Sunday, July 1, 2018

GUITAR GODS - Lawrence Juber

I first heard Laurence Juber when he performed Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" on Muriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Night (other guests at that performance include Peppino D'Agostino, Alex DeGrassi, Ed Gerhard, Phil Keaggy, Preston Reed, and more). Needless to say, I was blown away! I had to find out more about this amazing guitarist!

Turns out Laurence, who started playing before his teens, earned a music degree at London's Goldsmith College and immediately become a session guitarist, playing on countless projects, including the music for the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me".

In 1978, he joined Paul McCartney's band Wings, recorded on their "Back to the Egg" album, and hit the road for their UK tour. He picked up a Grammy Award when Wings took the Best Instrumental Rock for "Rockestra Theme" (he speaks about his time with Paul below).

After Wings, he moved to the US and his sessions include pop albums to TV shows to films, from "Dirty Dancing" to "Happy Days", and in 2005 picked up his second Grammy Award for his instrumental guitar version of "The Pink Panther" theme.

26 solo albums, instructional videos, a signature guitar from Martin, a book, and countless concerts later, Laurence Juber is still going strong. 2017 saw another album of Beatles classics and this year he re-released his 1979 album "Standard Time", and he's hitting the concert stage again.

Find Lawrence Juber on-line HERE.

I had a chance to speak with Mr. Juber recently. Check it out!


1) What are your current projects?

I've cut back on touring this year to spend time ‘in the woodshed - taking time to recalibrate.

One project is compile a folio of tunes tracing the history of fingerstyle playing on fretted instruments, from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. It includes transcriptions of lute and vihuela pieces, those for four and five-course guitar and 19th/early 20th century repertoire, including Americana ‘parlor' guitar. Working title is 'The Evolution Of Fingerstyle Guitar’ and should be out early 2019.

The steel string guitar's roots that are in a quite different tradition than the Torres-style Spanish guitar of classical pedagogy, so, although it includes ‘classical’ pieces, it’s intended to bridge the gap between the nylon and steel-string worlds.

I’m also working on a group of fresh arrangements, mostly standards, as well as writing new originals. Almost ready to start recording for a new album.

On the theatre front, I’m the guitar arranger for a musical Part Of The Plan which is scored with Dan Fogelberg's songs and which debuted in Nashville in September 2018. My wife Hope and I wrote the score for "Gilligan’s Island: The Musical" which was recently published and debuted in Melbourne, Australia earlier this year.

We now have our own record label, HoLoGram Recordings, which has digitally released my first album from 1979 ‘Standard Time’. That's not a solo guitar record, but it does have my first fingerstyle tune ‘Maisie’, which was recorded in Scotland in July 1978 during the Wings’ Back To The Egg sessions.

We have also digitally released "Get The Dirt" by Hope’s former comedy-rock band The Housewives. They had a cult following in LA in late 80’s and were played on Dr. Demento’s radio show, as well has regular TV appearances. John Mayall is featured on one track, playing harmonica.

I’m not doing many sessions, but I did play on Mike Love's latest album, and did some playing on the music for the Roseanne Show reboot.

2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

The historical stuff has been brewing in the background since I was at university in London in the early 1970’s. It’s an undercurrent that is rising to the surface.

It ties-in with some consulting I’ve been doing with my local LA school district, writing arrangements for, and coaching, a high school guitar and mandolin orchestra.

I’ve long had parallel tracks being a composer, studio musician and recording artist. When I first started recording solo guitar, my primary focus was on being a composer but, in time, the arranging became dominant.

Now I’m attempting to find a balance and connect it to the broader history of the guitar. I’m also pushing myself to improvise more with the jazz tunes that I’m working on - that means pushing the envelope with DADAGD tuning.

There’s a continuum between my albums. I constantly work to dig deeper into the instrument and I try to give each album a bit of its own flavor - trying different guitars, mic patterns, perhaps a rhythm section or other colors etc.

3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

It’s tough to answer that, after twenty six albums….

LJ Plays the Beatles (2000) was turning point, as it opened up my style to a wider audience. There are some specific arrangements like 'Strawberry Fields Forever' that exist in a unique guitaristic space. It was also the first album that was produced by Hope, who encouraged me to tackle the Beatle repertoire.

I produced and arranged Al Stewart's album "Between The Wars" (1995), the first of four albums I did with him. I did a lot of flat-picked semi-gypsy jazz stuff on there. Al has a unique take on British folk-rock, being one of its founders.

4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio), and do you have a favorite piece of gear?

My main live guitar is a custom shop version of my Martin signature OM21 in Guatemalan rosewood with a high Alpine ‘moon’ spruce top, hide glue and thin finish.

It’s strung with my signature Martin Retro Monel strings gauged 13, 17, 24, 32, 42, 56. There’s also a mahogany OM18, which I travel with when the other one is being refretted.

