Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guitar Heroes

Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton. Stevie Ray Vaughan. B.B. King. These are the guitarists whose names invariably come up when pop-culture brainiacs yak about the "greatest" guitarists of all time.

They usually sneak players like Pete Townshend and Keith Richards into the conversation, and Mark Knopfler, too.

Outstanding guitarists, all. But they've never interested me all that much.

My favorite guitarist is Ralph Towner. Not exactly a household name, although he is well-known in certain circles. For many years he's been in a band called Oregon. He's also a well-established soloist. Check out the YouTube video below; it's Ralph playing, in his inimitable style, his composition "Jamaica Stopover."

It sounds best with headphones.

Another of my guitar heroes is William Kanengiser. I was privileged to participate in a master class he led about fifty years ago. Kanengiser is mostly within the classical tradition, though not exclusively. He too is a soloist of note, and also a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (and an academic). I absolutely love his solo album Rondo alla Turka.
In the video below he plays that CD's title track, from Mozart's Sonata in A major (K. 331). This is probably Mozart's most famous tune. (This video is from a guitar instruction series Kanengiser made. He doesn't play the Mozart with nearly the élan he does on the CD.)

So these are two of my favorite guitar players. There are a few others.

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