New triple CD live album "Encore"
After more than 3,000 concerts across the globe, contemporary world music guitarist and recording artist Pierre Bensusan celebrates 40 years as a live performer with "Encore", a 3-CD, 35-track journey of live performances spanning his entire career and showcasing his risk-taking, in-the-moment style, and a 40th anniversary Lowden signature model guitar.
An Introduction To "Encore"
Back in 1974, Pierre Bensusan (www.pierrebensusan.com) was cutting his teeth as a performer on the folk scene in Paris and other cities in France when one of his idols, banjo great Bill Keith, offered him his first official paying gig ever touring Western Europe with his bluegrass band. The French-Algerian upstart, humbly launching a four decade career which would earn him worldwide renown as the “Mozart of Guitar,” was hired to play mandolin. But when Keith heard his groundbreaking approach to the acoustic guitar, he decided to allow Bensusan a few key spotlights on that instrument.
Decades later, when Bensusan was looking for potential finishing touches for "Encore", his ambitious and expansive retrospective collection celebrating 40 years as a globetrotting live performer, he discovered a reel to reel tape with a Swiss National Radio recording of a concert in Lausanne from that tour. While the tireless troubadour’s original plan for the 3-CD set was to include tracks recorded between 1998 and 2013 in France, Canada, Ireland, Austria and especially the U.S. (where he regularly records), Bensusan decided to round out the 35-track set by starting “Disc 2” with a set of five titles from this show, including two bluegrass songs.
In all, Encore features 11 tracks never previously released commercially in any form.
Engineered in Los Angeles by Grammy winner Rich Breen, Encore also includes a handful of songs featuring Bensusan’s beautiful French language vocals (“Cordilliere” and “Pas Sage,” among others) and wordless vocalese (“Bamboul’hiver”); two cuts with future Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess from a commissioned 1998 concert in Northern France that included a 200-piece children’s choir (including the previously unreleased “Anthem For The Ocean”); and the 18-minute setpiece “Celtic Medley.” In all, Encore features 11 tracks never previously released commercially in any form.
These five mid-‘70s songs not only give fans a chance to hear Bensusan perform in a style that is unique from all his other solo work, but also an opportunity to hear the multiple open tunings approach he took earlier in his career. In 1978, he began using his trademark DADGAD (also known as D-modal or Celtic) tuning, which is accomplished by tuning the first, second and sixth strings down a whole tone (two and a half steps). Over the past 35 years, Bensusan has been widely recognized as the world master of this type of tuning.
The 2014 release by Bensusan’s own label Dadgad Music fills a unique gap in the multi-talented performer’s discography, which dates back to his 1975 debut album Pres de Paris and in recent years includes Intuite (the American Association of Independent Music’s “Best Acoustic Album of 2002”) and his most recent studio recording Vividly (2010).
Despite headlining over 3000 shows throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa since the mid-‘70s, his only live performance releases have been a DVD of a live concert in San Francisco in 1996 and a dual CD of a concert in Paris with French woodwind player Didier Malherbe, Live in Paris (1997).
Following up on his manager’s exciting idea, Bensusan at first had no idea if there were enough good quality live recordings to fill a single CD, let alone more. As he dug through the random tapes that he had accumulated, he discovered that out of those more than 3000 shows, only 50-60 had been recorded. One of the greatest treasure troves proved to be concerts recorded by local radio from his many visits over the years to The Prism Club in Charlottesville, Va. from 1999-2005, and a full one fourth of the tracks on Encore come from those performances.
Guided by his notion that any tracks he chose to include had to have stood the test of time, he was pleased that while not every performance was to his liking, there were more than enough strong shows to fill a single CD – and another and finally, another.
"I would say that Encore is probably my most truthful recording ever, because the studio is not always a very dangerous place. You can stop and start again and the intimacy there is just between the artist and the music. Onstage, however, there is an urgency and a context I adapt to and I get to take people along as I take chances and have the opportunity to bring the music to place it’s never been before. These are moments in time reflecting ways of approaching these songs that I never did before and never did again.”
“Over the years I had collected dozens of recordings I had mostly never listened to,” he says. “What you have on Encore is a selection of these particular moments from various shows and different time periods,” Bensusan continues. “Our choices were far from haphazard. We had to try to make the flow make sense in terms of music and times and sounds. I was lucky to work with the extraordinary Rich Breen in L.A., whose work I admire includes engineering projects for Herbie Hancock, Yellowjackets and Oregon. “He brought a necessary beautiful musical attitude to the project. We were dealing with different times and acoustics, and we didn’t want to touch the basic musical elements that made those performances a unique snapshot of their time. At the end of the day, as you listen to the three CDs straight through, everything comes together wonderfully and makes perfect sense.”
