The magic of strings 

Eight hands and one sweet sound: International Guitar Night

On the 10th annual International Guitar Night tour, four exemplary musicians are coming together to make extraordinary music.

Not only are their styles different, the players come from far–flung points of the globe, making it a truly international program.

The tour visits Savannah’s Lucas Theatre for the Arts Saturday, Jan. 23.

Brian Gore has been the driving force behind IGN since the beginning. In his hometown, San Francisco, he’s commonly referred to as the “Guitar Poet” for his lyrical musicianship, utilizing open tunings, unusual harmonic structures and innovative percussive techniques.

Gore will be joined by:

Lulo Reinhardt, the great grand–nephew of gypsy jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt. A resident of Koblenz, Germany, Reinhardt played in the Mike Reinhardt Sextett at the age of 12, and later co–founded the group Django Reinhardt and the Heartbreakers;

Itamar Erez, the well–known Israeli–born classical guitarist who founded The Adama Ensemble, to explore the commonality of Middle Eastern, world music and jazz;

Stephen Bennett, who plays the double–necked harp guitar and the extremely tricky National Steel guitar. The Toronto Fingerstyle Guitar Association calls this dextrous Canadian “the Jedi Master of Fingerstyle Guitar.”

    Gore says the program will consists of solo performances, duos, trios – and full–out quartet performances.

In Nashville, they very famously do something called a guitar pull, where several singer/songwriters sit in a semi–circle and they  each do a song, one by one, as the others play along a little. Is that what this is like?

Brian Gore: You’re going to laugh about this, but I’ve never been to Nashville. I’m a West Coast kid. But there’s something very similar – this started out in exactly that sort of way. We actually started doing these shows in a little sort of underground venue where local players would come, with players from out of town, and we’d have these epic shows. And it evolved from there.

So the roots of it are very similar to what you might see at a bodega in Spain, or to what you just described in Nashville. It’s got a grassroots origin to it, but it’s obviously taken on its own unique shape from there.

These are people that play in all kinds of different styles. How do you keep it from becoming a gang bang?

Brian Gore: There are players who are more technically oriented, and then there are players who are, I would say, more musical. We don’t think anybody that’s part of IGN, myself included, should apologize for their chops. The players who are part of the show use their chops to support good music. And that’s really the main way you keep it from being out of control. Because if you’ve got players that are real confident technically, and are confident enough to use that in the service of making good music, you don’t have a problem.

Is there also a sense that bringing the four players together will deliver them to a wider audience than they would have individually?

Brian Gore: That’s one of the reasons I started the show, and especially 10 years ago when we first started taking this nationally. IGN was a way for people to see some of the best players from many different walks of musical life, that they wouldn’t normally have the chance to see. Players from this wonderful renaissance in guitar that’s been happening around the world for the past 25 years. All the players are very good with audiences, each in their own unique way.

Tell me about the individual musicians.

Brian Gore: Stephen is a super–understated player, and he really does that well. We haven’t ever had someone on the show who plays harp guitar and National Steel.

Even though Itamar is – for U.S. listeners – somebody who’s a bit on the esoteric side, he connects extremely well with the audience when he’s playing. And I think he’s really doing a good service to what he’s doing musically that way.

We’ve been thinking about having Itamar in the show for years. We hadn’t had an Israeli player before. It is important, I think, in these contentious times to have someone like him, who’s really making an effort – with his music and with the projects he’s doing – to try to get some harmony going between Arabic and Middle Eastern influences.

And Lulo?

Brian Gore: We’ve never had a gypsy jazz player, because we couldn’t find someone as eclectic as Lulo to date. There are surprises every year, and Itamar was one of those for us – but this year we’ve actually got a ton of ‘em.

Lulo is a really super, wonderful person. He’s been playing since he was a little kid. His whole family were literally rescued at the gates of the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

They’re Sinti – the other type of gypsies are called the Roma – and the father has made a real effort to see that Lulo grew up speaking the Sinti language.

He grew up from a very, very young age playing gypsy jazz and also traditional Sinti folk music. With his father, who sings in Sinti. But he has always wanted to make his own music, and he’s also had a wider range of interests outside of gypsy jazz.

So IGN, for him, has been really good. There is going to be a little gypsy jazz in the show, obviously, but for him it’s wonderful because we’re not going to get on his case if he doesn’t play (Django’s well–known) Nuages, and he gets to try other things. He’s got a whole flamenco side, which is also part of gypsy heritage, but not something you’d typically find from a gypsy jazz player. They tend to be purists a lot of the time.

Who were your influences as a guitarist?

Brian Gore: I’m a pretty melodic fingerstyle player, but I grew up in an environment where Alex DeGrassi was someone who was a mentor, I worked with him, and Michael Hedges, I saw several times when I was growing up playing. Robbie Basho, who lived here. A lot of stuff.

I started out writing poetry, and so there’s a very strong lyrical element that is always at play in my pieces. I think they’re always tightly–written songs.

I do use extended technique. I try not to be noodly with it, if that makes any sense. I think you could call it compositionally–oriented fingerstyle.


International Guitar Night

Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

When: At 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23

Tickets: $14–$37

Online: www.savannahboxoffice.com

Phone: (912) 525–5050

Artists’ Web site: www.internationalguitarnight.squarespace.com



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Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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