Years ago - I suppose I should now write many years ago - a curious device arrived called the ‘MP3 player’. I’m not exactly a technical bozo, and it took me a while to get my head around it, and I was not especially fast off the mark in getting one. This was especially so because the iPod had then been recently launched, the iPod was - as, it seems, are all Apple products - pretty expensive, so non-iPod MP3 players, I reasoned would also be pretty expensive.
Then one day (while on holiday in Devon for a travel piece I was going to do for the Mail, which can be found here. UPDATE: No, you can't any more. The bastards seem to have wiped it from their system. But you can read a travel piece about a Tuscan cookery course here and a travel piece about a nostalgic trip to Berlin here.) I came across someone using one and, not knowing too much about them, began to question him. What first of all surprised me was how cheap the model he had bought was. It was, admittedly, not half as useful, user-friendly or ‘cool’ as the iPod, but it did exactly what the iPod did at something like a tenth of the price. I then began to investigate the things, on many visits to my local branch in Kensington of PC World, and I eventually bought one. I think it was a 128mb model and I think I paid something like £49 for it, which might help you work out how many years ago this was: not many in human years but several lifetimes in technological years. You can probably no longer get an MP3 player that small, and as a 2/4gb USB memory stick will not set you back more than £6/7, that 128mb model I bought would be yours for about 94p.
With my new MP3 player came the usual gubbins of guarantee and a small user manual, but with it also came an offer to download, I think, 20 tracks for nothing. All you had to do was register on a website. I did and downloaded a collection of jazz tracks by a variety of different musicians. I can no longer remember much about the tracks or most of the musicians, except that the tracks were pretty conventional and the musicians were more or less all well-known names. But one musician stood out for me because he was a guitarist and I am a guitarist manque (very manque. I could be better if I practised - anyone can be better if they practise - but I don’t, and as I just noodle around on guitar because I like noodling around on guitar, I don’t care). The guitarist was called David Fiuczysnki and he struck me as a tasty guitarist (although as all guitarists the world over are better than me, they almost all strike me as tasty guitarists).
This is where it all gets a little, or rather very, hazy. I decided to check out David Fiuczynski to see what else he had done and whether he had made records of his own. Indeed he had and I bought one, although as I say everything is a little hazy and I can’t remember why I bought that particular one. It is called Amandala, and it was a revelation, music unlike any I had heard before. More to the point it pressed every musical button in me I want to have pressed and then some. It was exactly - exactly - the kind of guitar and music I would like to play if I had the gumption to practise a lot more and apply myself and was able to play to that standard. And not only was the guitar playing great, so were the drums and bass.
After buying Amandala (not to be confused with Miles Davis’s Amandla, which is also great but very different), I then bought Lunar Crush (with John Medeski), then Kif and most recently Jazz Punk.
Some reading this will be familiar with Fiuczynski’s guitar playing and music, many more will not, but to try to describe it to those who are not is, I’m afraid, pretty much impossible. Fiuczynski (who was born in the US, but who moved to Germany with is parents when he was eight and didn’t return to live in the US until he was 19) has described himself as a ‘jazz musician who doesn’t want to play just jazz’.
He most certainly can play ‘conventional’ jazz guitar, but when you get to hear his own music, you’ll understand what he means. It is accessible to those coming to it from jazz, but it would be equally accessible to those coming to if from rock and heavy metal. But it would be utterly misleading to try to categorise it as something - as crass as - rock/jazz fusion or even jazz/rock fusion. It is almost a genre of its own. It is organic, it is itself and for me ‘fusion’ implies some kind of melding of two, rather like a mule being half-horse, half-donkey.
I am writing about Fiuczynski because I have just recommended to a young colleague who was asking for ideas of what to give her dad for Fathers’ Day that she might like to give him one of Fiuczynski’s CDs. She is 23 and her father is 49 and, she says, ‘likes rock’, but he might now be of an age to expand a little, if he hasn’t already done so. (These days I find rock, however pleasant, just too two-dimensional, if you get me.) I lent her my iPod to listen to some, and she agreed it might well be the kind of music he would like.
Then, driving home from London last night (and stopping off at The Brewers Arms in South Petherton to watch the second half of the Holland v Germany match, and weren’t Holland a peculiar kind of unimaginative shite?), I spent the best part of two hours listening to Fiuczynski. And what with Syria, the euro, the euro and the Middle East and all that crap, I decided to blog on something entirely different: just how great David Fiuczynski’s music is and how much I like it and how glad I am that I came across it. Apparently, according to Wikepedia, he is a ‘full-time professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston’ and since 2011 ‘Guggenheim Fellow’, but please, please, please don’t let that put you off.
The way I described it to Libby is ‘if you don’t like it, you’ll hate it. And if you like it, you’ll love it’. So get a taster and see what you feel.