It was a long time ago, when as a beginning music journalist I went to see a concert of a jazz guitar phenomenon Stanley Jordan. Myself, as well as the large part of the audience couldn’t believe what we had experienced. Jordan’s playing technique was absolutely unique, when he was able to play two separate guitars at the same time by tapping his fingers on the fretboards. No surprise than, that in closure of my resulting article I suggested, that the next morning after the concert will see my hometown littered with broken guitars thrown away by frustrated musicians realizing their inability to compete with, or replicate, such phenomenal musical capability.
Since those times I have learned one of the basic rules of the music world – it never stops evolving. Even if sometimes it may feel ‘stale’, there is always someone working hard in their basement, to introduce a new musical breakthrough. Guitar especially, is a very universal instrument, allowing, from time to time, such innovations. To prove my point, here are just a few names of guitar players, who have managed to change the history of music through their way of playing: Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix, Les Paul, Jaco Pastorius ( bass-guitar), and few others.
All these musicians make it, obviously, harder and harder to discover or invent something new. But with every new generation of musicians there are a few, who have the capacity to upend contemporary ways and approaches as they look and think about music and their instrument differently. One such musician, whom I discovered recently, is Matteo Mancuso.
Matteo is a 26-years old Italian jazz and rock guitarist. He started playing guitar with his father at the age of ten and got onto a stage to play live at 12 (as his Wikipedia page reveals). And it has taken him a bit more than ten years to be regarded as “a virtuoso beyond virtuosos”.
What makes his guitar playing unique is his finger-style right hand technique, similar to how a classical guitar is played (check it out here). But he has chosen a music genre that is very open to such innovative exploration – jazz. To be even more specific, it is the fusion jazz. This is the field of contemporary music, that allows many different streams of music to impact each other, to merge, combine, mix … and through that process to give birth to something completely new.
As I understand the jazz fusion now, it is basically everything, that could not be clearly assigned neither to pure jazz, nor to rock, world, pop, classical, or any other clearly defined genre. And that is great so, because – why to accept restrictions of music genres?
Matteo Mancuso definitely doesn’t get restricted in his playing, whether it is with his various trios, as a guest with a rock-band, or in a duet with the famous guitarist Al Di Meola (here they play ‘Spain” a famous composition by Chick Corea).
While researching for this post, YouTube and other internet sources have revealed to me some other up-and-coming musicians. And that just supports my points from the beginning of this article. There is a new generation of musicians ready to take over from their predecessors, who pave their own ways, who invent their new unique ways of playing and thinking about music. Just listen what young men like Marcin Patrzalek can do!
Photo by Pietro Piepa Parrinello