In the mid 60’s I played rhythm guitar in a fairly regulation type r ‘n b
group in the Lancaster area having made fair copies of a Fender Jazz Bass and a Stratocaster for a ‘name’ guitarist who later became a top London session player. I imagine that Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry were the sounds that first caught my ear and of course the first Elvis album ( Blue Moon, Mystery Train etc., ). Bizaarly, I then heard Monty Sunshine play Petite Fleur (jazz!) in Chris Barber’s band and later the music of Sydney
Bechet and so took up clarinet for three or so years learning to reading in
After a career in design, teaching and retail management which left little
free time, I returnedto the guitar when my wife and I moved to Derbsyhire in the mid-1990s and for some time focussed on BB King and in particular Chicago Blues. My first lessons were with Andy Gatford in a back room at Foulds and I still have his excellent notes to crib from now when
I give the odd lesson! The instrument itself brought me to jazz and although
Wes had caught my ear in the 60’s it was not until we retired here to South -West France that I really became aware of the diversity of jazz guitar. Additionally, every town in this part of France has a music college and all French youngsters are taught Solfège. There is tremendous enthusiasm for music ‘en direct’ ie live and the span of genres is mind boggling but even here
( 1 1/2 hours north of Toulouse ) there are many pro and semi-pro jazz trios and quartets playing bebop and standards although not surprisingly the predominant style is manouche or gypsy jazz.
Jazz jam sessions hereabouts ( we are in a rural area ) are fairly thin on
the ground and in spite of my earlier comment re-pro level gigs the scope for ‘advanced beginner/intermediate’ players is fairly limited. Jamming with friends is very much the order of the day and I meet regularly with an English friend here who writes jingles and film music and has a profesional studio. He tends to lay down piano tracks and then we work on standards for fun. I have until recently been one of three ‘programmateurs’ who choose the headline acts for the Cahors Blues Festival ( oldest in France: www.cahorsbluesfestival.com ) and have played from time to time with committee members. I have also co-organised one or two charity
concerts here ie Tsunami, Haiti (Gary Brooker et al )etc. and this has
resulted in useful 1:1 jamming situations.
Of course, at my age ( a young 65ans! ) I just need the extra 10,000 hours
to get together my chops!!
When I left the UK ( almost 8 years ago now ) Dan was just getting together
his jazz guitar stock and archtops seemed much less interesting at that time. I seem to recall purchasing one acoustic flattop and one Strat from the
shop and a Laney amp ( or maybe the Fender DeLuxe 90 ). However, almost as soon as we arrived here I bought an Ibanez Artcore jobbie and loved the feel and tone although I now realise how humble it was. Shortly after, I was
in touch with the guy who established Peerless Guitars in the UK having
ordered a Jazz City direct from Korea. This resulted in my establishing numerous retail accounts from Toulouse to Bordeaux for Peerless. I also found a number of endorsees including Big Jim Sullivan and Bill Nelson for the marque and set up the link with Matt Otten who has had 1000,000s of hits on You Tube with the 2 models I sent him. I later on somehow ( quite legitimately! ) acquired a Peerless Monarch and a Renaissance Custom for my troubles. I love both guitars ( both all-solid )but find the mini- humbucker on the Monarch a little thin sounding and routinely play the guitar through a Boss EQ and the Renaissance Custom ( 330 clone ) now
has a Benedetto A6 in the neck – love it. They keep company with a Baja Tele
( SD Alnico II in the neck ) and French Lag Tramontane acoustic for ‘grab
My ‘Desert Island’ choice is probably an Eastman depending upon my pension ‘lump sum’ when it arrives!
BEST (JAZZ GUITAR) GIG
Not sure how to quantify this one. I feel I ought to include John McLaughlin – Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1974 . However in recent years we have seen excellent concerts ( mostly at the fantastic Marciac Jazz Festival in
the Gers ) Al de Meola and Stanley Clarke and twice now, the incredible
Bireli Lagrene ( bebop as well as the manouche material.) Off to see him in
Nerac with Sylvan Luc in a couple of weeks. Last October we also saw John
Scofield with his trio at the Jazz Sur 31 festival ( 60 concerts in and
around Toulouse each autumn. Spoilt for choice! Best thing here too is the
average age of the audience at these gigs – mostly around 30ans.
GUITARISTS TO CHECK OUT
For me, BIRELI LAGRENE is probably one of the greatest living guitarists –
forget all the magazine surveys! Just catch him if you can. This is the guy
who had the entire repertoire of Django down by the time he appeared at the
Montreux Festival aged 14ans! Beyond that, I rate highly, Anthony Wilson (
who plays with Diana Krall ), Ted Greene, Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery, MIMI FOX, Bobby Broom, Grant Green, John Scofield, Russell Malone, Joe Pass and of course the vastly underrated Jimmy Bruno.