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Guitarist Diego Barber: The Running Man

Drawing inspiration from a hobby and bridging the classical-jazz gap

Diego Barber

Before a rehearsal for Tales (Sunnyside), acoustic guitarist Diego Barber’s exceptional duo encounter with pianist Craig Taborn, both protagonists went for a run. “I’d circled Prospect Park, which is 3.4 miles,” Taborn recalls. “I asked Diego how far he’d gone. He said, ‘Not so long, just 20 miles,’ or something to that effect. He was chipper and ready to play. That’s when I realized what I was dealing with.”

A resident of Manhattan’s Alphabet City since 2007, Barber started running in 2010, completed his first half-marathon two months later, and subsequently completed a full marathon in under three hours. Rather than the New York streets, he prefers the rugged upstate terrain of the Catskills or even the high elevations of Utah and Colorado, where he traverses 50 or 100 miles at a stretch. “After 10 hours on the mountains, it’s like you are on drugs,” says 35-year-old Barber, a native of Lanzarote, the easternmost branch of the Canary Islands. “Every step is different-sometimes you’re on an incline or a descent, sometimes it’s rocky or smooth. When I run, I think about music. I am the conductor.”

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