Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gary Lucas: The Greatest Living Electric Guitarist You've Never Heard Of

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about virtuoso guitarist Gary Lucas, whose guitar-picking skills have colored the music of artists like Jeff Buckley and Captain Beefheart, to name a few. The Times describes his music as a distortive creative ensemble of influences:
In addition to performing on electric, with an assortment of pedals, boxes, slides and other effects to distort his sound and create delays and loops, Mr. Lucas also plays acoustic guitar extensively, his favorite being a steel-body National of the sort favored by bluesmen. But in both formats, he strives for a sound that might be called music from the Delta — both the Mississippi and the Ganges.

“I love drones and the deep, hypnotic grooves they can produce,” he said. “It’s the mother source of music, and most of the music I really like, whether Miles or Coltrane’s modal stuff, Indian or Jewish or African music, springs from that. Even the pedal point of a Bach cantata has a drone going through it. It’s a holy centrifugal force, a reference that can ground a piece so that you can ascend and lift and improvise in a celestial way.” (Emphasis mine.)
I love Lucas's own description of his music; of MUSIC period. — “A holy centrifugal force.” Lucas's AWESOME soundtrack for these two surrealist silent films gives us a taste of his rich guitar riffs. In this one, “as part of his ¨Sounds of the Surreal" live music/silent film program, the famous New York psychedelic guitarist/composer performs a live electronic tour de force, conjuring up astonishing worlds within whirls with his original solo guitar score (created on a commission from the Film Society of Lincoln Center) to accompany Fernand Leger´s 1924 silent surrealist masterpiece, Ballet Mecanique.” It's a visual/musical experience to get high on without one's little helper:

And here Lucas scores the charming 1912 Russian silent surrealist classic The Cameraman's Revenge (Ladislaw Starewicz), telling the familiar transgenerational story of Mr. Beetle who falls for the Dragonfly's seductive guile in the "Gay Dragonfly" nightclub ... but “Mr. Beetle should have guessed that the aggressive, jealous grasshopper was a cameraman.” — an early incarnation of the paparazzi, who are also known to be insects?

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