The final tracking, Bensusan says, was not designed in a specific chronological sequence, but in such a way as to make listeners feel they are on an emotional journey with him. “I want people to feel not as though they are at any one of the concerts these tracks are from but basically in an intimate living room setting, allowing me to take them to different musical places,” he explains. “It starts in a quieter place and then evolves pretty quickly into a high energy affair. I would say that Encore is probably my most truthful recording ever, because the studio is not always a very dangerous place. You can stop and start again and the intimacy there is just between the artist and the music. Onstage, however, there is an urgency and a context I adapt to and I get to take people along as I take chances and have the opportunity to bring the music to place it’s never been before. These are moments in time reflecting ways of approaching these songs that I never did before and never did again.”
Bensusan's lifelong friend and collaborator, master luthier George Lowden, has also begun work on a special 40th Anniversary Bensusan signature model guitar which is due for release in January 2014. The signature guitar celebrates both Pierre and George's 40th career anniversaries, a span of time over which Pierre has taken his trusty Lowden guitar (loving referred to as his 'old lady') to all the corners of the globe. His 'old lady' was put into retirement in early 2000 when Pierre's new signature model was built, a model which went on to become Lowden's best-selling signature guitar.
Lowden guitars will be teaming up to support Pierre's 40th Anniversary World tour, covering Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Paris, London, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, North America and Europe (Germany, England and Ireland) before a fall 2014 jaunt that takes him to numerous Asian markets, including China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.
“This is really a wonderful way to go through life, traveling different places and connecting with and bringing joy to fans in various cultures,” he says. “I have always been so grateful for the support of my fans, and Encore is really for them, to share special moments from my past even as I am out there creating new ones and hopefully gaining new fans along the way. To me, Encore shows that I have spent many years maturing and evolving as a composer and guitarist, but it’s clear to me, now more than ever before, that my best work is still ahead of me.”
"Encore" CD Track Listings
1 Intro - Babillage
4 Anthem For The Ocean (feat. Jordan Rudess, prev. unreleased)
6 So Long Michael
8 Silent Passenger
9 Bamboul'hiver (prev. unreleased)
10 Pas Sage
11 Bourrée Voltige
12 Damasqueros (prev. unreleased)
1 Ruben (prev. unreleased)
2 One Morning In May
3 Jigs: Merrily Kissed the Quaker - Cunla
5 Detour (prev. unreleased)
6 Demain, dès l'Aube
7 Nice Feeling
8 Dame Lombarde
9 Le Lendemain de la Féte
10 The Welsh Arrow Suite (feat. Jordan Rudess, prev. unreleased)
11 Swi Sios Fa Mo Dhidean (prev. unreleased)
12 La Femme Cambrée
13 Feeding The Birds (prev. unreleased)
14 Celtic Medley (prev. unreleased)
1 Wu Wei
3 Sentimentales Pyromaniaques
4 La Nuit Des Météores
6 Le Chien Qui Tourne
7 Chant De Nuit
8 Bamboul'été (prev. unreleased)
9 Dadgad Cafe - Hymn 11
10 Les Voiles Catalanes
11 Falafel A Montségur
12 Lunar Tide (prev. unreleased)
Production: Pierre & Doatea Bensusan for Dadgad Music
Executive Production: Jacques Panis @ Quart de Lune
Post-Production: PB @ Studio du Chien Qui Tourne (France)
Mixing & Mastering: Rich Breen @ Dogmatic Studio, Burbank (CA, USA)
Additional Mixing: Dave Bevan @ Alive HQ Recording Studios UK (1.11, 2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.12, 2.14, 3.7)
Design: Allen Greenall @ AG Design
Translation Booklet: Lisa Chontos
Copyrights 2013: Editions Pierre Bensusan (Sacem) except *: Editions Universal (Sacem)
Publishing Coordination & Administration: Xavier Collin @ WTPL Music
Webmaster: Tim Laws @ Alive Network (UK)
Newsletters, Social Networks & Internet: Rich Hearn @ Alive Network Music Agency
A LITTLE-KNOWN STORY
In a career spanning nearly 40 years, there have been too many stories to tell... but here’s one of them.
