Saturday, August 10, 2013

Great Guitars: Jorma Kaukonen

The Jefferson Airplane's lead guitarist is often over-shadowed by his Summer of Love colleagues Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia, but don't doubt that he is a powerful player who helped birth not one, but two, iconic musical styles.

The "electric" Jorma, paired with Grace Slick's contra-alto vocals, laid the basic template for the "wailing lead guitars under soaring vocal lines" that every hard rock and metal band has aspired to. The stage is a little crowded in this clip, with everyone from Marty Balin to David Crosby (?) trying to horn in on the camera, but Jorma's easy enough to find. He's the serious looking kid in the center playing the kick ass solos:

At the same time, the "acoustic" Jorma created the open-tuning, finger-picking style that a million New Agers, not to mention heavyweights like Jimmy Page and Steve Howe, brought to the masses:

He also founded Hot Tuna, one of the earliest of the jam bands, and has kept that going strong for decades. Incredibly, for a Sixties guy, Jorma is (1) still alive and (2) quite normal. He always seems perpetually bemused more than anything else, but very few living musicians have bridged so many styles with so little effort.

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