Harp Guitarists Visit
Alex de Grassi's Weekend Guitar Workshop

by Gregg Miner

On Saturday night, July 15th, 2006, the class of Alex de Grassi's weekend guitar camp in Los Gatos, California planned to kick back with food, drink and relaxed jamming.  They got a special treat when Fred Carlson came to discuss his latest harp guitar creation with the group of acoustic guitar lovers.  As my wife Jaci and I happened to be staying with Fred that weekend, Alex agreed to let me crash the party, and then invited Jeff Titus to make it a whole harp guitar evening!
At the outdoor stage, Fred discussed and demonstrated the New Dream, perhaps his most marvelous creation yet. He tied the discussion in nicely with his earlier harp guitar - Jeff's Oracle - which was in turn loosely based on Michael Hedges' Dyer.  I then shortened my usual 3-hour lecture to about 3 minutes, then did my harp-mando piece and a tune on my Style 8 Dyer.
Jeff followed with a few pieces of Hedges and his own, with his friend Drew Youngs accompanying.  Drew is recording and producing Jeff's first CD, and is a virtuoso guitarist of the John McLaughlin school. Alex and his students listen, enthralled (this must have been during my segment).
I certainly had no intention of jamming - something I rarely attempt, as I perform only once or twice per year.  And certainly not with two guitar heroes!  It all started when someone asked me to play my The Friends I Finally Met harp-mandolin solo again.  Drew immediately began so creatively and intuitively accompanying me that it sounded as if we wrote it together.  Though I am a "prepared player" only, I managed to hold it together to very end.... ...when Alex sat down with his Sympitar.  So I had to extend the tune with improv over the chords for another ten minutes.  With Drew leading the way we continued to jam literally non-stop for two hours.  Fred nick-named me "Shred Miner" as I went b*lls-out to keep up with these guys, sweating enough to make Stacy Hobbs look bone-dry by comparison.  Fred tensely waited for this permanent bead of sweat to fall off my nose onto my Knutsen, but it managed to defy all laws of physics throughout the entire evening.

We then added Jeff, who cranked on a 6-string, then Roger from the class (a former teacher himself).  The rest of the group (especially Fred) were apparently digging the whole night.  Finally, each of the students played a piece, and Alex finished the night with his stunning arrangement of Hendrix' Angel (heard on that NY Guitar Festival compilation). I surprised the group with a rare "meets minimum requirements" true harp guitar (actually a relative).  Received directly from Portugal the day before (through the efforts of Brad Hoyt), you will learn all about this strange overly-voluptuous instrument in Brad's upcoming article.  Alex found it a great Blues lead instrument, especially as it could not remotely hold tune.
Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my musical genius - who am I to judge? - but this was about as much fun as a musician can have with his pants on (outside of our own Harp Guitar Gathering jams with Bennett, et al...).

Apparently we didn't wear out our welcome (well, I might have) as Alex invited Fred and Jeff back for the following week's class as well.  With the addition of Jeff Traugott, they repeated much of their presentation to an eager new group of twelve students.

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