much more hands-on and less automated than I expected. It was a fascinating to see the progression that started with piles of lumber and finished with gleaming new Les Pauls and SGs. Even if you’re not a guitar player, I think you’ll really enjoy the video.

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Love both those guys, Jerry Douglass and Tommy... I've had much the same kind of week here in Paradise seeing some spectacular Nashville studio players unite into the group "Mountain Heart" at the Sierra Nevada Big Room where they blew the roof off the place in their first California concert. Then a small intimate home salon concert with Jenna Mammina and her foil Rolf Sturm on acoustic guitar playing their arrangements of some old classic crooner songs and also some original material. I'm a music professional and recording engineer who's been immersed in it since I was quite young. These acts were both new to me and I'm delighted to say the young-ins are out there getting it done... We have much to look forward to...
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Quote:
I've had much the same kind of week here in Paradise seeing some spectacular Nashville studio players unite into the group "Mountain Heart" at the Sierra Nevada Big Room where they blew the roof off the place in their first California concert.

Cool. I haven't heard Mountain Heart, but I'll look for them.
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These acts were both new to me and I'm delighted to say the young-ins are out there getting it done... We have much to look forward to...

Definitely!
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Hmmnn... As a "Jazz" pianist/composer, I have rarely (at least until very recently) ventured outside of my "comfort zone" (musically speaking). Even though I've (occasionally) listened to Flatt & Scruggs at various points over the years, I'm not at all familiar with the other musicians you referenced. I 'will' say one thing however, after watching Jerry Douglas perform solo on a Youtube video, I can hear and see where you're coming from. Musically gifted, talented. etc.; all of those accolades fit Jerry and the Dobro group to a (well-deserved) tea. Thanks for "pulling my coat". As Miles Davis (I think) once said, "It ain't all about just one kind of music, man!"

All of that prattle being said, Mike. It was your comments about (paraphrasing here) listening to another artist playing 'your' instrument with such a high level of expertise, that really piqued my interest. To make a long story short, I was playing piano (between regular sets) at a relatively known, but "less-frequented" club in NYC back in the late'80's, when in walked Billy Taylor and another member of his trio (they were not on the card). They performed an impromptu session of Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight. Suffice it to say, I was blown away -- completely! (Especially, by Taylor's complete mastery of improvisational chords). A thing of absolute beauty... It is well known that the great "Jazz" pianist, Oscar Peterson, was so intimidated by a record he had listened to by the immortal "Jazz" pianist, Art Tatum, became so disillusioned about his own playing, he refused to play the piano (at all) for several weeks. But, like yourself, I went back to my "crib" and 'attacked' my Steinway like a man possessed! Lesson learned? "Simply, absorb and apply". And, screw the tin-eared neighbors! <lol>

[ Post last edited on 09/26/2015 at 16:32:48 ]

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Great point, Mike. So easy to feel overwhelmed and underequipped. Same with me reading great nonfiction. But to turn this feeling into fuel, to see what you can learn, what you can digest and interpret and make your own, that, as you said, is the road out of the dumps.
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I enjoyed reading your comments about performers whose live playing
is awe inspiring. Like yourself, I'm inspired to play more after hearing these
virtuosos!
Thanks for your articles. Always a good read and thought-provoking.
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Quote:
Great point, Mike. So easy to feel overwhelmed and underequipped. Same with me reading great nonfiction. But to turn this feeling into fuel, to see what you can learn, what you can digest and interpret and make your own, that, as you said, is the road out of the dumps.

Very well put!
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Thanks for your articles. Always a good read and thought-provoking.

Thanks, John, I appreciate that!
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Quote from: Mike Levine

(...) get inspired, and want to run home after the show and start playing.

I like your philosophy Mike ! :)