Klugh works through technical problems to provide great jazz performance
Not even nagging technical problems are enough to slow down Earl Klugh in his love of solo guitar.
Mortify, perhaps, but the trouble stops there.
Friday evening, in the first of two shows at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, Klugh at one point mentioned there appeared to be some problem with the mic connection to his acoustic guitar. When an audience member shouted, "It's been all night," Klugh shielded his eyes and looked into the sell-out crowd.
"Aw, man," he sighed as a stage hand came out to help.
"Don't get me wrong," the voice continued. "You're playing magnificently."
He was and, at that point, seemed to ramp up his talents. For the next 50 minutes, Klugh played practically nonstop at the North Side venue, moving form one song to the next with a brief "thank you". The technical problems were solved and Klugh ended up offering about 85 minutes of solo play.
Even in the first third of the show, when some scratchiness took away from the purity of Klugh's playing, he was showing how solo playing means a great deal to him. He is good at it and has command of a vast number of songs.
In a talk before he came to town, he said he tries to do completely different sets if he is doing two solo shows one night. If that is the case, he did about 40 songs Friday night.
In the first set, he ranged from jazz classics such as "‘Round Midnight" and "Someday My Prince Will Come" to his original "Living Inside Your Love." He did standards such as "Alfie" and "The Shadow of Your Smile" and moved into "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and "Goin' Out of My Head."
He even did one of the great jazz head-scratchers: "The Love Theme from 'Spartacus,'" a song that has no right to be done by jazz players, but has such an intrinsic beauty it becomes a great ballad.
Before he went into his all-play mode, Klugh was chatty and offering good stories about meeting jazz legend Yusef Lateef in a music store and trying to conviince composer/arranger Johnny Mandel to work with him. Admittedly, those stories were slowing down the music, but they were creating a nice mood to the show.
Klugh is a fine player. He has shown that for 40 years, working with the likes of Lateef, George Benson, Return to Forever and Bob James. He says he loves playing solo guitar and does it well, getting melodic lines from the body as well as the neck. He also can create wonderfully fast accent runs down the neck of his guitar.
If the shows have a weakness, it is that they are filled with music that is much the same, There were few dynamic differences and the songs tended to be in a gentle, mid-tempo. This is not an exploration of an instrument like a Keith Jarrett solo piano concert. It is not an exploration at all; more of an appreciation.
Yet, he does it well and creates kind of a recital nature to a jazz concert.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.