Preston Reed
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Preston Reed


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"Preston Reed at RNCM Brown Shipley Concert Hall: Five Stars"

UK-BASED American, Preston Reed, has been hailed as the best acoustic guitarist in the world. And, on the evidence of this outstanding solo concert, it would be hard to disagree.

A genial giant with a mop of shoulder-length hair, he captivated the audience with his amalgam of blues, country and rock and a technique that had to be seen to be believed.

Bringing his left hand over as well as under the neck of his instrument, he was able to create sonic and rhythmic effects which at times simulated the sound of a whole band.

This gave his music texture, colour and variety, enhanced by the use of no fewer than six different guitars. Among the more reflective pieces, Love In The Old Country, with its flavour of rural Italy, was especially well received, though the delicate, bittersweet False Spring was no less impressive.

But Reed's methods were at their most spectacular in quick-fire numbers like Shinkansen, dedicated to Japan's high speed train, and Tractor Pull in which his wizardry reached its peak.

He went electric for part of the second set, strapping on a Strat for the Johnny Cash tribute, Twang Thang, and a semi-acoustic for the jazz tinged, Chord Melody.

Reed's unassuming manner and wry sense of humour also won him many friends and the three encores reflected what was an impeccable performance by a major musical talent.
- Manchester Evening News: Steve Millward

"Dolan's Warehouse, Limerick Brendan Coffey wax’s lyrical over Preston Reed..."

Appearing on stage Preston Reed almost immediately distracts attention from his imposing physicality with a display of guitar playing that leaves one thinking some sort of sign should have adorned the entrance. 'Genius at work' being most appropriate.
The cause of distraction in looking away from Reed and towards his guitar is initially, at least, his style of playing. Imagine placing a guitar on the ground and proceeding to play it as though its strings were made of ivory and you have some idea of Preston Reed's unorthodox style.
If the initial cause of focus is on Mr. Reed's guitar, the sounds that emanate from them (he used four in all, including one electric) quickly become addictive substances that dare one to turn away at the peril of missing something spectacular.
Starting with 'Ladies Night', Reed's opening four songs are breathtakingly melodic, blending the brash and at times overawing sound of the guitar, beautifully cultivated by his inimitable style of playing. His fourth song 'Nightride'- is a virtuoso piece of music, slowly and gently revealing itself before developing into a sound that is fast, powerful and wickedly strident. By his own admission, the song is a bit "schizophrenic"!
Better is still to come and the sixth song of the evening, 'Overture' is resounding in its ability to capture the audience, soaring to a musical zenith that is joyous and blissfully bombastic.
He converses with the crowd in an intelligent, laid back and honest manner that endears the crowd to listen intently to Reed for over two hours. Three times he returns to the stage after departing, and 'Overture' gets another airing by request from the crowd.
Reed receives a thoroughly deserved standing ovation at the end. The sign on the door should be changed to - "A genius worked here".
- Irish Magazine

"Edinburgh Jazz Festival, by Jim Gilchrist"

The amazing Preston Reed takes a spectacularly idiosyncratic, double-handed attack to the fretboard, churning it like a piano and using the rest of the instrument as a percussion section. In his agile hands, a jaunty finger-picking blues evolved into something entirely different and much darker, a piece inspired by Japan's bullet train hammered along appropriately, while his homage to 1970s funk, disco and fusion jazz was no spoof but a hypnotic tour de force from not so much a guitarist as a Well-Above-Average White One-Man Band.
- The Scotsman

"Handwritten Notes Review"

