New York Guitar Festival Announces 2012 Concerts, January 6-29


NEW YORK, NY — No instrument has spoken in more voices to more people than the guitar, and no festival has sought out the modulations in those voices and the range of the guitar’s cultural expressions than the New York Guitar Festival.

Following its many successes since 1999 (with rave reviews in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Jazz Times as well as sister festivals in Urbana, Illinois and Adelaide Australia), the New York Guitar Festival announces its 2012 season of concert performances, January 6 though January 29.

The festival boasts over 35 exceptional guitarists of jazz, classical, rock, traditional, and avant-garde styles. Participating venues include The World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, Merkin Concert Hall, The 92nd Street Y, and Rockwood Music Hall. Concerts range from an all-day Guitar Marathon interpreting classical guitar music of Italian composers (featuring, among other internationally-famous musicians, Eliot Fisk, Bill Kanengiser, Jason Vieaux, Nigel North, and Hopkinson Smith) to tributes to the legendary jazz guitarist/composer Jim Hall and the influential musician/producer/visual artist Brian Eno.

A new addition to the festival includes an Alternative Guitar Summit, curated by the guitarist/bandleader/composer Joel Harrison, and taking place at Rockwood Music Hall. Featured artists include Nels Cline (Wilco), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mark Stewart, Liberty Elman, Dave Tronzo, and Ben Monder. Joel Harrison’s curatorial goals are “to present master improvisers, free-thinkers, those who reject category and style and are radically imaginative. Ideally they are under-appreciated and have not won any polls. I wish to present these players in unusual contexts, outside of their normal trio or quartet settings, mixing generations and approaches.”

The festival also has a history of commissioning remarkable original works, and the 2012 season breaks yet more new ground by presenting 11 classic silent films by Buster Keaton accompanied by original scores performed live by a spectacularly rich and varied coterie of guitarists including Kaki King, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Keller Williams and Gyan Riley.

The New York Guitar Festival was founded in 1999 by musician/producer David Spelman, who serves as its Artistic Director. The Festival’s goal is to broaden the public’s appreciation for the guitar by fostering emerging talent, supporting innovative collaborations among outstanding artists, and commissioning new works. In addition to producing concerts and radio broadcasts, its Guitar Harvest series of recordings supports outreach programs in New York City public schools.

World Financial Center’s Winter Garden
Battery Park City, bordered by West Street, the Hudson River, Vesey and Liberty Streets. Tickets and information: (212) 945-0505

Friday, January 6, 8:00pm

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Brian Eno’s tribute to the NASA moon landings, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, the New York Guitar Festival presents a rare live performance of this masterpiece featuring the Brooklyn, ambient ensemble Itsnotyouitsme, legendary guitar master Larry Campbell, and special guests Noveller, Tortoise’s Jeff Parker, Phish’s Mike Gordon and others to be announced. The performance will also feature scenes from Craig Teper’s documentary, Man In The Right Seat, about Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell.
Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330

Tuesday, January 10, 7:30 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars:
• Dan Zanes & Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
• Gyan Riley & Buster Keaton’s The Goat (1921)

Grammy winner Dan Zanes, a member of the 80s band the Del Fuegos and current front man for Dan Zanes and Friends, is equally at home with rock, Broadway tunes, Latin American music and the gospel tradition among other genres and has collaborated with artists ranging from Lou Reed and Roseanne Cash to Carol Channing and the Pilobolus Dance Company. His wildly popular family concerts regularly sell out venues like Carnegie Hall. For the NYGF, Zanes premieres his original score for Buster Keaton’s 1928 silent film Steamboat Bill, Jr., in which a young Mississippi steamboat captain falls in love with the daughter of his father’s business rival. “Buster Keaton’s movies always look to me like the most graceful sculpture I’ve ever seen but which upon close examination is only a pile of driftwood and bent nails. I hope to reflect that in my music” commented Dan Zanes.

