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Garrett and all that jazz

Juno Award-winning guitarist Amos Garrett is aiming to crank up the thermostat on jazz when his trio performs in downtown Red Deer.

Anyone who thinks jazz is cold, over-intellectualized music likely hasn’t heard the Amos Garrett Jazz Trio.

“The motto of our group is bringing the blues back into jazz,” said the High River resident, who’s known internationally for his innovative guitar style.

“Jazz used to be extremely visceral,” added Garrett, who believes the emotional component that was inherent to the improvised genre has somehow disappeared over the last two decades.

“There was a tremendous blues influence but it’s been lost over the last 20 years and, as a result, this has driven a lot of fans away.”

When Garrett performs along with finger-style guitarist Keith Smith and string bassist Greg Carroll on Friday, March 1, at The Hub on Ross, the trio intends to get things cooking in the bebop style of the 1940s and early ’50s.

“People love it, they absolutely love it,” said Garrett.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Geez, I really didn’t think I liked jazz’ — but they love what we do.”

The concert program, drawn from the group’s new CD, will include standards such as Miles Davis’s Freddy Freeloader, Thelonious Monk’s Misterioso, Art Tatum’s Cocktails for Two, Freddie Hubbard’s Little Sunflower, and Skylark, by Hoagy Carmichael, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Garrett said the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie is what he listened to as a teenager in the 1950s. It was staking out new ground, since his father was devoted to the early swing-era jazz of the 1930s.

“That would have been New Orleans, Chicago, Dixieland. . . .

“My dad was what bebop players would have referred to as a ‘mouldy fig,’ ” Garrett added, with a chuckle.

The 71-year-old guitarist was born in Detroit, but raised in Toronto, where his parents put him into piano and trombone lessons.

Garrett didn’t find an instrument that suited him until he took up the guitar at 14.

Then, he took to it so well he was performing gigs a year later.

By the time he hit college age, Garrett was learning the early acoustic blues of Robert Johnson and Leadbelly and working hard at developing his own style of playing.

The technique he eventually came up with involves bending more than one guitar string at a time, which allows him to sound something like a steel-pedal guitarist, while remaining rooted as a jazz player.

“It’s an almost impossible style,” admitted Garrett, who noted that despite his teaching DVDs, only Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and a few other guitarists have managed to put the technique into practise. “It’s very physically difficult.”

Among the many luminaries Garrett has played with over the years were Ian and Sylvia Tyson and their Great Speckled Bird band, Anne Murray, and Geoff and Maria Muldaur. In fact, he played the famed guitar solo in Maria Muldaur’s 1974 hit Midnight at the Oasis.

For the past 30 years, Garrett has led his own bands, including an acoustic act, a blues band and the jazz trio.

The guitarist said he loves playing for a club-sized crowd, as is expected at The Hub.

“It’s a really nice performance space, with a nice sound system, and the people are so nice. . . .”

Tickets for the 7 to 9 p.m. show at 4936 Ross St. are $20 at the door. Cash only.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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