Sunday, January 24, 2010

old guitars and black dogs

It was a very musical day yesterday. It started with a two-hour long conversation about vintage guitars and ended with a live concert where I watched one (a beautiful sunburst hollowbody. I'm pretty sure it was an early Gibson ES) blow me away in a jazz quartet. I'll start at the beginning.

I'm working on a magazine story about a guitar. In my research to track down experts and luthiers I found a proprietor down in Nashville known for his expertise on vintage acoustics. We ended up talking for hours. I felt like I was talking to an artist, historian, museum curator and musician all in one. Every question lead to more questions. Quotes lead to books, and photographs in those books lead to even more phone calls and interviews. I was inhaling sitka spruce yesterday, day dreaming about old jumbos and the people who picked them. I hope the story comes out as impassioned as the research gathering's been. It certainly had me stopping every so often to pick up my trusty Epiphone acoustic and pop in an instructional DVD to work on some fingerpicking or new chords. I'm not a great guitarist, but great guitars make me weak in the knees and inspire me to be better. Show me a pre war Southern Jumbo and watch me quiver like a fourteen year-old in a Twilight pre-screening. I don't want Edward. I want Dylan.

After a few pages of notes and a few hours with my guitar I got a phone call from a friend about a concert that was in town for one last night. Mads Tolling, a Danish Grammy award-winning jazz fiddler was doing a show at the elementary school with his guitarist, bassist, and drummer. It was fall-down-the-stairs good. He started with some spicy self composed numbers, the rolled into Monk and Miles Davis covers (though "cover" is hardly the right word when talking about improvisational jazz) and ended with a floor-shaking version of Zeppelin's Black Dog. His guitarist was amazing, working with that Gibson hollowbody (and if you click that link in the sentence before. You'll know what I mean). I watched this guy play one of the same guitars I had been talking about that very morning. It was like waking up and reading Black Beauty and then watching a black stallion show up in your backyard.

I was grateful Vermont has people bringing folks like this in to keep us bottom feeding musicians clamoring for our own evolution. A great performance makes me want to just go home and play. Not to sound like a fiddler like Mads, but to sound like a better version of Jenna. There is ample room for improvement. I'm never bored.

14 Comments:

Blogger Laura said...

Love your zest for life! No one should ever be bored!

January 24, 2010 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger (Mary) (Mo) said...

Thanks for your sharing your continued passion for music. I traded in my graduate school sociology books for a strum stick after reading your book.

I still can't play that much on it but I really enjoy getting it out to strum...even hearing others play it makes me exceedingly happy.

January 24, 2010 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Abi said...

Oh, have you ever gone to concerts at the Basement Music Series here at VAE? Great stuff. Matt, the man who runs it, is a good friend of ours. Anyway, we can talk about it later :)

My neighbor says, "Only boring people get bored." and you are certainly not a boring person.

January 24, 2010 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Tora said...

Mom always told me that being bored was a sure sign of a lack of intelligence. So much to see and do and listen to out there....

January 24, 2010 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Nothing like sitting at the feet of a master to make you want to go home and practice! Inspiration is always a good thing.

January 24, 2010 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Thanks for the you tube link. Mads Tolling is truly amazing!

I held a beautiful fiddle for the first time on Friday...I wanted to take it home so badly...but 400 bucks is way out of my price range. I'll have a fiddle soon, although mine will be a cheap starter...but that's just fine with me.

Blessing,
Debi

January 24, 2010 at 5:37 PM  
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January 24, 2010 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Dog Trot Farm said...

Jenna- finished reading your book this evening and had to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Just found your blog and see that I have some catching up to do since the completion of your book.

January 24, 2010 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

speaking of music, I bought the Sarah Jarosz cd today on your recommendation. You have excellent taste!

January 24, 2010 at 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Michael J. Bird (Nickel Chief) said...

This is not especially useful, but the post made me think of "Black-Eyed Dog" by Nick Drake. One of my favorite guitar performances ever, one of my favorite works of art, ever, ever, forever and ever amen.

You probably already know it. But if not, O! How exciting it will be to hear Black-Eyed Dog for the first time.

Love reading your posts, from a sorta-neighbor down in the wilderness of Western MA.

- Michael Bird

January 24, 2010 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger John from Taos said...

A long time ago ('66? '67?) I saw a BLUES fiddler perform in Austin: T. "Holy" Jackson was his name, and I've never, ever forgotten.

January 25, 2010 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

MIchael, when I think of music and black dogs, nick drake's song is exactly what I think of. I know it, and love it.

January 25, 2010 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger panthercreekcottage said...

I so get that Jenna. HH and I feel our knack for music doesn't warrant our collection guitars,fiddle,banjo, and mandolin propped up in the corners of our lil' ol' cottage. But then I've heard it said that if only the loveliest birds sang, the forest would be quiet. Now where to put the new keyboard.

January 25, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Trista Hill said...

I so relate to this. Something about wood and strings. It gets straight to our hearts and souls, doesn't it? And oh YES about Nick Drake.

January 25, 2010 at 9:06 PM  

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