Anthony Pirog is taking on Europe, one small venue at a time. In his role as half of Janel and Anthony-with cellist Janel Leppin, his partner in life and in music-the Washington, D.C.-based guitarist has spent the first half of May touring France and is now finishing with two nights in Reykjavík, Iceland. “It’s more of a DIY kind of tour,” Pirog, 34, says via Skype. “It’s a lot of [arts] spaces and bookstores; it’s not festivals. But it’s fantastic. The shows have been really good and the turnout’s been good.”
That’s a pretty impressive result for what Pirog and Leppin have called “original experimental music for guitar and cello”: a strong but digestible brew of folk, post-rock, jazz, classical and country, topped off with a heavy dose of electronic effects and studio processing. But even that bunch of styles is just a fraction of Pirog’s vast knowledge base-a healthy cross-section of which appears on his forthcoming Cuneiform label CD, Palo Colorado Dream. Pirog’s first love was and is roots music, including blues and rockabilly; his first lesson on guitar, at age 11, was the lick to Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.” He also plays surf guitar in an outfit called the El Rays, and frequently travels in noise/ambient/free-improvisation circles. In 2011, as part of the D.C.-based Sonic Circuits Festival, he led a 22-piece ensemble in an outdoor performance of Terry Riley’s landmark minimalist composition “In C.” Still, Pirog is best known as a jazz artist in his hometown, tackling styles from postbop to fusion to the avant-garde.