Jammin' with the Best of Them!
A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch
Spread the news - the Godly jam was good!
Phil Keaggy, the world renowned innovative guitar guru who is best known for his signature styling, fast licks, melodic sensibility and angelic vocal range was in Wayne, New Jersey on Friday January 12, 2007, for a make-up performance of a weather-related cancellation from the previous month - and make up he did. By including an unannounced improvisational jam near the end of the show with some of his musician friends Keaggy guaranteed that this would be an extra-special evening!
Phil Keaggy and Tony Levin get a groove going!
Calvary Temple International Assembly was near capacity and as the house filled the curious stage alignment that could be easily seen included a drum kit and bass amp indicating that some guests would be joining Keaggy later for a power trio set.
George Flores of WMCA mentioned that before Jesus grabbed him he liked the song "David and Goliath" by Phil's secular band Glass Harp and he described how he later named his Christian radio show after that tune and the Bible story. George introduced Keaggy who looked dapper in dark trousers with a matching jacket and a beret. Phil took the stage and indeed indicated that some friends would be joining him later in the night. But before that was to happen there was a more traditional solo Keaggy set to perform.
Phil's first song of the evening was the instrumental that Flores had mentioned. Immediately, Phil was tapping out a rhythm on the body of his acoustic and delicately plucking sounds from the whole neck of the guitar. Keaggy's fingers fluttered over the fret as he added some alternate tunings to the 1971 classic. Phil crafted a musical battle with his picking and tapping, closing the song with its familiar refrain.
"You Have My Heart" was a straight forward guitar and vocal piece with expressive lyrics about love. "Revive Me" off of Phil's most recent CD Dream Again was a contemplative piece. Keaggy utilized loops to craft the beat and then in almost a whisper he sang about life's struggles. Subtly the vocals and guitar swelled up to the refrain about revival before returning to the more serious tone of the song. The tune is moody yet uplifting, enhanced by multiple sequences of chord groupings, loops and elongated notes.
Phil mentioned that he loves playing this next song as he moved into the airy yet elegant "Shades of Green". He tapped a beat, a bell and an egg into a loop through the mouth of his guitar, layering those effects under his vibrant leads then melding the tap method into the arrangement. "Dream Again", the new record's title track, was a reflective song with words of encouragement. Next up was song I believe Phil has played at every show that we have seen. "Salvation Army Band" was its usual engaging self as no two versions are the same and it is still one of our favorite live staples. The up-beat anthem allows plenty of room for innovations and on this occasion Keaggy experimented with some alternate tunings in the lower ranges, adding a few strange chord structures to the loop before melding them with a lead that was sort of bluesy. He had the timing just right for the refrain "cover me" to echo the loops.
"What A Day" was just as joyful in 2007 as it was when Phil wrote it as a younger Christian and music pioneer. Phil took the song in a number of different musical directions before flowing into "County Down", which was a majestic instrumental exploration. The rhythm for "True Believers" was quickly established with the use of a shaker and a tap along with some echoes. Keaggy utilized a number of techniques throughout the song including a move where one hand tapped the strings while the other picked.
Phil's guest musicians were then announced to be bassist Tony Levin and drummer Jerry Marotta! Both have played with a long list of popular musicians and they are regular members of Peter Gabriel's touring band. Talk about a power trio! Phil switched to a bright red Parker Fly and they moved into a creative interpretation of "The Pink Panther Theme" and than segued into more experimental terrain with detours into the blues and funk. Phil and Tony were watching each other to determine the direction of the jam, which kept getting hotter as they found their groove.
Levin is a dynamic player and also apt at experimentation. At one point, Tony was wearing long fingers, plucking and tapping the thick strings of his instrument crafting unusual sounds from his bass. Jerry was potent without being overpowering, adding percussion and sound effects such as birds and bells to the mixes. During the three song set Keaggy used the JamMan adding some of his signature stylings to the jams. Phil summed it up well with "wow", later stating that he was honored that this much respected rhythm team was "playing with little old me". The fact that high caliber musicians such as Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta are jamming with Phil is a testament to Keaggy who may not be as well known as other guitar greats but he is a master in his own right. Thus the improv set closed on a high note.
Phil on lead - Keaggy, Levin and Marotta take a bow!
Tony Levin is an influential and innovative bass player who is credited with helping to popularized the Chapman Stick and the NS upright bass. Tony crafted the funk fingers and has played with a long list of musicians ranging from Joan Armatrading to Pink Floyd. Levin also has his own band and has released a number of solo records. Jerry Marotta is a drummer, singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who has composed and recorded for various mediums. Jerry has an impressive discography that included Elvis Costello and the Indigo Girls to name but a few of many.
For his encore, Phil returned to his acoustic and his roots with an animated version of "Love Divine". The crowd clapped along but Phil lost his place for a moment, quickly recovering and ending the tune with some pretty picking. Someone in the audience yelled out "Strong Tower" and Phil obliged by performing a potent version of the classic and ended the set with a new song "Thank You For Today" - an intelligent song about living for and being thankful for the day. The track featured classic Phil taps and technical techniques. A beautiful song to close an incredible night.
