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MUSIC | ROCKTALK

The Speed of Sound

Guitarist Jay Gordon lets his fingers fly.

May 15, 1997|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Guitarist Jay Gordon reminds me of Michael Flatley, the Irish step-dancing sensation of "Riverdance" fame.

Flatley's flashy feet once held the Guinness world record for tap dancing speed, achieving an amazing 28 taps per second.

Gordon, who's performing at B.B. King's on Monday night, plays guitar like that.

His fingers blaze across the strings, spewing out notes in rapid succession like an AK47. His playing is as much a feat of his athleticism as his musicality. And when I spoke to him on the phone, I found out he talks just like he plays.

"I think blues should be recorded raw--I prefer live recordings over slick studio records. Even when I make studio records, I play live--the only overdubs are the vocals--even my studio stuff is really live.

"The blues is much more artistic [than pop music]; you can play the same song but never do it the same way twice within the blues form--I have a lot of chops, but you gotta let the music breathe."

Whew! Good idea.

Gordon was raised in Chicago, where at an early age he was exposed to jazz and blues by his grandmother, who played the piano and organ. The young boy played various instruments but discovered the guitar at age 14.

During his teen years, Gordon played in Top 40 cover bands, performing all the hits--covering a wide variety of musical styles. Gordon said that spreading out helped his playing.

"The more music you play, it makes you a more well-rounded player and you can incorporate all these styles into the blues. The whole key to making music is to be original. I've always tried to sound like myself," he said. "Any time I do a disc, I want to make it different from the previous records.

"I feel very fortunate to have played with some of the legends. What I do in my stage show, I pay homage to the real cats who laid it down before I did."

One of those cats is the late Albert Collins, with whom Gordon formed a friendship in Chicago when Gordon was still a teen.

Another is L.A. blues man Philip Walker. Gordon performed with him at Walker's Club Four in Watts over the course of several years.

Together the two recorded an album, "Jaywalkin' " in 1995, and Gordon wrote the title track for Walker's upcoming solo album on Black Top Records, "Rub Some Good Luck on Me."

Besides his joint effort with Walker, Gordon has two solo albums available on Blue Ace Records--"Broadcasting the Blues" and "Blues Infested." Both have done well overseas, especially in Australia, Gordon said. Gordon is scheduled to perform on acoustic guitar on the "KTLA Morning News" on May 23. And there's talk about a European tour to France, England and Germany.

"My goal is to play large venues. I want to expose the blues to a much larger audience," Gordon said. "I'm really looking forward to making another record next year. I've been approached to do more pop-oriented stuff--I like all types of music--but I feel comfortable playing the blues.

"All types of blues--the blues comes in many colors, shapes and sizes," Gordon said. "The truth is, the blues is freedom."

* Jay Gordon plays Monday night at B.B. King's, Universal CityWalk. $6 cover. (818) 622-5464.

Elsewhere

What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play.

Flambookey, a metal-rap-funk band, plays Friday night at the Rock in Canoga Park. On Saturday, the real deal himself, Smokey Wilson, is gigging at Cozy's. And Bob's Yer Uncle, an 11-piece blues-swing band, is holding forth at the Classroom in Northridge.

On Sunday, Big Elvin's Blues Theatre, a blend of music and improv, will be at Smokin' Johnnie's in Studio City.

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