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Nick Webb; Guitarist for Acoustic Alchemy

OBITUARIES

February 07, 1998|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nick Webb, founding steel guitarist and composer of the contemporary jazz group Acoustic Alchemy, has died. He was 43.

Webb, whose albums have twice been nominated for Grammy awards, died Thursday in London of pancreatic cancer.

He formed the eclectic musical group in 1987 and recently had been working on its 10th album, "Positive Thinking."

"We're an instrumental music band of a wide variety of styles, and we've been marketed as New Age," Webb told The Times in 1988 during a series of performances in Southern California. "I don't mind that if it helps us reach an audience, though we don't have a lot in common with a lot of the New Age things. Our influences are jazz, European classical music, flamenco, as well as Latin and African rhythms and such. So it's more your world music, if you like, translated onto the guitar."

Webb and guitarist partner Greg Carmichael literally played their way to America in 1986, performing 10 minutes out of every hour on a Virgin Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles. They soon won a recording contract with MCA's Master Series and produced the successful albums "Red Dust and Spanish Lace," "Natural Elements" and "Blue Chip."

Webb and the band then switched to GRP Records, which plans to release "Positive Thinking" in May.

The group, principally Webb and Carmichael with backup on keyboard, bass, drums and percussion, has performed at the Roxy in Los Angeles, the Catalina Jazz Festival in Avalon, the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana and Humphrey's on San Diego's Shelter Island.

Carmichael said Webb had continued performing over the last year, despite his struggle with cancer, and that in that period he "managed to write some of the most beautiful music of his life."

Born in Manchester, England, Webb studied at Leeds College of Music.

He is survived by his wife, Kay, and their daughter, Alexandra.

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