Both are equipped with a DTAR/DuncanWavelength pickup, customized with an Audio omni mic. A Grace Designs Felix pre-amp blends the two signals, with a TC mini HOF reverb in the FX loop.

In the studio, I use the guitar most appropriate for the tune. I have a few different incarnations of the signature guitar in different woods - mahogany is nice for recording

If I’m going out on a session, I’ll likely take a D18 1939-style ‘Authentic’, which is great for rhythm tracks, as well as a Greg Brandt classical and a 1964 Gibson J160E. I have an 1893 Martin 1-21 that is quite amazing.

I have a Collings OM1 from the early 90’s that has matured really nicely. I have an old 0-sized Fylde that I use for high-strung tuning.

My choice of electric tends to be style-specific: A Mexican 'Road-Worn' Strat strung with 11- 56, A Gibson ES275 for the jazzier stuff, an ES356 for a broader range of humbucking tones, a Les Paul studio with P90’s.

I keep the vintage guitars (including a '57 Goldtop) for special occasions………. I have a full set of pedals, but I’ve been using a Tech 21 Fly Rig as a front-end for electric shows - it’s a small compact unit that fits in a gig bag.

The built-in Sans Amp allows me to go direct if the backline isn’t up to snuff. ’68 Plexi Marshall 50 watt, ’64 Bassman and a Matchless DC 30 for amps.

For recording acoustic: a pair of Schoeps CMC5 small diaphragm cardiod mics run through a pair of old Neve 1272 mic-pres then into Apogee Rosettas and into Pro Tools at 96K/24 bit

5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?

When I started playing in 1963, there was an incredible variety of music around. The Beatles and The Stones were conduits to so much American music - Chuck Berry, Motown, Muddy Waters etc.

Then there were the folk pickers like Dylan and Paul Simon, as well as the UK players, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Martin Carthy. Davy Graham too. The Shadows - Hank Marvin was an influence.

I started listening to jazz guitarists Charlie Byrd, Howard Roberts, Barney Kessell, Joe Pass and of course, Django. Then there was ‘Beano' era Clapton, Beck, Hendrix etc. It was an amazing time to be a guitar playing teenager.

My ambition was to be a studio player, so I was studying classical guitar to develop my sight-reading. Eventually, I joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, which was a farm team for studio players.

I’m not sure what constitutes ‘new’ - I’m still catching up on the 70’s……….

6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Practice, practice, practice…… Understand music, the guitar and how they work together. If you are going to be a professional, take care of business, play out regularly so it all sticks.

7) You have worked extensively on stages both solo and as a band member, in recording studios as a session player and as a producer, and as a composer for TV and film. Where do you feel most at home: studio or stage? And can you elaborate?

I’m most at home with a guitar in my hands!

I don’t do much session work at this point - I gravitated to performing solo concerts some years ago. I enjoy creating and producing music - the process itself, writing, arranging, orchestrating….

It’s very satisfying to work with world-class musicians in the studio, plus there’s a lot less responsibility compared with being the artist or producer.

Ultimately, I enjoy making music, whatever the flavor of the gig.

8) You played in Wings with Paul McCartney from 1978 to 1981, appearing on "Back to the Egg" and touring Europe (plus additional shows), receiving many accolades (including the album charting in the top 20 in 14 countries and yielding a handful of top 40 singles), and landing your first Grammy award. Can you reflect briefly on your time with Paul?

Having the opportunity to work with one of the great musical artists of the era was a real education. We were encouraged to think of ourselves as a band, rather than Macca’s backing group and it started to open up my own creativity.

I was plucked out of the London studio scene and went from 3-4 sessions a day to a whole different work-flow. To that point, I hadn’t had to deal with all the things that accompanied being in a band - photo shoots, video sessions, promo tours. It was a big lifestyle change.

Denny Laine and Linda McCartney were both influences different ways too. I still get to play with Denny and my other fellow ‘Wingmen’ on occasion.

9) From a music degree from Goldsmith College to countless studio sessions to James Bonds theme "The Spy Who Loved Me" to Wings. then moving to the US and playing on dozens of TV soundtracks, working as a composer, and launching a highly successful solo career where you've been voted several times as Best Guitarist and received another Grammy award and released 2 dozen or so albums....just saying all that makes me dizzy! What do you see as the Laurence Juber legacy?

Being ‘Beatles adjacent’ has put me in the Fab history books. I’ll be thrilled if people continue to be entertained by my own music.

My hope is that my work will inspire young players to dig deeper into the musical potential of the guitar.

10) What are your future plans?

I have some co-billed dates with Scottish jazz guitarist Martin Taylor coming up in early 2019 and I’m working a new album.

As long as audiences continue to be entertained, I’ll keep doing concerts!

If you'd like to support my work...

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