Having had that break from the electric,
do you find that you now approach the
To answer that, I have to look back to
my early days playing fusion in the ’70s.
My electric solos were so often based on
the static harmony—a single chord, like
E minor or A minor, for a long period of
time—that was so popular then. There
wasn’t much I could do on that one chord
except build up to the sort of highly technical, velocity-laden type of climax that
audiences ate up. It was certainly exciting
at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate a
lot more harmonic movement in music, as
well as strong balance—a good combination of space and lyricism, with speed and
technique thrown in there at the appropriate moments. How I play the electric
guitar has as much to do with my focusing
on the acoustic guitar—where every little
nuance is important—as it does simply
evolving as a musician. I can now say more
with an interesting progression or a syncopated rhythm than with a barrage of notes
at high volume.
I’ve come to
appreciate a lot
in music, as
well as strong
space and lyricism,
with speed and
in there at the
The electric playing on Pursuit of Radical
Rhapsody is characterized by restraint
and gracefulness, as well as by awesome
tone. How did you get such great sounds?
I played my PRS—the signature model
Prism, which is a double-cutaway solidbody with two humbuckers and a very
warm sound. But the secret weapon was
a Dumble amp I borrowed in the studio.
I discovered that the beauty of a Dumble
is in the smoothness of its sustain, and I
could see right away why they’re so coveted
and expensive. Most other amps might
sound smooth in the booth when you’re
recording, but on the other side of the
glass, in the control room, you’ll hear all
these jagged edges on the sustain. That
Dumble was like cream, like butter—a
small amp with such a great sound.
Is there any Roland VG- 88 on the record?
Yes. I used a little bit of that on acoustic
parts here and there, as well as a GR- 1 guitar synthesizer, which has been discontinued
but is, in my opinion, the best one Roland
has made. On “Destination Gonzalo,”
for instance, I played my signature model
Ovation and combined the basic acoustic-electric sound with a fretless bass setting on
the GR- 1 to get this really awesome effect.
Although the guitar really does shine,
the album seems to be more about the
ensemble than your own playing.
I paid extremely close attention to how all
the instruments blended together. In the
past, I’ve used the combination of acoustic
guitar and piano or synth, but I’ve come
to find that keyboards can be a little overbearing when played with a nylon-string.
The instruments’ timbres can be too close
together, because both have strings. There’s
a lot of accordion on the record, courtesy
of the great Fausto Beccalossi, and that
instrument works really well with the guitar—especially when adding counterpoint.
With their completely different sounds,
accordion and guitar are so beautiful
together, very European and romantic. And
the accordion adds a depth and meaning to
the sound that you just can’t get from an
In addition to your usual World Sinfonia
co-conspirators, you had some pretty
distinguished guests on the record—jazz
bass legend Charlie Haden, Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and others.
Right—it was great! Charlie’s a super-legendary and super-friendly guy. He
was amazingly easy to work with, and he
brought an unusual gut-string upright
bass for the session, which had a really
beautiful sound—especially for ballads. It
worked really well on “Over the Rainbow,”
which has this nostalgic feel. Working
with Gonzalo was also great. What can
I say—he’s a super god on the piano! It