This CD is irresistible. The rhythms in this collection of guitar instrumentals are too infectious to ignore. Listeners will find their shoulders shaking, their torsos bobbing and weaving and their hands will be uncontrollably slapping anything in reach, in time with each composition. The faster, upbeat and more percussive numbers throughout the album are offset with slower, introspective ones to allow the listener to catch his/her breath.
Not long ago, Preston encountered a college student who posed the idea, after hearing him, that he (Preston) is an alien, of the extraterrestrial variety. No earthling could possibly be this good. I, myself, began to wonder if this argument might have some merit. A cyborg, at least? This guy has to have a metronome built in there somewhere. With all the switches from rapid-fire strumming, to trademark fret-popping, to vicious turnarounds and back, he misses NOT ONE beat, ever.
The first track, "Night Ride" starts out with a bluesy riff featuring some lazily bent notes. It reels you in nice and slow. No need to hit you over the head with the entire arsenal immediately. About halfway through, the percussive fingerpopping begins and kicks into a kind of warp speed with some flashes of strumming dropped in. By its end you inhale and come up for air in the intervening empty space while waiting for what comes next.
What comes next is a sweetly swaying melody, perfect for it's namesake, "Gianiana". It's easy to picture the object of its insprationto be a graceful, extremely attractive woman. This is followed by "First Summer Without You," a melancholy jazz-infused piece, easily conjuring up the loneliness following a loss."Tractor pull" kicks the groove into high gear again. It sounds like two hearts racing in tandem, as the hammer-ons keep the notes flying almost faster than we can take them in. "Crossing Open Water" rolls softly, gently, like its name suggests, a relaxing respite from the trip-hammer-speed of the preceding composition.
The rest of the CD continues along an ever-varying path, steering away from a cold display of guitar pyrotechics with an innate passion.
- Acoustic Live in New York City and Beyond

"History Of Now, Four Stars, Top Marks"

History of Now, according to Preston Reed is a collection of new compositions written since 2000 along with some old favourites that may not have been available before. And what a collection it is. For those not familiar with him, Preston Reed hails from New York State and has recorded 13 albums since 1979. Now based in Europe, Preston composes and plays all of his own work on a range of guitars, from steel string acoustic, solid body electric, semi-acoustic, 12-string and classical (amongst others).

His work encompasses many genres and this is quite apparent on his latest work. From the bluesy stlyings of early Rhythm and Blues to Ballads to Jazz to Rock to a wider World feel, History of Now really shows Preston at his best. With flavours of Robert Johnson, Mike Oldfiled (circa Guitars release) and Ry Cooder, History of Now is an emotional rollercoaster. The opening track, Dead Cool starts the album off with a definite flavour of what to expect. Excellent playing, fantastic melodies and a range of sound that showcases Preston's abilities. From the frenetic Twang Thang and Corazon to the beautiful ballad stylings of False Spring and Woman In The Tower, History of Now is highly recommended for those that like well played instrumental music with passion. History of Now is available on the Outer Bridge Records label.

Reviewed on 02 October 2005
- Entertainment Ireland, CD Review by David Bryan

"Handwritten Notes Reviews"

John Diliberto, Billboard Magazine Critic's Choice:
A tour de force solo album... articulating the jazz-inflected harmonies of the ballad "First Summer Without You" or tearing up the fretboard on barn burners like "Shinkansen" (named for Japan's bullet trains), Reed works a delirious combination of deft polyrhythms and melodic counterpoint that spins your head. "Crossing Open Water" is almost a symphony in miniature with its heart-stopping dynamic shifts and timbral colorations. Handwritten Notes should be a bible for anyone looking at the extended possibilities of the acoustic guitar.

Dirty Linen:
Fifty-six minutes of original instrumental guitar from a very creative composer. Blending and bending textures and influences, Reed offers thoughtful and thought-provoking musical musical vignettes that offer more with each listening. Tempo and tone range from reflective to funky as Reed challenges himself and the listener by telling stories without words."

Handwritten Notes, the latest album from Preston Reed.
To say that Preston Reed is a one-man band wouldn't even be getting close to a description of his talents. He is a one-man symphony orchestra. Handwritten Notes is a collection of original tracks for acoustic guitar written and performed solely by Preston but you could be forgiven for thinking that at least three more musicians had slipped craftily into the studio to swell the fabulous sound. And not content with playing the guitar as if he had ten fingers on each hand, Preston accompanies himself with inspired rhythm by attacking the fretboard with both fists (or could it be his feet?).
Awesome guitar-playing apart, what makes this album so magical is its depth of experience. Each track is more than just a random tune. It is a story in itself with a potent, cinematic atmosphere and an almost tangible thread of communication between Preston Reed and the listener.

Guitar and Bass:
One listen to Preston Reed and we guarantee you'll never look at an acoustic guitar the same way again. Sounding more like ten men - and men with titanium hands at that - Handwritten Notes is in fact the work of one man and his Ovation Adams. Night Ride opens the album at a breathless bluesy pace, with Reed using every part of his hand for a percussive effect, at times defying belief with his deftness.

