Guitarra AS­SEM­BLES!

PACO PEÑA, THE GRIGORYAN BROTH­ERS, JIM PEN­NELL AND PHIL MAN­NING JOIN FORCES TO SET OFF FRET­BOARD FIRE­WORKS ACROSS THE COUN­TRY. IN­TER­VIEW BY LACH­LAN MARKS.

Australian Guitar - - Feature -

This Au­gust and Septem­ber, Aus­tralian au­di­ences will be treated to a ver­i­ta­ble Avengers of ex­treme gui­tar ta­lent when Paco Peña, the Grigoryan Broth­ers, Jim Pen­nell and Phil Man­ning join forces for the Guitarra tour, tack­ling the very best fla­menco, clas­si­cal, blues and jazz pieces you’re likely to ever hear.

It’s a quar­tet that boasts se­ri­ous, se­ri­ous chops: Paco Peña‚is one of the most re­spected gui­tar vir­tu­osos and a Span­ish cul­tural icon; Slava and Leonard Grigoryan are four-time ARIA nom­i­nees for their clas­sic gui­tar work; Phil Man­ning is an Aus­tralian blues rock icon; and Jim Pen­nell is renowned as one of the finest jazz and Latin-style play­ers to ever come out of the coun­try. We man­aged to get the whole team to­gether to dis­cuss what it’s go­ing to take to pull it off, and what we can ex­pect from Guitarra.

What will be your prac­tice regime like lead­ing up to it?

Jim Pen­nell: I have two 90-minute daily rou­tines-‚dur­ing the week, leav­ing week­ends free for gigs. Aside from tech­ni­cal-‚de­mands, my rou­tines con­sist of play­ing com­pleted jazz ma­te­rial, then ex­per­i­ment­ing with the har­monic or rhyth­mic set­ting or im­pro­vi­sa­tion of pieces to keep an open mind to pre­sen­ta­tion ideas. Leonard Grigoryan: I al­ready try to spend as much time with the gui­tar as pos­si­ble, but since I’ll be sur­rounded by such amaz­ing gui­tarists, I’ll prob­a­bly want to spend just a lit­tle bit more time with the in­stru­ment be­fore head­ing off on this tour. ‚

Paco Peña: It used to be very rigid, but it’s not so much so th­ese days be­cause there are many other things that take up my time. How­ever, faced with a tour I take study­ing very se­ri­ously.

Phil Man­ning: I spend most of my time writ­ing songs nowa­days, so be­ing in the com­pany of such great play­ers, I am get­ting back to the good, old fash­ioned exercises and prac­tic­ing my ma­te­rial for th­ese shows.

What do you ad­mire about the other play­ers on the tour?

JP: Their to­tal ded­i­ca­tion to the in­stru­ment. The depth of mu­si­cal skill they dis­play re­flects the tenac­ity, de­ter­mi­na­tion and love of self ex­pres­sion that they all bring to live per­for­mance.

LG: All of the mu­si­cians on this tour have in­cred­i­bly unique gui­tar voices. As a musician, I al­ways look for­ward to moments where I can learn as much as pos­si­ble from what other peo­ple are do­ing, and this tour will def­i­nitely pro­vide me with that op­por­tu­nity. Paco Peña is prob­a­bly the most fa­mous fla­menco gui­tarist in the world, and to be able to hear and see him up close will be amaz­ing. I had the plea­sure of work­ing with Jim Pen­nell not too long ago, and he’s an amaz­ing musician – he can ab­so­lutely play any­thing! I haven’t played with Phil Man­ning be­fore, but I’ve seen him per­form and I’m greatly look­ing for­ward to play­ing with him. He is an in­cred­i­bly soulful musician, and he has such a beau­ti­ful tone that will be great to hear up close.

PP: The gui­tar is such a won­der­ful in­stru­ment in a whole ga­mete of styles, and it never ceases to sur­prise and elate; I get a real kick out of lis­ten­ing to th­ese great mu­si­cians on the road, and I’m very hon­oured to share the stage with them.

PM: The other play­ers are right up there at the pinnacle of their art, and they’re all highly skilled mu­si­cians. I tend to re­gard my­self as an old rock’n’roll-hack-turned-folk-and-blues, so I re­ally ad­mire their ded­i­ca­tion and the hard work they have put in. Mind you, I’ve put in an enor­mous amount of work too, al­though mostly on the road!

What’s your daily gui­tar habit like in 2017?

JP: It’s all about the mu­sic – I’m al­ways in­spired to play daily. To de­fine and re­fine what I hear is an on­go­ing goal. The end­less Amer­i­can Song­book, in­ter­pre­ta­tions of ‚some of the great jazz com­posers, and new ways to ex­press tension and re­lease are daily con­sid­er­a­tions.

LG: 2017 has been a very busy year so far! I’ve recorded two al­bums with Slav, and due to this, the prac­tice and re­hearsal sched­ule has been intense up un­til now. Com­po­si­tion is an­other pas­sion of mine, and the next few months will be spent writ­ing more mu­sic.

