Comox Valley ears will be treated this weekend to music unheard by audiences anywhere before.
Paul Edwards, famed from nearly four decades of composing and performing on Chapman Stick and later on Warr Guitar, will debut his new original and captivating solo material on the sophisticated instrument at Joe’s Garage this Friday before taking it to larger centres in Canada and the U.S.
For seven years and four albums, Edwards grew with the L.A.-based progressive-rock group Kitty Hawk, which he co-founded and took through large-distribution record deals with MCA and EMI. Touring included performances at such legendary venues as The Greek Theatre in Berkeley and the Red Rocks amphitheatre in Denver, while garnering significant radio and television exposure.
Later, he composed film scores and released CDs with his own band.
Over the past couple of years, Edwards has turned his attention to composing solo songs and instrumentals, accompanied by his 12-string Warr Guitar, a somewhat-rare, tap-style instrument similar to a Chapman Stick, and used by a number of consummate musicians, including Trey Gunn in collaborations with King Crimson.
Edwards’ performance Friday night will be followed by local Chapman Stick devotee Oscar Robles, providing his own originals and interpretations, backed by his jazz group Fractal, with Tony Morrison on sax, Britt Bowman on bass and Roger Baird on drums.
Both the Chapman Stick and the Warr Guitar are wide-fretboard, stringed instruments considered to be among the most complex in the world, both in terms of learning to play and in the music produced.
Edwards’ Artist-series Warr Guitar has six bass strings and six guitar strings, allowing for several parts of the music to be played at the same time, by the player using both hands to tap the strings at different harmonic points.
“There’s some intertwining between the two hands,” said Edwards in an interview. “My music has a pretty wide range, from pastoral to more rock-oriented and groove pieces. It has a broad appeal because it’s so interesting; there are a wide range of sounds coming from both hands. And, I’ll be using Line 6 processors” to add more synthesizing of the sounds.
Both the Stick and Warr Guitar look similar to an electric guitar, but are more akin to a piano since the strings are tapped with both hands. Good players can carry up to four different parts of the music at the same time, such as bass, lead, chords and textures.
Neither instrument has gained the widespread fame of the electric guitar — probably because they are challenging to play well, although they’ve been used by some big names, including Pink Floyd, Weather Report and King Crimson.
“I’m really looking forward to the show,” said Edwards in a telephone interview from Vancouver, where he recently relocated from Los Angeles “for love.”
“I’m coming out with a new format,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun to watch the show and for me to play.”
Edwards was captivated by the Chapman Stick and bought one of the first production models ever made. For years, Edwards was a performance advocate for the Chapman Stick, touring mostly in the U.S. and playing the instrument at promotional concerts and music stores.
But then in 1992, one of his former Stick students developed the Warr Guitar, which, like some models of the Chapman Stick, is outfitted with an onboard midi synthesizer, allowing the player to create the sound of virtually any instrument, from trumpet to tympani, by tapping the strings.
Once he tried it, Edwards was smitten. Now, it’s all he plays.
“It’s a great instrument,” he says. “There is so much you can do with it.”
Before he bought a Chapman Stick, Robles began applying the tap-style technique to the guitar and bass.
In 2002, he recorded his first album with Manglar, a pioneering group in Mexico City’s fusion scene. After extensive touring, he released a second album with the group in 2005.
Robles began studying on his first Chapman Stick and within a year began performing with the instrument, touring and recording on the West Coast of B.C. as part of Zandhunga, a collaborative project featuring other accomplished Mexican and Canadian artists.
Staying true to his Latino roots and an ongoing passion for diverse styles of music, Robles currently performs the Cuban tres and is a main vocalist for the Comox Valley’s Latin band, Luzna Orchestra, with whom he released a CD in 2010.
In the same year, he took first place in Conaculta’s international contest for his composition Dunas.
Samples of Robles’ music can be heard at www.fractal.ws and www.myspace.com/luznasombraga.
To hear Edward’s music, visit www.myspace.com/pauledwardstouchstyle, or to see videos, visit his www.touchstylelessons.com/videos.
Tickets for the evening are $15, available in advance from Bop City Records.
Joe’s Garage opens at 5 p.m. for dinner on the night of the show. The show begins soon after 8 p.m.
“To ensure your seat, come down and eat,” says Joe’s owner Milo Yakibchuk. “The Chapman Stick night we held last year sold out.”
For reservations, call 250-702-6456.
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Edwards will offer a Warr guitar seminar Sat