Lenny Breau: There Is No Greater Love

Track

There Is No Greater Love

Artist

Lenny Breau (guitar)

CD

The Velvet Touch Of Lenny Breau (RCA/One Way Records)

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Musicians:

Lenny Breau (guitar), Ronnie Halldorson (bass), Reg Kelin (drums).

Composed by Marty Symes and Isham Jones

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Recorded: Shelly’s Manne-Hole, Los Angeles, 1969

Breau

Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

The tragic death of Lenny Breau in 1984 deprived the jazz world of one of its most iconoclastic guitar titans. Fortunately, his legend lives on in a body of recordings and videos. Unfortunately and inexplicably, this particular recording is currently unavailable, except in a few rare and expensive copies bought and sold by private collectors — and that’s a pity.

Lenny was a hard stylist to categorize. An American-born Canadian who came from a country music background, he was equally at home playing C&W, blues, or jazz. His unique fingerpicking ability allowed him to cover more ground than the plectrum guitarist and, as many have noted, he often sounded like two guitarists playing simultaneously. His right-hand technique of picking fluid solo lines with his thumb while comping triads with his fingers has never been equaled. Plus, he was a master at using false harmonics to expand the complexity of his chords.

These techniques are aptly demonstrated on "No Greater Love," which is prefaced by an ingenious tuning piece. Rich, harp-like arpeggios cascade from his Baldwin guitar as he adjusts the pitch of his strings, resolving seamlessly into the head. Suddenly, the trio launches into a satisfying swing, with Lenny in top form, blowing hot and free, chorus after chorus. At first, it really is hard to believe that this is just one guitar, with no overdubs. Of course, the flawless listening skills and responsiveness of sidemen Halldorson and Kelin add to the illusion. But, as the audience response reminds us, this is indeed a live recording.

So why review a track from an out-of-print CD? The reason is simple — this remains one of the greatest jazz guitar albums ever recorded. Why such a gem was allowed to fall through the cracks is beyond comprehension. Perhaps, if enough people express interest, it will be reissued. Would anyone care to head a grassroots campaign?

Reviewer: Bill Barnes

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