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An Amalgam of Styles

Valley Life | sounds

Acoustic guitarist Robby Longley fuses flamenco, classical and jazz.

March 23, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Listening to Robby Longley perform his moody compositions, you cannot help but notice the finesse with which he plays the acoustic guitar.

A casual listener might think of Longley's contemplative sounds as flamenco, or even new age music. But doing so would be unfair to the musician's elegant guitar work. On albums such as 1999's "Sanctuary" and the more recent "Guitar Noir" (available on the Web through http://www.robbylongley.com), his sophisticated instrumentals transcend the boundaries of established genres.

"My music is a combination of flamenco, classical and jazz ideas all fused together," he said. "I don't want to be limited by any genre. I love to play the oud from the Middle East, the Greek bouzouki or the [Russian] balalaika. I feel at home with all those instruments. It just so happens that I'm better at the guitar."

A native of New Orleans, the 40-year-old Longley lives and records in the San Fernando Valley. He performs at private functions and does brief, intimate shows at coffeehouses and bookstores.

"For the past couple of years, I've been on this perpetual Borders [Books & Music] tour," he laughed. "I should have my own Borders tour jacket. I also play at parties where people gather around, and I perform and talk about the music. Any opportunity I get to play in front of an audience is wonderful."

A self-taught musician, Longley practices four or five hours a day. But he never allows his hard-earned technique to get in the way of self-expression.

"Over the years, I have met many guitarists who have dazzling technical skills but are unable to compose interesting music," he said. "Technique is not something I've labored over. I'm not saying it's not important, because every musician should develop a vocabulary of his own."

Longley said he hopes music will always be a source of mystery in his life.

"I like trying to discover more about myself through it," he said. "I never went to music school and nobody ever taught me to play in this or another way. It's just the inner songs that I hear and try to make sense of within the compositional process. And it's still very mysterious."

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