NAMM Showboats rss

Hey everybody and welcome to the third installment of the Playloud column. About this time you’ll see all the gear reviews in all the major guitar related magazines. Rather than provide you a different perspective review on the same products, I wanted to focus on some of the players I came into contact with. Some of these cats you probably may have heard of. But man, can they bend those strings!

Hopefully, some of the players you’ve never heard of, you’ll visit their sites, buy a CD or go see them in concert. These guys are working just as hard if not harder to make it in this business. Not mention, their talent would surpass a majority of the big names. Give them some support, it’s well deserved.

60 minutes once did a story on the Rolling Stones. Their bass player at the time made a comment about Keith Richards that stuck with me and made me more of a fan of Keith’s playing. What he was something like, “Watching Keith is like watching a kid on Christmas morning opening up his new toy. There’s this new excitement every time he plays. I find this an admirable trait. To have that type of attitude with your career is something I wish I had at times. I’m sure his salary helps motivate him, but I know people making a very good living, who are miserable.

Enter Jeff Pevar. Jeff had stopped and played a few minutes with his bass player. Not sure if he was a friend of Jeff’s or just a player from another band. The two jammed on some Hendrix and Jeff’s persona gave me the same impression as the Stone’s bassist encounter with Keith. Jeff really seemed to enjoy the accompaniment. From my point of view, each note lent itself to its own punch line as Jeff smiled from ear to ear. I’d love to know what the strings were “saying”.

Check out Jeff’s website, Some great photos there providing creditability to Jeff’s career. Jeff currently finished up a tour with Jazz is Dead. It was rumored that his pedal board included most of the Xotic Effects line up.

New Jersey native Matt O’Ree not only has some serious chops and pipes, but what an awesome marketing job his team has tone. I checked out a couple of NAMM booth sets and picked up his three song/Bio kit CD.

Anyone interested in building their “brand name awareness” take note. All the bio, PDF headshots and music are in one easy to carry package. The nice thing you could certainly print these on demand in case information changed or you needed to add additional info. Makes good money sense. Studies show that people are more likely to view this type of material rather than other forms. Pretty Slick.

But now the serious stuff. This CD freaking’ rocks! Some good old school style with modern tones. Vocally it’s awesome as well. Rich and Smokey. I want to say somewhere like Ian Gillian and someone I forget. Not to discount the guitar playing, but the vocals I really liked. Different from what I’m commonly heard recently.

So what about the guitar? Nice overdriven brown tones, smooth leads and SWEET slide! Some of my favorite CD’s are the ones I can load up and just let it run all the way through. Even though this has only three songs on it, I kept hitting the re-start button so I could continually listen. Perhaps after this review, maybe a full length CD will show up on my doorstep? Wink..wink..

Please take a look at Matt’s site, Please wish Matt luck at he competes in a local Guitar Competition. Rip it up!!!

Now I’m a little bias to what I listen to, probably my up bringing. But one of the most exciting players I met was Phil Sayce. I got the impression that Phil spent some time with the Buddhist Monks in Mongolia. He seemed to be meditating and was way in the ZONE on some killer blues riffs. Phil’s style to me has elements of Stevie, Gary Moore and an east coast guitarist Gibb Droll. However, as many of you know there is only one Stevie. But, Phil’s tone and phrasing at times, well if you closed your eyes you could swear Stevie was sitting right next to you. Phil had the licks down, but what also help was that “beat all to hell” strat. Man oh Man!!! Those 50’s vintage pups sounding killer!! Very throaty tone bucketing out of the speakers making you feel each ridge on the round wound strings.

Go pick up Phil’s latest CD Peach Machine, or down load the songs like I did on my iPod. And look for Phil on tour this summer with Melissa Ethridge. Phil’s site is

BTW, if you run into Phil and he’s got his guitar, he’ll let you play it. This thing is really cool. Hope he has it with him next NAMM, love to check it out again.

One player that I am very fond of, that wasn’t at NAMM, is Theodore Zaris. The web’s resources are immense. Google makes it very easy to find something out of the ordinary. As I’ve stated in a previous thread, Malmsteen is the end all for me. Yeah there are people out there who emulate his technique, but as far as speed and note articulation there is no other. Until….

Typing in “guitarist” as a search topic in Google, I came across Theodore. His attack, articulation, speed and composition are similar to Malmsteen’s, but definitely his own style. I love fast guitar playing, but if the notes a muddy or just not saying much, well it’s a turn off. My favorite part of Theodore’s playing, clarity at 100mph. Just to watch him play is an experience. Aesthetically, watching his fingers hit each note is watching a true craftsman’s at work.

Please check out his web site, I’d hope that some one brings him to states for some shows or at least an appearance at NAMM next year.

One guitarist missing from NAMM this year was Johnny A. However, I recently caught up with him at a show in Charlotte, NC. If any of you have not see Johnny play, he plays sitting on a stool for the entire show. I’ve never asked why he does this, but I think I know why I’ve over looked it before. The whole band is in tune, no pun intended, with each other and gelled nicely. Matter of fact, they seemed to be extra tight at this show. BTW, this is the third time I’ve seen them.

People I talked with who’ve never heard Johnny ask, “What’s he sound like?”. Um…Um, well…I’m not sure. I don’t think you can categorize his sound. Is it blues? Is it smooth jazz? Is it country? Is it rock? Well, you know what, its Johnny A sound, period.

One thing is clear though, his tone is glorious! About a year ago, I introduce Johnny to another amp manufacture. I really thought this amp would be great for his sound. After going back a forth a few times, it became very clear to me. My personal opinion, he needs to do nothing. If it isn’t broke, don’t fit it.

Johnny goes straight into the house system. No speakers were harmed during this performance. House PA and monitors are what you are hearing. Basically there are three tones coming from the amp; clean, crunch and lead. Clean is immaculate. Crunch is defined and warm. Lead is eloquent and cuts through the mix. His use of effects adds the right touch of color to supplement his tone, never overbearing. The use of a delay pedal was rich and added additional layers to an already robust signal.

One thing I’ve learned from Johnny is that he doesn’t compromise. Not with his tone or playing style. At all the shows I’ve been to, his band has performed a Hendrix medley. I know I’m going to get a lot of flack about this, but I’m honestly not a big Hendrix fan. It just never hit me like it did others. However, Johnny’s (and I’m assuming here) interpretation of Hendrix is the best I’ve ever heard. This has definitely peaked my interested in Hendrix, but I still favor the modern flare. It’s really incredible to see and hear. Please if he’s in your area go just for that, its well worth it. I can only image that when he sat down to plan this piece, its was going to be done right and done his way. See Johnny, I’ve totally forgotten about that short in the monitor cable at the beginning of the Charlotte show. If you weren’t there, that’s an inside joke.

You may have noticed Johnny has a signature model made by Gibson. I really can’t say anything that’s already been said. Other than, this guitar can do it all. As diverse his style is, this guitar is equally diverse. If you get an opportunity to check one out, let me know what you think. I’m equally as anxious to try one out.

As I’m writing this article, reality is hitting me on how many truly outstanding guitarist there are out there. It’s been a pleasure meeting all of them. I can only hope that I’ll be as good as them one day. When I grow up oh course.

Please remember to let those tubes breath…..Playloud.

Ben Leck


Zoey and Me


at Yesterday’s Music

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