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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Earl Klugh talks music, concert series
Jazz guitarist to perform in Charlotte May 24
 
Published Wednesday, May 21, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

PHOTO/ALBERT TROTMAN
Grammy-winning jazz guitarist Earl Klugh returns to Charlotte May 24 at Halton Theater as part of the Carolina Jazz Concert Series. 

Grammy Award-winning guitarist Earl Klugh will perform at the Halton Theater May 24 as part of the Carolina Jazz Concert Series.

Since Klugh released his inaugural album in 1976, the Detroit-born master of acoustic-classical guitar has become one of the most imitated icons of the instrument. He has dozens of albums under his belt, 24 of which have been on Billboard’s top-10 list of jazz albums with six rising to the No. 1 spot.

His latest album “Handpicked,” his first release since 2008, was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year for Best Pop Instrumental Album. It’s Klugh’s 13th Grammy nomination.

“It makes me feel like I need to win some more,” said Klugh, who took home a Grammy in 1980 for his collaboration with pianist Bob James. Although he hopes to add another trophy to his case, he said the nomination is a big deal in and of itself.

“It is what it is,” he said.

Like James, Klugh got his start in music tickling the ivories. His mom bought a piano for him and his brother when he was about 5 years old. He continued playing piano until around age 10. That’s when he saw Ken Atkins playing guitar on “The Perry Como Show.” The performance left such a strong impression on Klugh that he decided to trade in his piano and get more serious about playing guitar.

A few years later, Klugh was influenced by another guitarist, Chet Atkins.

“He was the first person I ever saw that wasn’t singing while he was playing guitar,” said Klugh. “That was a big thing for me because I couldn’t sing, but I wanted to be a musician… I was already taking lessons and thought I had a real ability with the guitar so things fell into place fairly quickly for me.”

After nearly four decades of making music, Klugh said he wanted to try something different with “Handpicked.”

“I was just looking to find a way to do something that I hadn’t done,” he said. “After you make 30-plus albums, you kind of have to dig a little deeper to find some different avenues and kind of create some excitement from another direction instead of doing the same things.”

He said his goal for the album was to “make it like a real guitar player.”

“It’s really a musician’s record,” he said. “I really felt good about this recording. It means a lot to me because it comes full circle with all of the things that have happened in my career.”

Klugh said what separates the album from his previous works is that he recorded it almost completely without a band. Thirteen of the CD’s 16 tracks feature Klugh’s signature style of solo guitar mastery. The remaining tracks are duets with guitarist Bill Frisell, ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, and Country Music Hall of Fame guitarist and singer Vince Gill.

Klugh said what makes the album unique is its universal ability to touch all kinds of people of different races, ages and walks of life.

“This is the one that really connects with [everyone],” he said. “You have country music, you have jazz, and you have hints of classical pieces. I just think that it was a good album to make at this time.”

When he’s not on the road or in the studio, Klugh is busy putting together the lineup for his annual Weekend of Jazz, which he has been hosting for the past 10 years in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2010, he expanded the festival to the Carolinas and began hosting an annual Weekend of Jazz in Kiawah Island, S.C. This year’s festival will be held Nov. 6-8.

“Putting together the shows is probably some of the most fun I have all year,” he said. “I get a chance to book people that I am a fan of, and it makes for a great, memorable and enjoyable time.”

Tickets to see Klugh perform in Charlotte are available online at tix.cpcc.edu. For more information about his annual Weekend of Jazz, visit www.WeekendOfJazz.com.

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