Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

More Ragged Glory and Wild Virtuosity

In general, the guitarists I’ve liked the best tend to be kind of raggedy. Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix are perfect examples of this. Their playing was kind of sloppy, kind of slurry, and, at the edges, out of control. For some reason, to my ears, that has always sounded better than the textbook, super-fluid shredder (the best example of that being somebody like Al DiMeola).

I was thinking about this when I attended a bar mitzvah the other week. It was a very intimate and, as far as bar mitzvah’s go, very restrained and modest affair. The service was conducted in someone’s home by an Israeli rabbi with the assistance of a cantor lady.

My wife thought the cantor had a beautiful voice, and I guess it was in its way, but it was too perfect, too trained, really. I like to hear the human in a singing voice, and not simply pure notes generated by a disciplined vocal apparatus. It’s why I’ve tended to admire singers like Frank Sinatra or Scott Walker or, more recently, Karen Dalton.

It’s also why I prefer early sixties Coltrane (1960 European tour with Miles, 1961 Village Vanguard sets with Dolphy)—where he starts overblowing and veering into the noise—to the immediate, post-heroin sheets of sound you hear on Soultrane or the stuff with Monk at Carnegie Hall (recorded in ’57, discovered in 2005) or even Giant Steps.

It’s also why I’ve always preferred John McLaughlin (Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, Love Devotion Surrender, Emergency!, etc.) to DiMeola and Slayer to Metallica.

What do you prefer?

Photo Credit: Jungle_Boy

Category: Music

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3 Responses

  1. I’m definitely not on the side of the speed virtuosos, but there’s one of them whose comping I love: Bireli Lagrene.

    Where would you put Garcia? Neither out of control nor overtechnical.

  2. admin says:

    I put Garcia in the ragged category. Even if he did sometimes favor long 8th note runs, there was always something kind of homespun about his playing.

    I really dig Bireli, even his lead playing. Yes, he’s a speed demon, but there is some gypsy soul in there.

  3. I have a fantastic CD by Sara Lazarus backed by BL’s gypsy trio. I got it for the brilliant version of “It’s All Right With Me.”