D’Gary–International Guitar Night

As we approach the 10th touring season of International Guitar Night, I find myself getting a bit nostalgic about all the great artists I’ve had the chance to work with as part of the show.  I’ll be using this blog to reminisce a bit about them, as well as our adventures together….

He’s a real trooper, for sure. Imagine, flying from Antananarivo to Victoria BC for one day of rest, then a show. Then, the *next day*, we fly together from Victoria, to Vancouver, to the YUKON, meet an artistic liaison at the airport, then hop in a van for a 6 hour ride to our show…. Oh, but did I mention, we needed to make a pit stop along the way to buy D’Gary some clothes? That’s right… it turns out that D’Gary made it, and his guitar made it…. BUT, his clothes didn’t. And you know, it’s very, very, cold in the Yukon in November…

D'Gary, Freezing in the Yukon!

D'Gary, Freezing in the Yukon!

I first found out about D’Gary from a Shanachie compilation of guitarists from Madagascar that was produced by Henry Kaiser and David Lindley.  For years, I’d dreamed about having him in the show, and finally had the chance to feature him in the International Guitar Night II tour and live CD two years back. Here are a couple of D’Gary’s solo cuts from that album:

D’Gary: “Ligniso Zaho, Please Wait for Me”

D’Gary: “Kelikely Fa Nama; Girlfriend”

I’m not very haiku about much of anything. I sometimes need to hear myself talking to recognize what I’m trying to say. I often obfuscate to the point of headaches with long, dense, convoluted sentences. That’s what you get for studying Philosophy in Germany, I guess.  D’Gary, on the other hand, is much like his music; non-verbal, quiet, yet powerfully emotive.

We Had Elk Meat Stew for Hospitality at this Gig, and This was Our View

We Had Elk Meat Stew for Hospitality at this Gig, and This was Our View

It was a welcome culture shock to keep my mouth shut and just let myself enjoy the silence with him.   Enroute to this show, we paused together on a rest-stop veranda, contemplating the snowy plains. We were quiet like that for a long time. Then, D’Gary finally said, “I want…to move… to the Yukon!” And we both began to laugh. When you’re from perpetually hot and humid Madagascar, the snow and cold in Montana looks pretty appealing. And, if you’re from the Yukon, stuck in the dead of winter, the thought of sunny Madagascar might offer solace on a dreary night.

Despite divergent cultures it seems we all at times want what we *don’t* have… This is something to laugh about, or, cry about, when you for a moment contemplate what people in Madagascar, for example, and other places around the world, *don’t* have. And it was more than once I looked in D’Gary’s eyes to see an anguish I could not wish away, which I surmised stemmed from exactly that.

You can feel a melancholic and even at times angry tinge in both D’Gary and his music. This is a natural reflection of coming up in impoverished circumstances–he apparently spent much of his life playing on borrowed guitars! But he also intimated to me that his songs are a reflection of, and a coming to terms with, the injustices in his country and the pain he’s experienced from that in his life. Like a lot of guitarists I’ve met, music is an outlet that brings meaning to wordless experience and helps with release.  I can empathize with D’Gary because I’ve  also transmuted some of my own pain through music, thankfully.

There’s no way you can make up for the kinds of challenges others may have faced in their life. I’ve learned this the hard way. I spent a lot of my life yearning for someone to do that for me, when all the while I was perfectly capable of doing it for myself!  All you can do, and what I try to do in IGN, is treat the people who are in the show with the reverence they deserve.  From a musical point of view, D’Gary is certainly deserving of  *a lot* of reverence.

D'Gary Endured Losing His Luggage in the Yukon and Returning Home to a Broken Guitar

D'Gary endured losing his luggage in the Yukon and returning home to a broken guitar.. Not sure about what the hippo is doing on top of a luggage carrousel in a Canadian airport, by the way!

D’Gary is a real master; a cultured, sophisticated man. Someone who makes you feel proud to share company with. His tone is EXQUISITE, and it is very hard to tell exactly HOW he gets it, which makes him even more intriguing. His compositions are very sophisticated, even esoteric. His songs hearken to his culture and folk music; rustic, in a way. Yet, his polyphony is quite modern in the way each voice in the solo piece is layered; referencing different instrument types from his homeland in the way he plucks his strings.

On the Way Home, D'Gary's Stonebridge Broke in the Turbulence: Fortunately, It was Eventually Fixed!

On the Way Home, D'Gary's Stonebridge Broke in the Turbulence: Fortunately, It was Eventually Fixed!

