Thursday, September 23, 2010

A movie about a guitarist ... by a guitarist

One of the coolest things about Steve Vai is that he is committed to his love of the instrument and music. Many artists have enjoyed artistic freedom, controlling their output and being able to maintain their visions thanks to his Favored Nations label.
Several years ago, Vai greenlighted a movie bio-pic about the legendary Hank Garland, called Crazy. I hadn't heard of this movie before coming across it on Netflix, and enjoyed it immensely.

Granted, it's a fictionalization, and gives short shrift to Garland's terrific jazz playing, but the first 30 minutes are a delight for fans of jazz guitar, western swing, or rockabilly playing. The opening shots of a room filled with Gibson and Gretsch archtops are a players' dream sequence.

For those unfamiliar with Garland, check out his recordings with Gary Burton. Burton says he went to Nashville to record with Boots Randolph, a local Evansville, Ind., hero when Burton was growing up, hired to play on Garland's jazz album.

The result is magic -- some of the best, hard swinging small combo music you'll hear. Garland reminds me of Barney Kessel at times, playing with that easy swing not matter the tempo, with a touch of blues every now and then.

His chord knowledge is just astounding, though. He jumps into quick chord stabs in the middle of a melodic run, then slips back into the run. Other times, he uses chains of chords to embellish a melody.

Check out Crazy if you like movies about musicians and great music. Watch for real-life guitarist Tony MacAlpine's screen debut as Wes Montgomery!

Oh, and producer Vai slips in for a moment Hank Williams.

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