What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Phil duGrey

Louisiana guitarist Phil duGrey is like something you've never seen before. Equipped with a 17 string guitar he is a one man orchestra.

He plays incredible solo pieces with walking bass, chords and melody all at the same time (al la the late, great Lenny Breau). He also plays incredible harmonic flourishes throughout his arrangements, and his choice of material is quirky but refreshing. Phil's guitar has 7 strings (tuned like a regular guitar, only with a high A string added) and then there are 10 sympathetic strings, which he plays like a harp. I've never seen anything quite like it.

I caught him at John Pisano's Guitar Night playing with my good friend Sid Jacobs. Quite a dynamic duo, I must say. Sid played his Bill Evans solo pieces and made quite an impression. Then Phil did his thing, and knocked everyone out. Then they played together (along with John Pisano). And, talk about a guitar jury in attendance that night ... Jay Graydon, Ted Greene, Russell Malone and Stevie Via along withd a number of other notables showed up take in the show. You have to be good to draw these fellows!

From Phil's web site on his latest CD:

Phil deGruy bends melodies and minds like so many guitar strings. So the title of his latest effort for solo "guitarp" (a self-designed contraption that blends an electric guitar with the tinkly high strings of a harp) is on the money. Surreal doesn't begin to capture the melodic minglings that deGruy envisions, then pulls off, to perfection.

Beneath all the lunacy is a sentimental romantic. For proof go right to the opening track, "The Dolphin," a solo workout notable for its Brazilian lilt and lush tone. His take on Art Neville's "All These Things" is similarly melancholy and dripping with those harp notes that twinkle like midnight stars. No matter how "out" he takes things, deGruy can't help his fondness for a solid melody. So he tackles a couple of Beatles tunes and Willie Nelson's "Crazy."

Sometimes lost in his melodic forays is the sure-fingered technique that makes deGruy a true original. An original what, I can't say for sure. To hear deGruy talk is to marvel at his love of jokes in bad taste. But there's nothing remotely sour or harsh on this record. The biggest surprise is that something so pretty could spring from such a twisted mind.

If Joe Pass had taken three hits of acid on his way to the pearly gates, this is what his last record would have sounded like. -- Scott Aiges, InsideNewOrleans.com, January 2001

Visit Phil deGrey's website at http://www.guitarp.com/

Listen to sound of Phil's sound clips at: http://www.guitarp.com/hellodali.html

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot in Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc plays Heritage guitars and endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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