Feed Your Ears: Wayne Krantz (and thoughts on trios)

#11-transcriptions over on YouTube just dropped a lovely transcription of Wayne Krantz's solo on "Whippersnapper" from 2 Drink Minimum. It reminded me that Krantz is, for my money, one of the very few truly original voices on guitar to emerge since the '70s.

I think if anyone deserves to be considered an heir to Holdsworth, it's Krantz. He's invented his own language on the instrument, both in terms of "abstract" musical ideas and practical technique.

There aren't many who've done that, and most are far into the avant garde; Derek Bailey

and Elliott Sharp

spring to mind. But most people in guitarworld don't even know their names. They should, but by that measure Krantz ought to be a superstar.

There are elements of country, blues and '70s rock in his playing that make it superficially accessible. And his tone and gear also signal a kind of blues-rock thing might be happening, but he quickly departs from anything recognisably in-genre even when playing a cover:

Despite initial appearances, he's a tough listen. Like Bailey, Sharp and Holdsowrth, though, he's worth the effort.

Krantz's book is very idiosyncratic, and while I know people who've practiced from it and benefitted I'm probably too long in the tooth for such a radical approach. But it emphasises something I really think is crucial: every note is available and valid, and we can all be twelve-tone improvisors now.

It's interesting that he often seems to favour the power trio setup these days: mostly, I suspect, for the same reasons Ornette avoided having harmony instruments in the band:

or if he did, they were people like James Blood Ulmer who got that chords don't have to be about functional harmony

At least, the trio format is the way I like to hear Krantz, the same way I like my Shawn Lane: who needs changes when you have lines like these? (Since you asked -- here's how I like my Shawn Lane:

It's a personal preference thing, of course, but I don't think anyone can deny that's a heck of a trio.)

In case your ears are still hungry, here's a two-and-a-half-hour set with a killer band and a constant reminder that underneath the wild ideas lies Krantz's always-impeccable time:

I once tried to form a power trio but wasn't able to get it together with the rehearsals and band-leader stuff and let it go after one (very promising) rehearsal. I suspect that's the perfect vehicle for what I like to do but I'm not quite egotistical or driven enough to make that happen. Maybe something for the future or, more likely, another lifetime.