Gyan Riley, whose diverse work focuses on his own compositions, improvisation and contemporary classical repertoire, performs as a soloist and in various ensembles, including performances with Zakir Hussain, Dawn Upshaw, the San Francisco Symphony, the Falla Guitar Trio, the World Guitar Ensemble and his dad, the composer/pianist/vocalist Terry Riley. At Merkin he will premiere a score for Buster Keatons’ The Goat (1921), in which Keaton’s character gets mistaken for a murderer with a price on his head.
Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330 •

Thursday, January 12, 7:30 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars:
• Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth & Buster Keaton’s Cops (1922)
• Kaki King & Buster Keaton’s The Scarecrow (1920)
• Buke & Gase (Buster Keaton film TBA)

Co-founder of the alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo is #33 on Rolling Stone’s list of “Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” He will perform the New York premiere of an original score (commissioned by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts) to Buster Keaton’s 1922 silent film Cops, a short comedy about a young man who gets on the bad side of the Los Angeles Police Department during a parade and is chased all over town. Keaton’s response to the 1921 Fatty Arbuckle scandal – the actor/director was accused of assaulting and accidentally killing a woman, a charge that ended his career even though he was eventually acquitted by a jury – Cops portrays a well-intentioned man who just can’t win, no matter hard he tries. Lee Ranaldo commented “normally I couple my abstract guitar explorations with equally abstract films, but in this case I’m really looking forward to applying the sounds I make to the magical world of Buster Keaton films and his distinctive brand of physical comedy. It should be an interesting and unexpected combination…”

The sole woman and the youngest artist in Rolling Stone’s 2006 list of “The New Guitar Gods” list, Kaki King collaborated with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder on the Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack for Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. She will perform an original score to Buster Keaton’s 1920 short comedy Scarecrow, in which Keaton plays a young man whose pursuit of a farmer’s daughter takes an unexpected turn when he falls into a hay thresher and ruins his clothes.
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street
Tickets and information: 212-477-4155 •

Alternative Guitar Summit
A series of alternative guitar music curated by guitarist/composer/arranger/bandleader Joel Harrison.

Friday, January 13:

7:30- 8:10- Mark Stewart (guitar) and Gyan Riley (guitar)
8:20- 8:50- Joel Harrison (guitar) and Anupam Shobhakar (sarod)
9:00- 9:40- Ben Monder (guitar) and Pete Rende (Keyboards) play the music of songwriting legend Jimmy Webb.
9:50- 10:45- Pillow Wand; Nels Cline (guitar) and Thurston Moore (guitar)

Saturday, January 14:

7:30-8:15- Knox Chandler (guitar and effects) and Ismail Lawal (drums)
8:25- 9:10- Dave Tronzo (guitar) and Jay Granelli (bass)
9:20- 10:05- Liberty Ellman (guitar) and Vijay Iyer (piano)
Sunday, January 15, 8 – 11pm

As part of our alt-guitar summit, NYGF presents a tribute to the jazz guitar legend Jim Hall. Each act will perform either Jim Hall compositions, tunes associated with him, or improvisations in his spirit.

• Gilad Hekselman (guitar) and Obed Calvaire (drums)
• Vic Juris (guitar) and Mary Halvorsen (guitar)
• Jim Ridl (piano) with Vic Juris (guitar)
• Steve Cardenas (guitar) and Jacob Garchik (piano)
• David Binney solo (sax)
• Joel Harrison String Choir (string quartet and two guitars)
• Nels Cline (guitar) and Trevor Dunn (bass)
• Scott Colley (bass) and Chris Potter (sax)

**actual performance order subject to change.
Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330 •

Tuesday, January 17, 7:30 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars:
• My Brightest Diamond & Buster Keaton’s Balloonatic (1923)
• Keller Williams & Buster Keaton’s One Week (1920)
• Redhooker & Buster Keaton’s The Neighbors (1920)

My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden), hailed for her mystical voice and mythic storytelling, premieres a score to Buster Keaton’s Balloonatic, which chronicles a young man’s misadventures with a hot air balloon and a young outdoorswoman. “I’ve always had a romantic fascination with hot air balloons,” says Worden. “They exemplify freedom and lightness of being to me. I am enchanted by Buster Keaton’s humor, darkness, lightness, romance and sorrow. This will be a delight to score and give me the opportunity to think about dreams and about believing in the impossible.”

