Tommy Emmanuel: Awe-Inspiring Aussie
Conquers New York with Axe in Hand!
A Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Tommy Emmanuel is a household name in his native Australia and he has fans worldwide. Tommy has collaborated with many first class musicians including Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh and a number of symphony orchestras. Emmanuel is also an in demand session player but he shines brightest as a solo performer.

The B.B. King Blues Club Bar & Grill in Times Square!

Tommy started playing the guitar at age four by ear and by age six he was already working professionally. In his early teens, Emmanuel moved to Sydney to continue playing in clubs and perfecting his craft. Emmanuel is a finger style guitarist and so much more. At times he taps his instrument as if it was a piano and on other occasions Tommy bangs the body of the guitar like a drum. Emmanuel is truly an incredible and inventive player.

One of Emmanuel's early influences was the legendary Chet Atkins. In 1996, Tommy had the opportunity to record an album with his childhood hero. The Day the Finger Pickers Took Over The World was nominated for a Grammy. only recently discovered the amazing Tommy Emmanuel. Back in June of 2005, we had the honor of attending the Les Paul 90th Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall. The show included an impressive list of guitar players but Tommy's performance was one of the standouts of the evening. Tommy walked on stage with a beat up acoustic guitar, before long he was picking out amazing textures and tones from his instrument before concluding with a drum solo played on the base of the guitar. Tommy paid a great tribute to inventor Les Paul with his animated and innovative solo.

A few months later, when we heard that Tommy was scheduled to appear at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill on October 11, 2005, we knew we had to attend. We have seen many great concerts at this venue in the heart of Times Square. The majority of shows are cabaret seating. The staff is efficient and friendly and all the various menu items that we have tried have been fresh and flavorsome.

Tommy started his first set on time and thanked everyone for coming out on a Tuesday night. Emmanuel had a capo on his acoustic and jumped right into a fast and furious instrumental, which got the crowd hooting. Song two featured a lush guitar lead layered over a lively rhythm. Tommy was crafting colorful textures from each chord, the song finished with the final notes resembling raindrops.

Tommy Emmanuel onstage at the B.B. King Blues Club Bar & Grill in NYC!

"It's so nice to be back at B.B's house," Emmanuel stated before playing a blues song with a rap about "going to school to teach, going to school to preach."

The song moved to a slower and more soulful pace as Tommy delicately picked the strings. The audience cheered and he responded that he was "just warming up."

Tommy is a zealous musician. At times, he plays the guitar with his whole body, yet he is tune with his audience making spontaneous quips and sharing stories.

Song four had rapid chord progressions as Tommy played dueling parts that were captivating and well received by the listeners. Emmanuel mentioned that Chet Atkins changed his life as he introduced the minor blues 'Playful Day'. Tommy joked that "I'm my own little orchestra" as he demonstrated how he gets different sounds from his acoustic. The song moved at a foot tapping pace as Emmanuel pulled long notes from the strings and than changed to a more playful part as his fingers seamlessly flew up and down the fret.

It is amazing how Mr. Emmanuel incorporates so many techniques into a single instrumental ranging from tapping on the body of the guitar for a drum effect to playing both guitar and bass lines. On other occasions he touches the guitar as if he was playing a piano. As he was jamming, there was a change in the lighting and Tommy impulsively said, "hey man the mushrooms are working."

Emmanuel returned again to Mr. Atkins, mentioning that he had the pleasure of recording an album with Chet, and he introduced the next song as one of Chet's favorites. The tune started off slow and sweet and subtly the pace increased with an almost stand up bass sound before moving into an animated guitar part. The next instrumental was one of Tommy's favorites from those sessions and was played in the key of B with lots of changes in textures and tones.

Tommy Emmanuel mixed it up with his unique approach to the guitar!

Tommy stated that the night before he played with Les Paul. Lou Pallo, the rhythm guitarist in Les' band was in the audience and had requested 'Mona Lisa' – a Nat King Cole song. Tommy's interpratation was vibrant with cascading chords, soft taps and then thicker notes, which resulted in a broken string. Tommy joked, "Nat's ghost is paying a visit but it will take more than that to stop me". He switched to another guitar and continued adding a Latin flavored, trebled effect to the tapestry. Someone shouted "beautiful" and it was.

The next song was furious with running riffs and Tommy's hands were all over the base of the instrument, some guitar parts sound like a banjo. It was mind blowing, followed by 'Lewis and Clark' that started with an old world flavor and moving into more exploratory leads.

After the break, Emmanuel thanked every for their patience and starting playing a happy, free-flowing instrumental. Grabbing a paintbrush drumstick he banged out a bongo like solo and rotated between hitting the mike and the guitar with the brush. He than alternated the drum part with strumming the guitar. Tommy picked some high-pitched notes before returning to deeper riffs. This animated instrumental was well received.

Tommy performed 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' inspired by Mr. Paul who had played it the night before. Emmanuel executed the classic with long notes full of color adding treble and other subtle effects. Next, he played a magical medley of Beatles songs. Tommy added extra exclamations to 'When I'm 64' and a piano part before playing a dense version of 'Day Tripper'. 'Lady Madonna' was fast and furious with Emmanuel handling multiple parts of the tune. This stellar sequence earned Tommy a standing ovation.

The second set included many innovative and potent instrumentals, an Elvis cover and a touching vocal song written for his daughter. Towards the end of the show Tommy performed an aboriginal-themed composition, crafting drums and other native sound effects all with his lone acoustic. The show at B.B. King was incredible. Emmanuel is a dynamic musician and a personable entertainer who still brings originality and passion to his art.

Tommy Emmanuel drew numerous standing ovations at his recent New York City gig!

Related Links: For more information on Tommy Emmanuel and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- | B.B. King Blues Club

(Originally Published on October 16, 2005)




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