Preston Reed, a “heart-stopping tour de force”

Guitarist Preston Reed appearing with the SLAS on April 13. (photo contributed)

MORRISBURG – Billboard magazine described guitarist Preston Reed as a “heart-stopping tour de force”: the London Evening Standard said he is “in a class of his own.”

Sandra Whitworth, president of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, which welcomes the acclaimed musician to Upper Canada Playhouse on Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m., said that Reed is “considered one of the most influential and innovative guitarists of the past three decades. It is incredibly fortunate that he is coming to Canada and to Morrisburg for a show with us. He’s truly considered one of the greats.”

Preston Reed, a native New Yorker, who now lives in Scotland, is entering his fourth decade as a renowned performer and studio artist. He is viewed by many fellow artists as the originator of a fingerstyle of playing so unique, so ground breaking, that it has set a new standard for acoustic guitar – and broken all the rules.

No article or interview with Preston Reed can be complete without asking him to talk about his role as a “pioneer,” an innovator in musicianship.

“I have always loved exploring and discovering,” he said. “Once I get comfortable with something I tend to want to challenge that comfort zone. I was impressed by the guitar innovations of Jeff Healey and Eddie Van Halen…in the 1980s but it wasn’t until I decided to solve a puzzle of my own that I took my creative leap.”

That creative leap sent Reed in a completely new direction, as he began to experiment with the guitar.

He invented “a way to play guitar and drums at the same time. The essence of my invention is the integration of a percussive groove in a solo guitar composition in real time. I call the technique integrated percussive guitar playing.”

His new approach had a profound effect among musicians. It has been said that Preston Reed “doesn’t need a band. He is the band.”

Sold out concerts literally world wide, 16 hit studio albums, gigs with Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt among others, attest to his impact on music.

However, Preston Reed is also a teacher, ready and willing to share his knowledge with others.

“When I teach, I try to impart an awareness of the ultimate goal that so often gets lost in pursuit of the technical aspects of guitar playing – the music,” he said. “Technique and skill are tools for making music. They become meaningless as ends in themselves.”

During his visit to Morrisburg Reed has agreed to hold a workshop for interested guitarists, Sunday, April 14, 2-4 p.m., at Upper Canada Playhouse. Musicians are very welcome to register with the SLAS for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from a master guitarist.

Reed has never limited himself to one genre or style of music.

He has explored everything from blues to rock to classical, even incorporating the influences of Middle Eastern music.

“I don’t usually know what form of music I am going to compose until after it happens,” he explained. “I explore and experiment until an idea emerges, and then spend time developing it. That idea can evolve into any style of music. Sometimes it turns out to be a fusion of multiple styles.

Inspiration comes from many places, a mood, a new idea, a moving human story, a person I met, or music I hear from somewhere else that captures my imagination.”

A man who has travelled the world, performing for more than 30 years, Reed keeps his musical passion alive by refusing to “get stuck in what I already know and am already good at. I challenge myself to always be developing a new skill or idea where there is room to grow artistically.”

He looks forward to his concert in Morrisburg, to making a connection with a new audience.

“Performing is an exchange of energy between the performer and the audience. If you do it right, both sides benefit. I have been told by audience members that my show is uplifting…I try to connect with my audiences through my music first, but also with the stories behind the tunes…I want to make them curious to hear more.”

Preston Reed’s concert in Morrisburg at UCP, April 13, 7 p.m is a chance to share music with a great artist, to hear “classic” percussive “groove tunes and ballads” but also to catch some new material that will be appearing on his next album.

There is also an opportunity for local musicians to learn from the artist Total Guitar has described as “the world’s most gifted guitarist” at Reed’s special Sunday workshop.

For tickets contact Upper Canada Playhouse.

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.