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The Wombwell Wheelhouse once again drew a packed audience tonight for the first appearance at the venue by French-born guitarist Claude Bourbon. The classically trained guitarist grew up in Canton de Vaud, Switzerland, where he developed a distinctly multi-styled approach to finger-picked guitar, encompassing everything from classical and Spanish flamenco influences to jazz, blues and folk, with a little Eastern influence thrown in for good measure. Tonight the guitarist gave us a taste of these elements in a couple of sets of delicate songs and outstanding guitar tunes, fusing all the styles in a sort of improvisational recital. One or two of the pieces were extended to include several short guitar pieces that segued into one another, not unlike a classical recital, but with the inclusion of several jazz and blues runs, at times utilising the bottleneck.
Bourbon first picked up a guitar when he was fifteen after hearing an instrumental version of the traditional House of the Rising Sun, apparently coming from a neighbours garage, which not only gave him the inspiration to pick up the guitar, but also to seek out new kinds of music such as the Spanish flamenco style of guitarists like Paco De Lucia, the more rock orientated Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and Richie Blackmore (Deep Purple) and the ragtime blues playing of Blind Blake as well as the works of various classical composers such as Joaquin Rodrigo and JS Bach.
Opening his set with a sixteen-minute medley of guitar tunes in various styles such as baroque, some Ry Cooder-esque bottleneck and some European Klesmer music, each with alternating tempos, Claude topped it off with his rendition of Gershwin's Summertime, all played with great dexterity and flair. The self composed guitar instrumental Passing Through coupled with the title song from Claude's current album release Travelling Man, although released on his previous album MERCI, THANK YOU, showcased the versitilty of his dextrous playing.
Quite coincidentally, adding to the atmosphere at the Wheelhouse, during the silence that preceded Ghosts, an owl could be heard outside, wanting to get in on the action, which was quite spooky. If Claude's command over singing in English, which was very good I hasten to add, is comparatively less assured, singing in his native tongue is instantly more relaxing, which he demonstrated on C'est Dimanche, whilst whistling over a ragtime guitar tune.
The second set began with an even longer piece than the opener to the first set, again composed of several short passages, all fitting neatly together as if originally intended that way. After the show I asked Claude if I could peek at his set list to which he replied saying that he didn't use them, therefore many of the titles remain unknown to me. The twenty-six minute medley brought together classical pieces in the style of JS Bach, some of which I did recognise such as the excerpts from blind Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo's famous Concierto de Aranjuez (Orange Juice to Brassed Off fans) together with a foot stomping version of the old gospel classic You Don't Know What the Lord Told Me, with some improvisational guitar motifs expertly worked into the piece.
Towards the end of the night, a much more relaxed Claude performed a handful of songs including There's Somebody Missing Tonight from Claude's forthcoming album and the Spanish influenced Sitting on a Cliff, co-written by songwriting partner Tim Leaning. Other songs included When Love Has Quit the Scene and the funky Angel.
With an extraordinary meeting between something typically French and something fundementally English, Claude Bourbon completed an evening of quality musicianship with Bolero, reminding some of Torvil and Dean and others of Dudley Moore's hanky-pankying with Bo Derek in '10', which segued into the unexpected We'll Meet Again, inspiring some cross channel communal singing from the entire house as Ravel met up with the forces' sweetheart Vera Lynn. Another top night in Wombwell.