A trou­bled ge­nius with tran­scen­dent mu­si­cal­ity, Breau was a one-of-a-kind jazz player. John Wheatcroft ex­plores his un­be­liev­able style.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

John Wheatcroft ex­am­ines a style that al­most de­fies be­lief - that of the in­cred­i­ble Lenny Breau.

Breau’s solo ca­reer be­gan with great prom­ise, with ap­pear­ances on ra­dio and TV and he was in great de­mand as a live per­former. In the late 1960s a record­ing of his play­ing fell into the hands of his old hero, Chet Atkins who was amazed by what he heard. Not only had this young vir­tu­oso as­sim­i­lated his style, he pos­sessed an im­pro­vi­sa­tional flair equal to the best jazz mu­si­cians in the world. This included com­bin­ing sin­gle-note lines with frag­mented chords taken from jazz pian­ists such as Bill Evans; a revo­lu­tion­ary har­mon­ics ap­proach, an au­then­tic as­sim­i­la­tion of fla­menco and an in­nate un­der­stand­ing of In­dian rhythms. As Andy Summers said: “He could sing, he was great look­ing and he was an in­cred­i­ble gui­tar player.” What could pos­si­bly go wrong? Well, as Leonard Co­hen said: “Lenny was a mess.” His trou­bles with drugs and the ef­fect this had on his ca­reer, with no-shows, pawned in­stru­ments and sub-par per­for­mances were dis­as­trous and went from bad to worse.

In 1984, Lenny was found dead, be­lieved stran­gled, his body dumped in the swim­ming pool of his rented apart­ment, iron­i­cally dur­ing a pe­riod of rel­a­tive so­bri­ety.

The fol­low­ing ex­am­ples can only hint at Lenny’s breadth and depth, so we’d en­cour­age you to com­bine learn­ing th­ese mu­si­cal ex­cerpts with lis­ten­ing to his play­ing di­rectly. His play­ing is so beau­ti­ful that if you only do this, it’ll be a worth­while en­deav­our. Each ex­tract could form the ba­sis of an ex­tended ses­sion of study; play­ing fast be­bop phrases, syn­co­pat­ing the 3rds and 7ths while play­ing a top-line melody - his har­mon­ics alone can take months to mas­ter. So treat this les­son as an in­tro­duc­tion to one of the most unique and ac­com­plished play­ers to ever pick up a gui­tar. It took Breau a life­time of prac­tice to de­velop his fa­cil­ity and diver­sity, so we need to re­mem­ber the old say­ing, ‘pa­tience is a virtue’.

One as­pect of Lenny’s play­ing that we can all learn from, is his tran­scen­dent mu­si­cal­ity. His style was equally ap­peal­ing to all mu­sic lovers, not just gui­tarists. We can be­come a lit­tle too ob­sessed with our own in­stru­ment and lose sight of the big pic­ture. There’s a huge amount to learn if we cast the net a lit­tle wider, tak­ing in­flu­ence from pian­ists, drum­mers, singers and mu­si­cians from all styles, cul­tures and eras. Con­sider the mu­si­cal at­tributes rather than purely the tech­ni­cal be­cause, af­ter all, the lis­tener is re­ally only con­cerned with how we sound. The way we achieve that sound is just a part of the process, purely a means to that end.


Lenny Breau: his ge­nius is all but un­par­al­leled in pop­u­lar mu­sic

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.