The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lenny Breau & Miraval Rose

Rather than write my own article about tonight’s featured guitarist, I’ve realized I couldn’t say it any better than this excerpted article that ran in the January 2012 issue of Guitar World magazine. But nothing says it better than the music of Lenny Breau:

“Chances are you’ve never heard of the late jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, but ask Pat Metheny or Tommy Emmanuel and they will surely tell he's had a profound impact on nearly every guitarist who heard him play.

Though Breau never achieved commercial success, fellow guitarists revered him as an innovator for his unique finger-style chord melody technique, stunning pinch harmonic runs and wide musical vocabulary, ranging from country to jazz to classical. As Metheny put it, “he came up with a way of addressing the instrument technically that nobody had done before and actually no one has done since.”

Breau got his start at age 12 touring with his parents, popular country and western performers Hal “Lone Pine” Breau and Betty Cody. By the time he was a teenager, Lenny had mastered the Chet Atkins thumb-pick and finger-style playing and soon became fascinated by jazz.

I started playing jazz by slowing down Tal (Farlow’s) records and analyzing his runs," he said. "Bob Erlendson, a local piano player, taught me chord structure and which scales go along with them.”

Using the Chet Atkins’ finger-style technique he had learned as boy, Breau could simultaneously play melody, bass and chordal accompaniment, allowing him to segue between jazz chord melody, flamenco interludes, eastern ragas and country finger-picking with striking fluidly.

In addition to forging his own musical vocabulary, Breau helped to expand the sonic possibilities of the guitar. His reworking of Atkins’ artificial harmonic technique stunned and humbled guitarists lucky enough to see him perform live. Using this difficult technique, Breau created a dazzling harp-like effect by playing arpeggiated runs alternating between an artificial harmonic and a fretted note on adjacent strings.

Along with being a virtuosic and innovative musician, Breau also was a deeply troubled individual. He dealt with drug addiction and depression for most of his adult life and was described by friends as a man beloved by everyone he met, but incapable of taking care of himself on a day-to-day basis.

On August 12, 1984, Lenny was found strangled at the bottom of the swimming pool at his apartment complex in Los Angeles. No one was charged with his murder and the case remains unsolved.”

What is this thing called love:

For me, summertime means Rosé and Miraval ($20.00) is an excellent example of what the wine should be. While some people will buy this simply because it comes from the estate owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, this light pink colored 2014 Cotes de Provence Rosé sports a fresh bouquet of wild strawberries and raspberries to go with a supple, lightly textured, silky and seamless feel on the palate. Brisk minerality runs through the wine accompanied by vibrant acidity, extending the flavors and whetting the palate for another sip. About as gulp-able and hard to resist as Rosé comes, it's a killer summer wine. Costco carries it, so grab a bottle and kick back with the music of Lenny Breau as the kids go back to school. It’s a great way to spend an evening.