Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor join forces onstage in Redondo Thursday night.
Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor each have a secure spot in guitar fame.
Australian-bred Emmanuel is considered a virtuoso guitarist and has been honored with Grammy nominations, country music awards, the designation of “Best Acoustic Guitarist” by Guitar Player Magazine, and the nickname “Wizard of Oz.” Britain’s Taylor is a master in his own right, winning the British Jazz Award’s Best Guitarist title 11 times in the last 20 years. Jeff Beck has said that Taylor “outshreds all of us put together.”
Now the two powerhouses have joined forces. In April of last year, Emmanuel and Taylor released an album entitled “The Colonel and the Governor.” They are touring internationally and head to Redondo Beach this evening, January 23, as part of the Los Angeles Guitar Festival.
“He’s the governor and I am the colonel,” Emmanuel said. “I’m a Kentucky colonel and he’s the governor because, well, he’s the best.”
The album contains 14 tracks. Some are original, some are covers. All sound brand new.
“The first track on the album,” Emmanuel said, “is a song called ‘I Won’t Last a Day Without You,’ a hit for the Carpenters a long time ago.”
“It’s funny how you can just change the tempo and reharmonize slightly and it just goes into another direction,” Taylor said.
“‘Down at Cocomo’s’ is one of Martin’s songs,” Emmanuel said. “He does this very clever thing where he sticks a piece of cardboard through the strings and it sounds like steel drums.”
“I try to get this steel drum sound, the sound of the Caribbean,” Taylor said. “And Tommy does this whole percussion solo on the guitar which is mind boggling not only to hear but to watch him do it. And all the guitar builders watch it and say, ‘I’m glad that’s not my guitar.’”
Somehow the two men seem to have been gifted both with immense talent and sincere modesty. In talking, and in their playing together, each seems to delight in letting the other shine.
“The album and the tour that we’ve done, we mostly play together,” Emmanuel said. “But there are some parts of the show where we play solo and on the album there are two solo tracks. And we wanted to do some original songs. Martin already had some wonderful melodies. And the song, ‘True,’ well I’ve been hearing it all over the world. It seems to be the new jazz guitar anthem.”
“I struck lucky I guess,” Taylor said. “I came up with a melody that seemed to touch a lot of people. Very often for a jazz musician you’d think the last thing we’ve interested in is a melody, but that’s exactly what we are interested in.”
“This album is melodic music, it’s fun,” Emmanuel said. “I think especially younger generations will discover music from the past that they didn’t know existed. And it’s so much fun to play.”
“And there is a lot of improvisation, too,” added Taylor.
“Oh did you make stuff up?” Emmanuel ribbed.
“Yes, that’s the only way I can do it,” Taylor said, laughing.
Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor perform for the Los Angeles Guitar Festival tonight, Thursday, at 7 p.m. in the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Redondo Beach. Tickets are available at kalakoa.tix.com.