One Guitar

 Out of context from the liner notes—

I was taken to my first concert when I was eight years old. It was a Spike Jones concert in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I was a violin player and never heard of Spike Jones. . . I think there was a solo by a guy playing a lint trap.

But I was offended. I was mortified, I was a violin player…and an eight year old snob…in Cheyenne. I was wondering how long this travesty in the school gymnasium would go on, when a guy came screaming from out of nowhere, and ran across the stage with a clarinet through his head. I had only one thought in mind: “I want to be him!”

Out of context from the notes page of his official website—

Studying with tree teachers in three years, I was a trombone student in Oklahoma until I was about fifteen years old. Each weekend at one of their houses I’d wait in the kitchen until the trombonist in the basement would yell up at me to come down—they all taught in their basements.

My teachers—industrious, frugal, starving men—had one thing in common other than my unpreparedness: they’d all installed do-it-yourself showers in those basements.

I loved to play and I loved the trombone: but I never considered that a trombonist might have to install his own shower. . . I never considered that life in trombone might differ from the one I was imagining… a life lived in hotels, in black suits and skinny ties, Ray-Bans indoors. . .

Any fool would know that I was a lucky kid. I got to play, so I get to play. I was guided by trombonists, note by note, toward home.

And he sticks the same out of context tidbits into his, for the most part rather straight ahead, music. Unless you know a few musicians personally, exhaustively, you may not be privy to the quirkiness most exhibit, nor their often off-beat sense of humor. There’s something a little out of kilter about musicians, especially oboists. (It’s all the back pressure compounded by the maddeningly unreliable reeds.) There’s no doubt Leo still gets to play. Lucky kid.

So, how many of these autobiographical tidbits are real? What happened to the violin, the trombone? Where does the guitar fit in? I know one thing. That eight year-old boy is now the whacky grownup screaming across the stage with the clarinet through his head. He’s playing with us as much as for us on his 1999 release, One Guitar No Vocals, less the lint trap. It’s a twelve-string ride blazing through the golden plains of Iowa—um, wait a minute—Wyoming, no Oklahoma, wherever. Judge for yourself. Take a listen to this clip from cut three with its twangy ordinariness and dripping basement shower chromaticism.

“Too Fast” :

Delighted, or baffled? The album, like his self analysis, is a tad out of context, just enough to keep us off balance. With his rich, layered sound, slightly tilted sensibilities, maybe it’s better to say baffled and delighted.

(||) Rating — Music : A- ║ Performance : A ║ Recording : A- ║
 Leo Kottke, One Guitar No Vocals, Private Music/Windham HIll, 1999

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