John Wheatcroft dusts off his nylon-string and shines the spotlight on the acoustic mastery of a phenomenal player, the amazing Earl Klugh.
John Wheatcroft lifts his hat to an awe-inspiring jazz guitarist, the amazing Earl Klugh.
Earl Klugh has one of the most unique and instantly recognisable sounds in jazz guitar. Synonymous with the nylon-string classical (as indeed was Charlie Byrd), Earl was invited to and spent several years in George Benson’s group, starting while still in his teens. Then, after a short stint with Chic Corea’s Return To Forever, Klugh signed a solo deal with Blue Note and released his debut album, simply titled Earl Klugh, in 1976. Klugh now celebrates over 40 successful years in the music business; he’s gone from strength to strength and is sounding better than ever. His tone is warm and brilliant with a clear articulation, and he expertly balances direct and simple lyrical melodies with harmonically rich and intricate chromatic vocabulary. Klugh’s command of syncopated rhythms, coupled with his incredible time and feel is second to none. If you’re a Benson fan then you would love Klugh’s playing. Make no mistake though, Earl is his own man and his unique articulation, intelligent note selection and beautifully expressive tone shine clearly through on every note he plays. Klugh has a rich portfolio of wonderful sounding albums and he has live dates in the diary all over the world in 2018, so I’d really suggest trying to catch him if possible. In the meantime, there is some amazing archive footage of him online, so I’d make sure he’s high on your list of players to check out. There are eight musical phrases that follow, each illustrating a particular concept, approach or technique that Earl might employ when improvising against a selection of popular chord sequences and vamps. If authenticity is your goal then you’ll need a classical guitar and use thumb and fingers throughout, although these ideas would sound great with a pick and you could easily successfully transfer them to a clean, or even overdriven electric guitar tone. However, if you’d usually automatically choose to play single-note line-based ideas with a plectrum, why not give fingers and thumb a try and, naturally, try to come up with some similar ideas of your own. You might be surprised at just how differently you play when you adopt a new approach. Making a change to your playing occasionally is often just what the doctor ordered, when it comes to avoiding or getting out of ruts, or simply for giving your playing some fresh ideas and a new lease of life. Let’s end with some wise words from the man himself: “A lot of what I do is for fun and I play all kinds of standards and songs away from the music I write”. As always, enjoy.
I listened to everything I could think of to gain an edge, Because If you don’t stand out you’re stuck Earl Klugh
Earl Klugh: one of the greatest and most unique jazz guitarists