John Jorgenson

By Cleveland, Barry | Guitar Player, July 2010 | Go to article overview

John Jorgenson

Cleveland, Barry, Guitar Player

AS EVERYONE KNOWS, JOHN JORGENSON WAS REVERSE-engineered from alien artistic technology (AAT). How else can you explain his preternatural abilities on acoustic and electric guitar, double bass, mandolin, mandocello, Dobro, pedal-steel, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, and lately bouzouki, coupled with sufficient stylistic mastery to perform Elton John's entire repertoire, twang it up with the Hellecasters, top the country charts alongside Chris Hillman in the Desert Rose Band, and push Django Reinhardt's Gypsy jazz into the 21st Century? And that's not to mention his live and recorded work with a pantheon of top-tier artists ranging from Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to Barbara Streisand and Luciano Pavarotti.

Jorgenson has already released two albums this year: the John Jorgenson Quintet's One Stolen Night, and Istiqbal Gathering by John Jorgenson and Orchestra Nashville (both on J2 Records). The former was recorded "live in the studio," and features Jorgenson on guitar, bouzouki, clarinet, and soprano saxophone, accompanied by violinist Jason Anick, bassist Simon Planting, percussionist Rick Reed, and rhythm guitarist Kevin Nolan (with cameos by Gonzalo Bergara on bandoneon and twin trombonists Tania and Sandra Differding). The latter comprises six collaborative compositions arranged for Gypsy jazz guitar and orchestra, including the stunning "Concerto Glasso."

Looking ahead, in addition to touring Europe, South America, and Australia with his Quintet in the coming months, Jorgenson will play a handful of gigs with the Desert Rose Band, as well as collaborate on a "straight ahead rock album" with Peter Frampton and a "Tele album" with Albert Lee (who will join him onstage at the Guitar Town festival this summer). In his spare time, Jorgenson's been working on a new amp with Mark Sampson of Matchless, Bad Cat, and now Star Amplifiers fame.

What are your thoughts on the current lineup of the Quintet?

Jason Anick is definitely a great foil for me. Not to take away from any past members, but he and I have a really good chemistry onstage and he has a lot of energy that I can play off of. And if there's anyone who is a star bass player in Gypsy jazz, it has to be Simon Planting. He played with Fapy Lafertin--one of my favorite traditional Gypsy jazz guitarists-for many years, so he naturally plays the music the way I like to hear it. And Kevin Noland is a fine rhythm guitarist. The rhythm section as a whole just has a beautiful sound. In the past I had to create the drive a little more with the lead guitar, and now I'm able to sit on top of the rhythm section and let them drive it, which allows Jason and me to be really free. And One Stolen Night has more swing on it than some of my other records, because I like the way this band swings.

What's going on with those super-fast runs on the intro to "Norwegian Dance"?

That's more of a right-hand technique than a left-hand one. It's a picking pattern that's two downs and an up across two strings, and I'm playing it pretty fast. The funny thing about that intro is about a year ago I got to sit in with Les Paul at his weekly gig in New York, and that's one of the pieces we played. When I got to the end of that intro he just laughed and said, "Ok, do that again!" It was such a compliment, but it was also like, "Alright Mr. Hot Shot." He was very influenced by Django, which you hear in his early recordings. There's an old film clip of Les playing "Dark Eyes" in which he does a lot of Django's runs and other things.


Switching to the orchestral album--was there an overarching theme going into the composition of Istiqbal Gathering, or did it just come together over time?

The overarching theme was to present the Gypsy style of guitar, technique, tonality, and music in a legitimate orchestral format, as opposed to simply playing "Nuages" with strings or orchestrating a Django song. The Spanish, Gypsy, Russian, and Eastern European elements, and the technical virtuosity of it all really go well with orchestral music. …

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