There are fans, and then there arefans. When it comes to the late Lenny Breau, Rick Washbrook is afan. Breau was a Canadian jazz guitar genius whose distinctive style of fingering two-note chords while playing the melody on top was highly influential to mainstream jazz guitarists. For some reason Breau never became as well-known as Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell or other guitar giants whose talents he equalled or surpassed. Thanks to the efforts of devotees like his countryman Rick Washbrook, Breau’s legacy is gradually gaining more prominence.
A two-disc set of solo jazz guitar performances is a tall order indeed, but Washbrook delivers with change to spare. He doesn’t even concentrate on Breau’s usual repertoire, but instead applies the guitar techniques for which Breau is renowned to an excellent collection of standards and originals. A Gypsy’s Bed is Washbrook’s sixth CD, and clearly the one closest to his heart. Besides Breau’s spirit, the album is soaked in the rich broth of the blues.
The songs here are incredible and well-selected. Standards like “Summertime”, “Autumn Leaves”, “Here’s That Rainy Day” and The Beatles’ “Yesterday” all benefit from the bright communication of Breau’s style as delivered by Washbrook. Surprises like Merle Travis’ breakneck “Cannonball Rag”, one of Breau’s favorites, are scattered throughout the set. Washbrook’s originals, like the bittersweet “Childhood Memories” and exotic “Gypsy Gala” throw more coals onto the fire.
It’s easy to forget after a while that this is just one man and a guitar. That’s a testament not only to the brilliance of Breau’s technical breakthroughs, but also Washbrook’s gift for interpretation. This set makes for fine, relaxing background music during dinner, but it also rewards careful listening by guitar fans who like to focus on the subtle nuances of great players. To anyone who is a fan of mainstream jazz guitar, A Gypsy’s Bed is recommended without hesitation.
Personnel: Rick Washbrook, various guitars.