Lenny Breau / Richard Cotten

Pickin' Cotton

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Lenny Breau is a jazz enigma. He never really caught on with the public, yet was recognized by his peers as a major guitar innovator. Add to this a mysterious and still unsolved death in a Los Angeles swimming pool at the too-young age of 43. This is the way a cult figure is born. Former student Randy Bachman has been meticulously and methodically issuing Breau material through his Guitarchives label. This one is a 1977 live session at a Nashville, TN, club where Breau teams up with Richard Cotten, with whom he played frequently when visiting the capital of country music. Country music and Nashville notwithstanding, the album play list is a mix of classic and jazz standards. One of the classic standards is a moving, flowing, highly lyrical "Stella By Starlight." "On Green Dolphin Street" has Breau starting off quiet and unassuming before he leaps off into a series of scintillating improvisational runs, during which you never hear anything played the same way twice. He pays tribute to one of his influences, Bill Evans, with the Evans pieces "The Two Lonely People" and "La Funkallero." Breau made no bones about it that his unique single-string voicings were due in no little part to his transformation of Evans' piano technique to the guitar. Cotten is a fine guitarist, although here he pretty much plays rhythm to Breau's melody. One of the more engaging moments comes with the coda, where for almost seven minutes Cotten's daughter Darci Cotten shares personal recollections, peeling away some more of the mystery surrounding this fine guitar innovator. Indications are that this CD is the first of Breau's Nashville performances that Bachman intends to get to market. One hopes that this is more than a rumor. Recommended.

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