I was really proud to be able to help him get a Stonebridge Guitar, which he used on his tour of Canada and the US with us. However, he was laid up by some severe weather on the way home; first in Montana, because of a snow storm, then in Atlanta, because of hurricane season in Madagascar. This whole experience was incredibly exasperating, not just for him, but for our venerable road manager, Richard Rice as well.

After more than a year, D'Gary was able to deposit the broken Stonebridge with Clive Carroll during a layover in London, when it was finally fixed!

After more than a year, D'Gary was able to deposit the broken Stonebridge with Clive Carroll during a layover in London, when it was finally fixed!

D’Gary was finally able to make it back a few days later than planned. But the turbulence snapped his guitar neck! It took more than a year before D’Gary was able to get the neck fixed, with the help of Clive Carroll from London!!

D’Gary and Clive in Duet! We filmed this from the green room at the wonderful Harmon Hall in San Louis Opisbo… Check it out:

D’Gary didn’t have as hard a time making it to rehearsal in New Orleans during our US tour…. But the other guy in this video below, Miguel de la Bastide, DID… that’s a story for another time, though…..

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International Guitar Night Live Album Series

Last week, my new friend and producer Wynn Gogol sent the next to final rounds of mixes for our “INTERNATIONAL GUITAR NIGHT LIVE” series recording.  I’m going to give a listen to the material this weekend and will probably provide some audio highlights as a preview here at this blog early next week. Stay tuned if you’re interested. This year, we also have a high quality DVD for the tour that’s being produced by Warmland Studios.

It’s a very cool group we have this year; Django Reinhardt’s great grand nephew Lulo Reinhardt, legendary harp guitarist Stephen Bennett, and a very cool pianist/guitarist from Israel, Itamar Erez....

Check it out:

Hard to believe it, but this is our 10th season as a touring act. We started out as a Bay Area thing more than 15 years ago, working in small venues like Strings and the Freight and Salvage, and California World Music Festival. With the help of the Herschel Freeman Agency, Bert Jansch’s booking agent in the UK, John Barrows, and select sponsors like Stonebridge Guitars and Acoustic Guitar Magazine, we’ve grown into a global thing with up 60 shows each season in very classy venues.

After going round and round for years on what kind of releases to produce with IGN, Herschel and I decided that a one of a kind live album series would be best. But, how to do this? We got the live album concept going with the help of Steve Vai and Favored Nations Records. Peppino D’Agostino, whose solo projects are on Steve’s label, put in a good word for IGN with him. Then, friend and Guitar Night alum Pierre Bensusan put together the opportunity for us to record the first album with them. We recorded each show nightly, with the help of our manager Rich Rice, of the California Brazil Camp, We then selected the best pieces for inclusion on the album It featured Pierre and me along with the Brazilian composer-genius Guinga, and three time Grammy winner Andrew York. It was a great album and a dream come true to play with these guys. Check out these cuts from the Favored Nations release, An Evening with International Guitar Night, Live”:

Pierre Bensusan, Andrew York, Guinga, Brian Gore: “How Should I Know?”

Andrew York: “Moontan”

Pierre Bensusan and Guinga: “Without You”

Andrew York and Brian Gore: “Loom of Desire”

A few years after this album, I called an old friend who worked with Warner, Canada, Mike Peters. Mike and I had known each other for years as friends, but it had never occurred to me to ask him to help with our album series. We had a 25 city tour coming up, and we wanted the album out *before* the tour, so people could buy it at the shows. The line up featured Peppino D’Agostino and Andrew White, and also was the national debut of Antoine DuFour. Antoine was a relatively unknown player at the time who gave me his first CD after a show in Quebec:

We got together in Victoria, rehearsed for two days, and recorded a show which was then released on the second IGN LIVE album. And that process really laid the groundwork for the series. It’s a bit of a trial by fire thing, but never let it be said that solo guitarists aren’t up for a good challenge, right?  So far I’d say we’ve all done a pretty good job with it, too. Since then we’ve released two others. IGN LIVE II with Madagascar guitar legend, D’Gary, Miguel de la Bastide, and Clive Carroll;

And also, IGN LIVE III with Cecilia Zabala, Dale Kavanagh and Andy Sheppard.

Paranoid Android (not on the album!)

I get to accompany on all these albums, which is a pretty good gig indeed. Stage right has been my front row seat to some of the best guitar music on the planet, which is a consistently humbling and inspiring thing!