PM: I tend to do most of my play­ing later in the day, al­though I have started prac­tis­ing more in the early morn­ing which I find bet­ter for purely func­tional exercises – clearer mind, and all that.

As ca­reer player, do you have to take steps to avoid dam­ag­ing your hands? Are they specif­i­cally in­sured?

JP: Not re­ally. I put the in­stru­ment down for a while if I feel the oc­ca­sional wrist ache. I’m ex­tra care­ful in the kitchen with knives, though. I’m still a mas­sive fan of culi­nary ex­pres­sion – I make a great spag bol. My hands aren’t specif­i­cally in­sured now, but they were some time ago.

LG: Most def­i­nitely! Be­ing a clas­si­cal gui­tarist, I have to grow nails on my right hand, which is the most an­noy­ing thing about play­ing this in­stru­ment. Due to this, I al­ways have to take ex­tra care in not break­ing a nail as this can greatly af­fect a per­for­mance. My hands are not in­sured, but maybe I should try to in­sure my nails.

PP: They are not in­sured. I like do­ing phys­i­cal things, so I am mind­ful of pro­tect­ing them, but I use them in the nor­mal way.

PM: I must ad­mit, I take al­most no care with my hands – I’m al­ways us­ing ham­mers, chis­els, saws, power tools, knives and gar­den­ing tools around the home. I usu­ally have cuts or abra­sions on them. I do en­joy handy­man stuff, and they’re cer­tainly not in­sured.

What gui­tars will you be bring­ing on this tour, and what makes them special to you?

JP: My Al­mansa 435 cut­away, which was made in Spain. As a fin­ger­style  jazz player, this in­stru­ment suits my needs; it’s eas­ier to ne­go­ti­ate with a full-width clas­si­cal, well-balanced tone with Pro Blend mic and pickup. It’s al­most sonic-neu­tral, and it doesn’t colour the tone or give it that “1950s jazz club” flavour like my Gib­son L-4, which I play pre­dom­i­nately with a pick.

LG: I’ll be play­ing a gui­tar that was made for me by an in­cred­i­ble luthier from Ade­laide called Jim Redgate. Jim’s gui­tars are in­cred­i­ble in­stru­ments, but more than that, Jim is an un­be­liev­ably great guy. We share sim­i­lar ideas in sound and in mu­sic in gen­eral. Just this one gui­tar will come on the road for this tour.

PP: I only bring one gui­tar, which was made by Gerundino, but I as­sure you that it’s a lovely in­stru­ment which I have a very close re­la­tion­ship with. It re­sponds!

PM: I’ll bring my new Fender Para­mount se­ries Triple-O acous­tic, which is a beau­ti­ful re­cent model. I haven’t made up my mind what I’ll bring as a backup – prob­a­bly my Guild CV-1C. I may also bring a tiny ukelele-sized gui­tar made by Chris Finch – it’s a gor­geous wee thing, and it’s tuned a fifth above a nor­mal gui­tar.

What can au­di­ences ex­pect from the Guitarra ex­pe­ri­ence? What will make it dif­fer­ent from your reg­u­lar tours?

JP: They can ex­pect bound­less, var­ied mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ment, all de­liv­ered with spirit, good hu­mour and ex­per­tise. When the worlds col­lide... Ex­pect fire­works!

LG: I’m not sure what the au­di­ence should ex­pect, be­cause I my­self am not quite sure what to ex­pect yet. They’re sure to see some amaz­ing solo sets, but also some spontaneous col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween all of the mu­si­cians. This will be an in­cred­i­bly fun ex­pe­ri­ence for me and hope­fully for the other gui­tarists – and of course, the au­di­ence.

PP: I ven­ture to say that the value in this ex­pe­ri­ence is to ac­tu­ally dis­cover styles that are not per­haps what you came to hear; that dis­cov­ery just might ex­pand and en­rich your ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the in­stru­ment in other forms.

PM: I guess the main thing for the au­di­ence – es­pe­cially any gui­tar mu­sic fans – will be the va­ri­ety of styles be­ing played on the one con­cert stage. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced this at a cou­ple of in­ter­na­tional gui­tar events in the UK and here, and it makes for a re­ally up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. On my reg­u­lar tours, there wouldn’t nor­mally be such a di­verse range of styles.



As a very ad­vanced play­ers, what goals do you still have in terms of your own play­ing?

JP: To be able to com­pose and play what I hear I my head, spon­ta­neously.

LG: The beauty about mu­sic is that you can never stop learn­ing. I’m never sat­is­fied with where I am as a musician, and this drives my to lis­ten to more mu­sic and learn as much as I pos­si­bly can. PP: I’m still try­ing to learn! PM: The blues and roots mu­sic I play is gen­er­ally fairly sim­ple, but needs to be played with a lot of de­lib­er­a­tion, so I’ve al­ways man­aged to get by with what I do and con­nect with the au­di­ence. Nowa­days, my goal is to sim­ply en­sure that I per­form to the best of my abil­ity.

Pa­coPeña

JimPen­nel PhilMan­ning

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