Phil has been playing with some big league musicians more regularly these last few years. When indie band Dispatch disbanded in 2004, Phil was invited to join the group for their farewell concert in front of 100,000 fans in Boston. Dispatch recently announced that they will reunite for a run of sold-out concerts in New York's Madison Square Garden to benefit charities in Zimbabwe. Phil added lead guitar work to Dispatch's Braddigan's solo debut Watchfires in 2005. Phil also made a guest appearance on the songs "Revolution" and "Eternal" from P.O.D.'s self-titled 2003 release and he is reportedly continuing his work with P.O.D. guitarist Jason Truby.
In a 2004 interview with Kweevak's Rockin' Rich Lynch for the Kweevak Podcast, Keaggy was asked if he had ever considered recording a guitar duos album.
"Oh yeah, I'd love to do that, wouldn't that be a blast! You know Eric Johnson, Joe Walsh, Satriani, you name it, you know, Pat Metheny," Keaggy said in response to the inquiry. "I have had a chance to jam with Larry Carlton and Greg Martin, who is a great guitar player, one of the greatest blues guitarist I ever heard. Rick Derringer sat in with us when we played the Dallas guitar show. He and I spoke recently about possibly working together on something."
"I'd love a chance to meet Mr. Eric Clapton, but I don't really see that happening very easily," Keaggy continued. "You know it's a big world and these guys are in a really much higher genre than I've been. I've been kind of an underground guitar player all my life."
But Keaggy did get a chance to hang with one of his greatest influences a few years back.
"I did meet Paul McCarntey once," Keaggy said about the day he encountered his boyhood idol. "That was a great experience meeting him and sitting on his brother-in-law's bed and playing guitar for about 20 minutes."
"That would be a pretty fantastic record I'd have to say," Lynch concluded returning to the idea of a Keaggy/guitar contemporaries duo record.
"Well, I'll tell you what, I'm more open to that then you could believe - to do that sort of thing at this time in my life," Keaggy responded. "I've tried a lot of things. I've also been very boxed into the CCM thing for so many years where the box was kind of small and the perimeters were kind of limited. But, I always look at it this way - it's God's world, it's God's field, it's His planet. He loves these people all over the world and music is so universal. It's a great way of communicating emotion and thought and life and truth and I'm really open to collaborating with a lot of different people - it's an exciting time."
Keaggy has been very prolific over his career releasing nearly 50 records as a solo artist and with his band Glass Harp. In addition to the regular albums, there are dozens of compilations, special fan club and independent releases, and many guest appearances on other artist's recordings. Complementing the the latest vocal album Dream Again, Phil is currently promoting three instrumental CDs and an archival DVD project by his band Glass Harp.
Together with Mike Pachelli, who is known as Florida's favorite jazz-rock guitarist, Phil has completed a duet CD called Two of Us. Two additional Keaggy solo guitar projects also recently hit the market. Jammed! is a comprehensive instrumental project spanning the genres of rock, blues, and funk seasoned by elements of fusion and jazz. Fans will experience firsthand why Phil Keaggy is widely considered one of the best guitar players in the world. Jammed! features production notes penned by Phil himself sharing his thoughts and personal stories behind each of these tracks giving fans an inside look at this virtuoso and his boundless mastery of the guitar. There is also a track that was recorded by an 18-year-old Keaggy in his Ohio bedroom which offers a look at why Keaggy was hailed as a guitar-slinging boy wonder back in the day! On Roundabout Keaggy reveals his mastery of live electronic 'looping' that allows him to combine the sounds of multiple guitar parts, with only one acoustic guitar. Phil has been perfecting this art in concert and soundchecks over the years and the CD has been called one of Phil's most astonishing instrumental recordings to date.
On Glass Harp's new concert DVD, Circa 72, fans will see the mythical progressive power trio at their apex and just before Keaggy would leave the group to embark on his fruitful solo career. Known to fans and collectors to have been in existence for over 30 years, this live performance is part of rock history as one of the first-ever live television and radio simulcasts of a rock concert. Circa 72 has been digitally remastered to provide a pristine portal to the past. Available for the first time ever, Circa 72 finally allows the viewer to witness the legendary group's live performance at the conclusion of their storied career. The DVD also includes several special features including outtakes and a commentary track by the band.
New Music From Phil Keaggy!
In addition to appreciating his spectacular ability the fun thing about being a Keaggy fan is you can always count on new quality product to emerge. Now that more musicians are taking notice of his demonstrable crowd-thrilling skills we expect to see more collaborations in the future and that makes us excited to see who he'll be jamming with next!
Related Links: For more information on Phil Keaggy and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- PhilKeaggy.com | philkeaggy/myspace | TonyLevin.com | JerryMarotta.com | Video of the Jam in NJ
(Originally Published on January 16, 2007)
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