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Boy Wonder

Lenny Breau

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Album Review

Lenny Breau, with his inventive harmonic techniques, influenced many guitar players. When this unaccompanied guitar album was cut in 1956, however, Breau was 15 years old and still finding his way around the instrument. The title of the album is very accurate; Breau was a "wonder," but still a "boy"; technically very sound, but stylistically undeveloped, vestiges of the country music syndrome are very apparent in his playing. This is not surprising, since his parents, with whom he was working at the time, were Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody, reasonably prominent country music performers in and around Northeastern U.S. and Canada. Breau's technique also reveals the influence of the picking style of the seminal guitarist, Chet Atkins, with whom Breau would record in 1981. As it turned out, there was always a slight touch of country in Breau's playing.

While nowhere as developed as he was to become, this maiden album is a peek at the future. On "Caravan" and "Out of Nowhere," one begins to hear that style which eventually set the artist apart — his dazzling skill at keeping a walking bass going along with the melody line on top. Breau's tastes were catholic; he was at home with the blues, classical, and ballads. There's some of this expansiveness in the early stages of his career, illustrated with the ballad treatment of "September Song" and the blues on "The Blues Doubled" and "Speedy Blues." What is lacking is the command of improvisation and interpretative qualities that characterized Breau's playing in later years, although "September Song" presages the way that he eventually fashioned a ballad. In fairness, most of the 26 tracks are barely two minutes long, except for an almost eight-minute romp with "Blues in Extension," leaving little space for anything beyond a chorus of the melody. The 28th track is an interview of Breau by Betty Cody, on how Breau developed his interest in the guitar. This interview was taped by Al Hawkes, the engineer on this early Breau recording. Immature playing notwithstanding, Breau's light shone far too briefly, dying at the early age of 43 and leaving behind a scant recording legacy. Guitarchives, dedicated to preserving great guitar music, gets kudos for collecting and reissuing the first of his recordings. The sound, by the way, is excellent. The Boy Wonder album will be very attractive not only to lovers of the jazz guitar in general and Lenny Breau fans in particular, but to those interested in listening to a great jazz musician as he hones his skills.

Biography

Born: 05 August 1941 in Auburn, ME

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

An outstanding jazz improviser who performed on both acoustic and electric guitars, Lenny Breau's right hand drew on classical, flamenco, and country (Travis/Atkins) finger-picking techniques. He was among the first guitarists to digest the impressionistic, post-bop chord voicings of pianist Bill Evans. Breau developed the ability to simultaneously comp chords and improvise single-string melodies, creating the illusion of two guitarists playing together. His facility with artificial harmonics remains...
Full bio
Boy Wonder, Lenny Breau
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  • €11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Country
  • Released: 15 May 1998

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