Solo Musicians: Like Trapeze Artists Working Without A Net

Solo artists have had a very profound effect on me through the various stages leading up to my musical adulthood. Like swimming outside the breakwater, they are susceptible to any and every lurking hazard; with no way to protect themselves; with nowhere to hide and, no way to escape accountability for the presentation they put forward. I would like to share with you a few of the artists that I have admired so.

Gene Krupa was arguably the man responsible for bringing drumming into the forefront and out of the shadows of back-line performance. Because of him, drum solos became expected, anticipated; the audience waited for it kind of like the grand finale of the concert. A drummer soloing, was to me, like a goalie coming out of his crease, taking a skate around the ice and then scoring a goal by the element of surprise! A real event to be remembered. Emulated, honored and influencial, he single-handedly created a musical buzz in his generation which I am and always will be awe-inspired. When I was 12 years old, I got to see an unforgettable drum clinic including him in a function room at Toronto’s Lord Simcoe Hotel (demolished in 1981).

Gene Krupa: For me, A One Man Band.

For me, Gene Krupa was all about making music (not just about technique) on a drum set; listen to his phrasing, his tones and his cadences. His solos were crafted spontaneously; very complete, a living, breathing entity…

Lenny Breau: This Is How I Will Always Picture Him.

Lenny Breau offered virtuosity, music and innovation on a platter for me, with my voracious musical appetite, to devour. I just couldn’t get enough; I still can’t and will never get enough. I always tell people how much I love guitar; I love the sound(s); the thought process. However, the thought of actually going after learning how to play, makes me run and hide! I am too keyboard oriented and a fretboard scares me! I wouldn’t say Lenny made it look easy but, I will say he made it look interesting and doable. It was his focus, and imagination that impressed me so.

The Claw (Jerry Reed) made me think in so many directions at the same time; different genre implications, technique AND imagination emanated from HIS take on this tune. I say HIS take because when he played this tune, HE owned it…

Joe Pass: Smooth, Fluent AND With Conviction; Just Great Music.

Joe Pass was a conduit to the generation of jazz that came before me. He represented an approach to standards that I could really connect with. I respected both his ability and integrity AND how he made it work for him in that particular era of music. I loved how his solo approach worked so well for him when he accompanied other masters like Ella Fitzgerald in duet settings.

Notice Joe‘s demeanor as he entices, cajoles and weaves us through his own Joe’s Blues

Bobby McFerrin: Perhaps The Epitome Of Solo Vulnerability.

Bobby McFerrin makes great music! Being your own instrument may be handy going to gigs but, his connection to that instrument, his sincere delivery and controlled output is a HEAVY proposition! I have learned a lot from Bobby; musical integrity, humility, work ethic AND conviction come to mind every time I witness him work.

Click and be amazed


2 thoughts on “Solo Musicians: Like Trapeze Artists Working Without A Net

  1. You’ve touched my soul with this one, Arnold. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on this kind of playing & it’s still my favorite way to play.The vulnerability aspect can be overwhelming, but I find the audience is always ready to forgive the mistakes. On the flip side, when you pull it off, it leaves a feeling like no other for both the performer & the audience.

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