“In my two decades of making music, I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt quite so challenged and inspired,” says Keller Williams. Music’s “mad scientist” will perform an original score to Buster Keaton’s One Week, a short comedy about newlyweds who receive a build-it-yourself house that can supposedly be built in one week. “It’s been exciting, and a little scary, to embark on such a unique project,” says Williams.” I hope the audience feels that energy during the performance.”

Since he first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, Williams has defined the term independent artist. And his 16 recordings tell only half the story. Keller built his reputation initially on his engaging live performances, no two of which are ever alike. Williams’ solo live shows—and his ability to improvise to his determinedly quirky tunes despite the absence of an actual band—quickly became the stuff of legend, and his audience grew exponentially when word spread about this exciting, unpredictable performer. Today, most often performing as a one-man band (a stage show constructed around Keller singing his compositions and choice cover songs while accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar connected to a Gibson Echoplex delay system that allows him to simulate a full band), Keller always reveals himself as an artist of great stylistic breadth and infinite imagination. He is a singer, songwriter and musician, always on a quest for the new. Keller Williams has never followed the prescribed path laid out by the conventional music business but rather one of his own making.

Redhooker is a “dreamy mixed consort” (New York Times) led by the classically-trained guitarist Stephen Griesgraber. He will be joined by band members Maxim Moston, Ben Lively and Peter Hess in the performance of a collaboratively composed score for guitar, violins, bass clarinet and electronics for Buster Keaton’s Neighbors, a comedy about young lovers and a family feud.
Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330

Thursday, January 19, 7:30 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars:
• Califone & Buster Keaton’s Go West (1925)
• Howard Fishman & Buster Keaton’s The Frozen North (1922)

Califone, the Chicago-based experimental rock band whose music the New York Times called “enthralling,” are known for their 11 albums and the independent film All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, which premiered at Sundance in 2010. They will perform an original score to Buster Keaton’s Go West, in which a small-town young man, overwhelmed by a brief taste of life in New York City, tries his luck as a cowboy on a ranch. Califone’s Tim Rutilli commented: “Califone scoring music for a Buster Keaton film makes almost too much sense. We will try to capture the inner stillness and the outer chaos on Buster’s migration west. Perfect.”

A pioneer of the Brooklyn music scene and “an important force in creative music” (, acclaimed singer, guitarist, composer and bandleader Howard Fishman filters a deep passion for New Orleans jazz, Brooklyn soul, open-hearted country, gritty rock and Southern gospel music through a completely original, experimental aesthetic, to create a sound entirely his own. The New York Times has written that his music “transcends time and idiom.”
92nd Street Y
Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
Tickets and information: 212-415-5500 /

Sunday, January 29, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a break at 5 p.m.

The Guitar Marathon: Bell’Italia
Our 6th biannual Guitar Marathon at the 92nd Street Y’s Kaufman Auditorium is co-curated by Eliot Fisk and the NYGF’s David Spelman. The warmth and splendor of Italy has inspired guitarists and composers for five centuries. Our day-long celebration of Italian guitar music, from the Renaissance and Baroque to Berio and the music of today, as performed by artists including Eliot Fisk, Bill Kanengiser, Connie Sheu, Dale Kavanagh, Emanuele Segre, Jason Vieaux, Nigel North, Hopkinson Smith, Pino Forastiere, The Harlem Quartet, and Lionheart.

Some of today’s finest classical guitarists and lutenists will reveal the different facets of the music of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries. The event runs from 2—10pm, with a break at 5pm. “An epic event” is how the The Wall Street Journal classified our first Marathon, and Jazz Times called it “a veritable guitar orgy.” Half and full-day tickets will be available in August. Presented in association with WNYC Radio and broadcast on 93.9 FM.