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Lorne Lofsky, The Canadian Master Talks to Jazz Guitar Today



Jazz Guitar Today features Canadian Guitar Master, Lorne Lofsky. Watch the video interview.

Bob Bakert, Editor: Lorne Lofsky is a modern legend.  I have heard of this master from the north for so many years it’s hard to believe he is a contemporary.  He’s played with Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Tal Farlow, Ed Bickert as well as Rosemary Clooney, and Johnny Hartman.  Like many of us, he started in rock and was highly influenced by Miles Davis’s 1959 “Kind of Blue”.  I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation so much so that originally scheduled to be a short interview it became so apparent to me that this was something special that we at JGT decided to make it our cover story.  Enjoy my video conversation with Lorne Lofsky. Watch it above, on our YouTube channel and it’s also available as an MP3 to download.


JGT:  How have things changed for you musically (development, sound, concept, influences, etc.)?

LL:  My perspective on playing seems to be in a constant state of development, owing to different influences that I’ve been exposed to .Music is a living, breathing entity, and as such, keeps growing.  Sometimes I’ll hear a recording that captures my attention and it makes me want to explore something that surprisingly was already laying dormant inside me. The recording was acting as a catalyst. Here’s an example. When I first heard Lennie Tristano play “Line Up” [his solo on All of Me] many years ago, I had no idea what he was playing. Upon repeated listening, I started to hear the angularity, linear displacement and variations on the chord progression that he was using. Without transcribing a note, I was able to capture the feeling and play something in that context. Sometimes I think it’s more beneficial to listen repeatedly and absorb things through osmosis rather than learn and replicate. That way, one comes up with something that is their own based on the underlying principles of what they’re hearing. Transcribing can be very beneficial, but people generally scratch the surface and don’t really investigate what the solo [of the moment] represents. I’ve been very fortunate to have been influenced by Ed Bickert, Bill Evans, Lennie Tristano, Charlie Parker, J.S. Bach and countless others, as well as the sound and beauty of string orchestras. All of these influences are part of an ebb and flow that change from moment to moment. As my concept evolves, whether it’s playing standard repertoire in different keys, different time signatures, composing tunes or using different open string combinations, my prime concern is to keep an open mind as I attempt to move forward towards the next stop on the musical journey.

Latest Release: This Song Is New

Lorne Lofsky’s first studio album in nearly 25 years

“This Song Is New” on the Modica Music label is a seven-track collection featuring five new originals and stellar arrangements of Miles Davis and Victor Feldman’s “Seven Steps to Heaven” and Benny Golson’s “Stable Mates”, expertly performed by this outstanding quartet.  The bond between this foursome is so tight and intuitive, that the majority of the tracks on This Song Is New were cut in a single take. “We’ve all played together in different sorts of incarnations for a long, long time. There’s a lot of chemistry, a lot of trust. When we play, we don’t really have to talk. It’s like putting on four very well-worn baseball gloves; it’s just, go.” Originally meant to be a casual readthrough at Roberto Occhipinti’s Modica Music Studio in Toronto, Lofsky had no intention of releasing the recording commercially until he heard the exceptional results. 

Track listing: 

  1. Seven Steps (Miles Davis, Victor Stanley Feldman) 5:16
  2. The Time Being 5:36
  3. Live from the Apollo 6:37
  4. This Song is New 6:17
  5. An Alterior Motif 5:26
  6. Evans from Lennie 6:20
  7. Stable Mates (Benny Golson) 7:10

All songs written by Lorne Lofsky except where noted. 

Guitarist John Stowell on Lofsky: “Lorne Lofsky is an important voice on the guitar. He has taken ideas and inspiration from other great Canadian guitarists Lenny Breau and Ed Bickert, both of whom Lorne knew and played with. I also hear some ideas in Lorne’s lines and comping that remind me of Ted Greene and Jimmy Rainy. Lorne has distilled all of these elements into a personal and eloquent voice on the guitar, and he can swing like crazy too. I’m looking forward to collaborating with Lorne soon. I’m sure that I’ll learn some things from our encounter.”

JGT:  Is jazz better understood and are people more receptive?

LL:  It seems that different audiences and demographics have their own comfort zones when it comes to jazz appreciation/ comprehension. Each generation has its favorite artists, sometimes owing to nostalgia. Most non-musicians have no idea what players are doing when they’re improvising. The hope is that listeners pick up on the emotion/feeling and energy emanating from the bandstand. When I’m doing a gig, I try as much as possible to engage the audience by talking a bit about the tunes as well as describing what we’re attempting to do. Of course, we don’t get into great detail about the harmonic and rhythmic aspects, but I think acknowledging the listeners makes the experience feel more inclusive.  I think people are more receptive to things that are familiar to them, and partly because of that, some musicians will go out of their way to make their music more palatable, sometimes resulting in music that’s a little lacking in integrity. On the other hand, over the last several decades, an explosion of post-secondary music programs has created a whole new audience of music students that seek out many different styles of jazz. There’s always a bit of a balancing act going on between “fans” and serious listeners. I don’t think that’s going to change, nor should it necessarily.

JGT:  What’s the state of teaching these days compared to the past…are students entering school with higher levels of proficiency?  And how does it reconcile itself with potential playing opportunities in the real world?

LL: I’ve been teaching in a part-time capacity since the late ’70s and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of working with/teaching quite a few talented students. Over time I came to realize that the two things that they all possessed were inquisitiveness and a great work ethic. So it wasn’t was drive and self-motivation.  That’s something that I’d like to see more of.   I’ve also seen students with lots of technique and no idea how to swing, or desire to learn tunes. Chops without something to say are useless. I think technique is only as good as the music you make using it, a concept that should be stressed more in post-secondary institutions. By the way, getting a music degree doesn’t guarantee a decent living.  I think that prior to entering a music program, students should think long and hard about the challenges that they’ll be facing in their future. A large supply of patience, dedication, and persistence is mandatory. It’s got to be in your DNA.

For more on Lorne Lofsky

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