"My roadie is Bond… James Bond"
While I was staying at a friend’s house during a concert at McCabes in Santa Monica, she threw a party at her place after the show. Her partner, actor Pierce Brosnan, had not made any blockbusters yet but was already enjoying a good reputation in the Hollywood scene. As Pierce is from Dublin, we talked about Ireland with a bit of nostalgia. When I was about to carry all my equipment to his car, he told me, "Don’t move, stay seated and let me do it!" We had a wonderful evening, and our breakfast the next morning was just as enjoyable.
Several months later, while I was walking in Paris with my 8-year-old son, we came upon an enormous poster for the new James Bond film, with Pierce’s photo. Then I told Théophile how, a few months earlier, James Bond had carried my luggage. Upon returning to school, he told all his friends, in an completly unaffected way, that James Bond was also the "porter" for his father!
"The way the guitar would want to sound if it played itself."
"Bensusan is very much his own animal. It’s like listening to a butterfly, to dappled sunshine coming through quaking aspens. His music flits and darts around like fish in a pool. And his compositions manage to encompass both the calmness of the pool and the flashing of the fish. It’s an entrancing, almost hypnotic thing to watch and hear, as he seems eager to share his journey, his light. I was struck by how the aim of each song was to be beautiful. Not witty, not avant-garde, not new, necessarily, but beautiful. A great craftsman plying his trade. A shepherd with his flock. As I left I felt all of a sudden that I’d been to temple after all. My own sort of temple, and by the end of the service I felt purified, cleansed, and ready for the new year."
Nyack News and Views (USA, Dan Cohen, Oct 4, 2015)
Winner of the Independent Music Award, in the Live Performance Album category for his latest triple live album "Encore" (2014), "Rose d'Or" of the Montreux Festival for his first album, "Près de Paris" (Switzerland, 1976), "Best World Music Guitar Player " by the readers of Guitar Player Magazine (USA, 2008), Pierre Bensusan is recognized as one of the premier musicians of our time.
If “World Music” is music that pays tribute to the spirit of a collection of human beings through distinct rhythms, traditional instruments and harmonic colors, French-Algerian guitarist, singer and composer Pierre Bensusan can be recognized as one of the most eloquent and world musicians today.
Born in Oran, French-Algeria, in 1957, when France was decolonizing its Empire, Pierre Bensusan's family moved to Paris when he was 4. He began formal studies on piano at the age of 7 and at 11 taught himself guitar. Influenced in those early days by the folk revival blooming in Britain, France and North America, Bensusan began first to explore his own diverse musical heritage and then moved to the horizons beyond.
At 17 he signed his first recording contract, and one year later his first album "Pres de Paris" won the Grand Prix du Disque upon his debut at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland.
Described by the L.A. Times as "one of the most unique and brilliant acoustic guitar veterans in the world music scene today", Pierre's name became synonymous with contemporary acoustic guitar genius, long before the terms New Age, New Acoustic Music or World Music were invented. He has the ability to make a single guitar sound like an entire band as he brings the audience on a mesmerizing musical journey. And yet, Bensusan is more than what any musician or music lover expects from a guitarist. He is a composer as well as a bilingual and a brave improvisational vocalist, melding whistles and resonant low notes with something like his own scat technique.
There is a sense of something both playful and serious in his work, an unparalleled sense of freedom in his compositions and his improvisations. His "manner" of playing defies classification - crossing world, classical, jazz, traditional, folk and more. None can be isolated as simply “Brazilian”, "Arabic" or “French”; rather, they represent our world in its current state, a world sharing itself, fusing cultures together in ways we have never experienced. A great embassador of peace. Not to be missed!
* Ards Guitar Festival Lifetime Achievment Award (Northern Ireland 2014)
* IMA Award for Best Live Album, for "Encore" (USA 2014)
* "Album of the Month for "Encore" in Guitarra Totale Magazine (Spain 2013)
* "Intuite" named second Best Acoustic Album of all times in Guitarra Totale Magazine (Spain 2013)
* Guitar Player Magazine Readers choice award, for 2008 Best World Music Guitar Player (USA)
Intuite Awards - 2002 / 2006:
* 2002 AFIM (American Association for Independent Music) Award for Best Acoustic Instrumental Album
* Album du Mois/Album of the Month (Journal de Montreal/Canada)
* Album of the Year (fRoots/UK)
* Best Albums (Guitarist Magazine/UK)
* Bravo de la Redaction (Trad. Mag./France)
* Naird Award for "SolilaÏ" (USA 1983)
* Grand Prix du Disque Rose d'Or at the Montreux Festival for "Près de Paris" (Switzerland 1976)