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Two guitar festivals bring six-string aces to Southland

August 22, 2012|By Randy Lewis
  • Guitarist John Jorgenson will play at Orange County's Great Park in Irvine on Aug. 23 and at the 2012 L.A. Guitar Festival in Redondo Beach on Aug. 25.
Guitarist John Jorgenson will play at Orange County's Great Park… (Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The…)

Aficionados of guitar-driven music have a bounty of riches ahead this week with two events focused on players who are masters of the six- (and sometimes more) stringed instrument.

Southern California native John Jorgenson is involved in both -- the first unfolding Thursday, Aug. 23,  at Orange County’s Great Park in Irvine, the second the 2012 Los Angeles Guitar Festival holding court in Redondo Beach. Others joining in include Eric Johnson, Albert Lee and Robben Ford.

Jorgenson and his quintet, which specialize in music of and inspired by Gypsy jazz great Django Reinhardt, will be joined Thursday by blues guitar hero Junior Watson and folk-rock guitarist Mark Turnbull at a show assembled by veteran Orange County music writer Jim Washburn.

“I’ve been nuts on the guitar since 1964,” Washburn writes in a press release for the event, “but have just about had my fill of it, except for those exceptional few players who don’t go wheedle-wheedle-wee (as Frank Zappa described it) but who use their instruments as an expressive tool, to carry on a wordless dialogue about what it is to be alive and human.”

As for the players he’s lined up for Thursday’s show, Washburn tells Pop & Hiss, “Watson is nearly the only blues guitarist I can stand, because he plays with so much personality and unexpected humor; Turnbull is a great songwriter who uses the guitar to further color his compositions and Jorgenson, as you know, is the prime American player of the Gypsy jazz style pioneered by Django Reinhardt.”

The evening, cleverly dubbed “Jim Washburn’s Guitar Picks,” is free and starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Great Park’s Palm Court Stage.

Guitar collector Washburn says he’ll also have a display of some of the wackier instruments he’s acquired over nearly half a century of poking around pawn shops, thrift stores and starving musicians’ garages.

“The guitars,” Washburn says, “will be a mix of the sacred and the profane, including a mid-'60s Strat and Gibson J-160E (the guitar model featured on more Beatles records than any other), a 1957 canary yellow Harmony Stratotone with 'Harmometal' trim similar to a '50s dinette set, [and] a circa 1957 Japanese 'Havana' electric guitar, which is the strangest guitar I've ever seen -- despite the Cuban name, it looks like the electric guitar an Egyptian boy king would take to his tomb with him."

The two-day L.A. Guitar Festival gets under way Friday in Redondo Beach with rock-blues-jazz player Eric Johnson and widely renowned rock and country picker Albert Lee, who has played with Jerry Lee Lewis, Emmylou Harris and dozens of other luminaries. On Saturday, Jorgenson’s quintet shares the bill with Renegade Creation, featuring Robben Ford and Michael Landau, Pepe D’Agostino and Doug MacLeod.

It will take place at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Tickets run $30 to $125. Information: (562) 556-4824 or www.laguitarfestival.com.

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