Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Andy Brown, Soloist

Face it, as a musician you have two ways to go when you hear playing that at any point in time you could not possibly attempt given where you are in your playing. You can either reject the music contemptuously, maybe with anger, as not being worthy of your attention, or you can appreciate the artistry all the more. I saw Larry Coryell years ago at the Bottom Line. After a particularly finger-busting flourish he ended the tune and, looking out at the audience, commented, "I see a lot of frowns out there. Many of you must be guitarists!" I have always been of the camp that applauds what I cannot possibly do, learns something of the other possibilities out there by hearing such things, and welcomes the challenge of the in-executable!

That does not mean everything you hear that you cannot reproduce yourself should become your next goal. There is something for that but time is finite so at a certain age you accept that you cannot be all things. Yet there is joy in hearing a real artist excel at something most difficult.

Such an example glowingly presents itself on guitarist Andy Brown's recent album Soloist (Delmark 5019). I don't know much about him but just hearing the first few minutes of this album and eventually the whole thing tells you all you need to know. Andy is a consummate master of the solo guitar finger-picked style. The album consist of just him and his electric guitar. And that's all he needs.

Very few players past or present can match his prowess in this style. He runs through a series of mostly standards, supplying richly inventive chordal comping, a hint of a bass line, the melodic essentials and lively solo segments. The style comes out of past masters such as George Van Eps (see recent review of an excellent reissue of his recordings on these pages) and, as Andy mentions in the liners, a rather obscure player by the name of Kenny Poole. Joe Pass comes to mind as well when he was in a solo zone.

Maestro Brown is impeccable on this recording, giving us some incredibly convincing, very sophisticated and subtle examples of what the finger style can be. All I can say is that you need to hear this. Sure, most of us, maybe even all of us can never hope to get to this level with the style. That of course is all the more reason to hear him on this album.

It's sheer guitar heaven! Do not miss it.

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