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Before & After with Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh
Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh’s music matches his disposition: warm, relaxed, gentle and thoughtful. The Atlanta-based nylon-string guitarist took a break from his sold-out weekend engagement at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., to drink coffee and listen to music. Afterward, he reflected on changes in the music business since the time he began recording some 33 years ago. In spite of vicissitudes in the record industry, Klugh has cultivated an audience loyal to his smooth blend of jazz, pop and contemporary music. His latest release is The Spice of Life (Koch).

1. Ulf Wakenius

“Seven Days of Falling” (from Love Is Real, ACT). Wakenius, guitars; Lars Danielsson, bass; Lars Jansson, piano; Morten Lund, drums; Till Brönner, trumpet; Radio String Quartet. Recorded in 2007.

BEFORE: It’s a very nice piece; great groove, memorable melody. The way that the band was able to move the piece along-it intensified without knocking you over the head. At first the electronics were a little off-putting, but once it developed it became really interesting. I’ve never heard anything quite like that. The tune is understated; the guitar solo was great. The guitarist is obviously a really good player because there were moments when it really took off, but he was more concerned with the piece as a whole.

AFTER: I don’t know him. And I didn’t know that Esbjörn Svensson died. [Ed. Note: Wakenius’ Love Is Real is a tribute to the acclaimed Swedish pianist, who passed in June of 2008.] I like the guitarist’s ideas. His solo moments were little gems. And he really laid in the groove. This is really cool.

2. Sammy Davis Jr. & Laurindo Almeida

“The Shadow of Your Smile” (from Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings and Laurindo Almeida Plays, DCC). Davis, vocal; Almeida, guitar. Recorded in 1966.

BEFORE: [chuckles] That sounds like Sammy Davis Jr. to me. When he sang in the upper register, that gave it away. Guitar player is great. He’s like a total old-school fingerstyle guy, though his harmonies are modern. It’s not Charlie Byrd because Charlie has a different sound. It was really intimate. The strumming tremolo was put to good use. He’s a great accompanist, right in the moment with relaxed phrasing. I don’t know if this was rehearsed, but it felt like it was spontaneous. I enjoyed it.

AFTER: Oh my goodness. Laurindo is one of my favorites from early on. I had an album of his called Broadway Solo Guitar where he did “People” and “Little Girl Blue.” He really has a flair for the dramatic on some of those things. His arrangements are magical. He’s always been one of my top three or four guys for his beautiful, romantic sound, which is almost a lost art. He was a big man with big fingers, like Segovia. He plays articulately and he’s also got the warmth. I like this record very much.

3. Julian Lage

“All Blues” (from Sounding Point, Emarcy). Lage, guitar; Taylor Eigsti, piano. Recorded in 2008.

BEFORE: “All Blues.” They really grooved hard, right from the beginning. The guitar had an interesting tone. I couldn’t tell if it was nylon strings or steel strings. I love the interplay. They were really listening to each other. It was conversational-feels like they play together on a regular basis. Lots of interesting harmonic ideas, very clever.

AFTER: [examines the guitar on the cover] This is definitely a steel-string guitar because that’s a metallic pick-up. It looks like a custom-made. Beautiful guitar, too.

The rest of the Before & After Session with Earl Klugh is in the October 2009 issue of JazzTimes.

Originally Published