My son Lil-C has taken up the guitar. I love it when he is excited about some new project and I applaud his efforts as he tries out the different arts. Whenever he gets into something I try to encourage him to learn the history of his craft. For instance when he started acting in school I showed him Denzel in Malcolm X. I told him to pay close attention to Malcom’s transformation from street hustler, to broken prisonor, to willing disciple of Islam, to the confident leader of The Nation. In an amazing performance each of these characters were totally believable. I also got him hip to Sidney Portier, and we would talk about other actors and their techniques, the research that goes into creating a character etc. The point was and is always to be the best. I never wanted him to think he could just show up and pull off something great cause it doesn’t happen like that. It takes years of dedication and commitment to maximize a skill.
Now he’s into the music thing and since he chose the guitar, of course we had to talk about the great guitarist. Of course the usual suspects come to mind. Jimi Hendrix, was the first name he spit out. I was like, “Yea man that’s cool. Did you know Jimi started out playing with The Isley Brothers way back in the day? Which means you have to talk about Ernie Isley. In my eyes this guy is legendary and I have listened to his complicated licks all of my life. Ernie often sounds like two guys are playing. And he makes it look easy. I’ve seen him once and since he lives in St. Louis it’s not unusual to see him sit in on someone’s jam session.
Also one of my favorites, Neal Schon from Journey. In rock and roll, the names that people spit are generally cats like Slash or Eddie Van Halen back in my day. These dudes were dope no doubt. But what I like about Neal is his ability to make melody with the instrument as if it were speaking it’s own language. If you listen to most Journey songs, he is always featured in a small or large solo one way or another. And his style in my opinion was a perfect compliment to Steve Perry’s Sam Cook like falsetto. No way Journey would be the successful band they were without Neal. No way!
Can’t talk about guitars without mentioning Carlos Santana. I mean you don’t even have to say his first name… just Santana says it all. Santana is not just a name, but a brand. And when he plays something you know it’s his without having to ask. What I appreciate about him most, like Isley is that when you see him play, you can tell that he just loves it.
There are many jazz guitarist I enjoy too. The first one I ever got hip to was Earl Klugh. “Heart String” was the first jazz album I purchased and is still a timeless classic. My 14 year old son Alex begged me for a copy of “Life Stories” when he heard me playing it last summer. There was a time when I just bought Klugh’s stuff when it was released. I enjoyed the fact the he would have a funky album, then do a mellow one, then do a classical one. He was never afraid to do something different and explore a variety of genres. I can’t figure the brother out now though. I haven’t liked any of his newer stuff in years.
But my favorite – top guitarist of all time…. none other than the Purple One – PRINCE!
That’s right I said it! Bring them all on past and present. And none of them can make that thang sing like he can. This self taught phenom made me LOVE the guitar. The first time he blew me away was when he played, “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad.” This was back in 1979! Again, Prince tells stories with the guitar and it has its own language. Hearing him play I can hear his passion, his joy, his pain, his excitement. I never saw anyone who loves to play and perform more than Prince. He came to St. Louis one Tuesday and gave us a “B” concert… it wasn’t even his best effort and I could tell from other performances – but it was still damn good. So good that I wasn’t even mad. Anytime he wants to show up – I’m down for the cause.
So again my message to my son – is play on playa! Love the instrument, learn the instrument, respect the instrument, work on your craft and most of all enjoy the gift of music and the creativity that comes from your soul. I’ll be sending you some of my favorite guitar performances… so look for that in the mail soon.
Personally, I’d have to include Al Dimeola and Pat Methany. I saw Robert Cray open up for Eric Clapton, who was accompanied by Nathan East, Greg Philliganes and Phil Collins. Oh, Stanley Jordan. How could I forget? Saw him at the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood. I also saw Roland Bautista with EWF on the I AM tour. Sweet.
Bautista is wonderful – love Nathan East and got familiar with him through the group Fourplay. Matheny is sweet! That’s the cool thing about these discussions – I knew I couldn’t name or think of them all – there are so many wonderful artist out there and readers like yourself can bring others to the mix.
I never heard of Dimeola – which one of his should I pick up first as a beginner?
My mom lives in L.A. and the last time I was there a friend of mine took me to the Amphitheater and told me about all the groups he saw there growing up.
The I Am tour? Man that’s old school!
Your a pretty hip pastor if you have vibes of In The Stone in your memory…. (smile) Thats one of my favorite EWF Cd’s… We had the 8 track when I was a kid.
I would love to meet you one day!
DADDY!! no picture of Hendrix? ha ha
its crazy how fast im getting better
but i have a good teacher
apparently he has played with Kirk Franklin and Stevie Wonder o.O
and makes easy money teaching pro bassist now
ill tell you about him
but yea…”we be jammin”
DiMeola was in Return To Forever with Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. Check out “Land of the Midnight Sun” and “Elegant Gypsy” for his amazing guitar riffs.
Yeah, I’m pretty old school. I also saw The Commodores (Luther Vandross opened), Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Al Jarreau (David Sanborn opened). A good friend of mine once played a new EWF in his car before I even knew it was out. He said, “Who is this?” I said, “Well, I think its Earth, Wind & Fire. But if its not, it is produced by Maurice White.” Not bad for a funky white boy from Southern California! My favorite EWF album? Either “I Am,” “All in All” or “Faces.” Plus, I absolutely WORE OUT “Songs in the Key of Life.” An astounding album
By the way, I play piano.
Lil C – I can’t wait to hear the latest. Your connected fella! I pictured Hendrix a couple weeks back – so I decided to picture a couple other artist instead including one young up and coming star…(I won’t say his name) (smile)
I love and miss you man!
Jim – I love funky white boys! Songs in The Key of Life is just the best album ever huh? Timeless and though I love records like “Superwoman” from another LP, Stevie broke the mode with that one. I always knew he would never top that album. He was in some kind of a zone then… perhaps it was the birth of his daughter.
You play piano? Ever try to play Summer Soft? I air played it a thousand times! (Today even) I can relate to most everything on it, – the first part of Ordinary Pain, Another Star, As,…. Saturn blew me away as a kid… I wanted to be there.
Ebony Eyes reminded me of the East St. Louis ghetto’s I grew up in and the girls we liked to play jump rope and jacks with… and the song is so simple and so groovy. Makes you think your in some Juke Joint.
I plan to visit So-Cal sometime this year to see my mom – when I do I will reach out we have to meet!
Nice post! YOu should visit Gip’s place in Alabama!
I live in Tahlequah, OK. I’m FROM So. Cal. Sorry if I misled you.
Not at all. I thought you STILL lived in SoCal.
Oh well – hey stay on your feet. I am sure you got the snow and probably more ice than we did.