You can hear MP3 sound clips of many
of the tunes mentioned below by visiting
recordings page and clicking on
the highlighted tunes.
Acoustic Guitar Magazine, February 2001|
Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins added a real gem
to modern jazz repertory
when he recorded "St. Thomas" for his 1956 "Saxophone Colossus" LP. It's
undulating calypso rhythm, and lively, simple melody are irresistible to
instrumentalists of various
genres, including fingerstyle guitar master Eric
Lugosch, whose latest CD "Kind Heroes" includes a
crafty version of Rollins'
West Indies-inspired ditty.
Arranged in dropped-D tuning, Lugosch introduces
the head with a lovely
rubato section where the melody is harmonized with jazzy chords, a great
line and a ringing A7-D suspension a la Joseph Spence. He then sets the
piece in motion with a bouncy
I - V vamp that becomes the background for the
melody with embellishments in tempo, followed by
a series of ingenious
variations that move around the fretboard in surprising and delightful ways.
Lugosch keeps listeners in touch with the form by periodically quoting
snatches of the melody and
combining previous variations with new ones. The
three-and-a-half minute arrangement returns to a
variation of the opening
vamp and fades off into the tropical distance.
Lugosch says he first heard
Rollins' recording of "St. Thomas" in the 1960s,
and that later guitar recordings by Pat Donahue and
Phil Heywood got him
more interested in making his own arrangement.
"I used Pat's intro because
it seemed in keeping with the theme of the
album, which is dedicated to all the people who've inspired
me," he says. "I
first met him years ago at the National Fingerpicking Championships and I've
always admired the way he plays. He did 'St. Thomas' with an ensemble. Phil
Heywood's version kind
of mixed it with 'Brown Skinned Girl,' which I
thought was interesting."
Solidifying the many variations
and ideas he had toyed with over the years
for "Kind Heroes" was accomplished under difficult circumstances.
mother had passed away a few days earlier, and he needed to finish the
embarking on an imminent tour of Germany.
"I basically just sat for 24 hours and played the tune,"
he says. "It came
out differently every time, so I'm just glad it worked out. Some of the
happened away from the guitar; just me thinking 'What am I going
to do next?' "
and luck are part of the success of every good
fingerpicking arrangement, Lugosch takes an analytical
approach to unifying
different sections, themes and embellishments.
"All my variations follow a
sequence," he explains. "I might have two
variations that I like and instead of making a entirely
new third variation,
I'll borrow from the two I've already done to build the third one so it
sound like a disparate set of licks. I think it adds cohesion to a
piece. It's all diatonic - I am
Mister Diatonic, I admit it, but I don't
care. I don't try to be fancy, I just try to be to the point,
Mister Diatonic covers a considerable expanse of musical ground on "Kind
are exceptional arrangements of fingerstyle classics such as
Pete Seeger's "Living In The Country,"
which he plays with a jaunty, mambo
feel, and a smart rendition of John Loudermilk's "Windy & Warm"
with lots of
clever pull-offs, cross-picking and moving bass lines. Lugosch's version of
Goodman's "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" combines a
straightforward reading of the melody and
bridge with superb variations
reminiscent of pianists such as Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller. He also
out a spirited performance of the Reverend Gary Davis' "I'll Be All Right,"
another nod to
one of his guitar heroes.
Lugosch's original instrumentals are no less intriguing. "Primate House,"
"All I Wanna Do," and the title track abound with energy and rhythmic
intricacy, where "Lingua Franca,"
and "Dissertation In The Park" though no
less complex, create a more pensive mood. Completing the
program are three
original songs reminiscent of another of his musical heroes, Leo Kottke.
flinty baritone, and the rhythms, chord movements, and melodies of
"Tripping On My Own Feet" and "Her
Grace" bear a striking resemblance to
some of the Minnesota guitarist's work. He was in the 9th grade
time he saw Kottke in concert in the late 1970s.
"I was in heaven," Lugosch says. "Leo
Kottke was it. He just knocked me out
with the possibilities. I flourished with the writing, trying
Several years later Lugosch learned much of what he knows about arranging
composing from a jazz pianist named Ethel Ponz, who taught private
lessons near Temple University
where Lugosch was a voice major in 1980. He
says his studies with Ponz helped him organize and flesh
out his musical
"What she taught me was that you have to be neat, anally neat, when you
write," he says. "She took the mystery out of how to put something down on
paper. What I dug about
the piano was that if I heard a tune played on it,
no matter what key it was in I could sit down and
figure out how to do it.
It was linear to me, unlike the guitar where you hear something and there's
five ways of doing it."
These days Lugosch shares his knowledge with guitarists by teaching at
Old Town School of Folk Music and occasionally writing
instructional columns for music magazines.
In addition to recording and
periodic tours, Lugosch performs solo every Friday evening at Villa Kula,
which he describes as "a true listening room."
"The whole front room is dedicated to music," he says.
"There's no smoking,
and there's not a television in the entire place. I can't complain."
Heroes" and Lugosch's 1997 CD "Black Key Blues" are both available)
WHAT HE PLAYS |
For his recording of "St. Thomas" Lugosch played a 0-16 Martin New Yorker,
was recorded with a matched pair of Russian Okpava MC012 small
diaphragm condenser microphones.
had a custom made Martin that I just could not stand," Lugosch says. "It
was never built right. It
was quilted maple on the sides and back, with
German silver spruce top. It was a 14-fret model with
a slotted head, and
the guitar could never tune, it sounded like crap, but it looked good. I had
student, who wasn't so much a student as he was a guitar trader. He would
sell and trade guitars,
that's all he did. And he got this little 0-16 New
Yorker - I had played old New Yorkers, with the
slot head, and they're
really a folk guitar. But he got this from the custom shop about eight years
ago, with the low profile, wider neck and the reverse adjustable truss rod.
He brought it into his
lesson, and I played it and was knocked out. From the
start I was thinking 'I want this guitar.' I
was tongue-and-cheeking with
him and I said 'You wanna trade?' and his eyes bugged out because he
smitten with the look of my maple Martin. He agreed to do the trade, but I
suggested he could
play my guitar until his next lesson to make sure he'd be
happy with the deal. At his next lesson,
I asked him if he wanted to make
the trade final - I had my fingers crossed - and he said 'I already
your guitar.' "
Lugosch also owns a Kevin Ryan guitar that he uses along with the Martin New
Yorker in the studio and for live gigs. Both guitars are outfitted with a
Fishman Rare Earth blender
pickup, which he runs through a Fishman preamp
into a Fostex SP11 MK2 powered monitor.
"I use it
as a monitor when I do big gigs, and for a small PA for smaller
gigs," Lugosch says of the Fostex.
"It's unbelievable how good it sounds."
He also carries a Shure BG 5.1 omnidirectional battery powered
microphone for use with bigger systems.