The remarkable Preston Reed finally gets a UK release for 2000's Handwritten Notes (OUTER BRIDGE) a mesmerising set of instrumentals from the guitar virtuoso, taking on allcomers from funk to blues to jazz and beyond. Classy stuff

For the uninitiated, American veteran Preston Reed is widely thought of as the world's most gifted acoustic guitarist. Fusing blues, folk, funk and jazz, he's always been capable of scaling Hendrix-style heights of dazzling technical brilliance, and this album continues in a similarly virtuoso vein, Handwritten Notes really is a must.

There's no doubt that we're currently enjoing something of a solo acoustic renaissance which is being spearheaded by a handful of guitarists who have taken the burning brand from the late lamented Michael Hedges and are now running a race much their own. Preston Reed is certainly one of the genre's frontrunners, as this latest CD ably attests. Shunning the conventional EADGBE for the more esoteric tunings favored by the acoustic cogniscenti, Reed runs the gamut of expression in a collection of his own compositions - sensitive ballads sitting happily next to fierce percussive workouts that test the capabilities of the instrument itself, this is an example of true, spellbinding guitar mastery.
Standout tracks: First Summer Without You, Tractor Pull, Nightride

EuroClub de Jazz:
World renowned acoustic guitarist Preston Reed, whose idol is piano great Bill Evans, produces an amazing 14-track set on this disc and, at times, sounds like a one-man band by slapping and punching his instrument while playing high notes to accompany the lower melody.
He has been called a phenomenon and his creativity likened to Jimi Hendrix but Preston plays without a head full of chemical inspiration and, as he says, he communicates with the world through his music.
If any odious comparison should be made, he is more like the Paul Simon of the acoustic guitar. In fact, one or two numbers might well influence Simon to add lyrics.
In the main, this is a virtuoso performance by the pony-tailed American who is now living in Scotland covering jazz, blues and rock with even a hint of skiffle! Well, he did start off playing the ukulele.
All the tracks are quite hypnotic and the disc’s 56 minutes is over in a flash. The outstanding track for this listener is Quintana Roo on which his full bag of tricks is demonstrated to the full.
- Various

"History Of Now"

History Of Now is the first release in five years from the highly innovative and individual guitarist Preston Reed. An early disciple of John Fahey and Leo Kottke he’s developed into a genuinely original instrumentalist with his concurrent melodic and rhythmic lines and percussive two-handed attack on fretboard and body. Yet Reed is far more than a man of mere technique. History is evocative and vivid, with an understated beauty and a Ry Cooder-like sense of atmospherics in places. His recent collaborations with Arild Anderson and others show a broader and more reflective composer and interpreter than previous, yet brilliant, acoustic-only explorations such as Metal and Handwritten Notes.

‘Hit The Ground Running’ is fuelled with a wonderful, orchestral rhythmic bluster and high-range melodic jangling while ‘Signal Path’ has an infectiously folky hand-patting, hammer-on/pull-off groove. ‘Chord Melody’ recalls the harmonic warmth of Jim Hall which contrasts with the dazzling funk-blues of ‘Corazon’.

Jazzwise U.K.
James McGowan

Preston Reed is a guitarist who has followed the unenviable path taken by Martin Taylor - solo guitar. Like Taylor, Reed is capable of astonishing sheets of sound which defy belief in the possibilities of only two hands.
On this new CD, History Of Now (Outer Bridge Records), he is also adept at Ry Cooder-ish slide and bluesy bluegrass. Although the photos suggest that Reed plays an Ovation-style acoustic guitar, there is the occasional whiff of electronic experimentations in this programme of 14 original solo compositions.
Guitarists will spend many happy hours guessing the makes of the various guitars used, in addition to enjoying the stunning virtuoso display. Watch out Martin Taylor, there is an American rival on your trail.

Ron Burnett
Jazz notes U.K.

Originally hailing from New York State, USA, but now living in Europe
Preston Reed is one of those guitarists who is as well a melody man, a guitarist/composer and percussionist who creates on his own a fully one man band. Through the years he released some 13 albums, including Metal, Ladies Night, Handwritten Notes and Instrument Landing .His new CD, History of Now, contains as well some new arranged pieces of other albums as some exceptional well new composed works. Preston
Reed's remarkable talent was also praised by the late Michael Hedges
and other colleagues in the acoustic guitar circuit. When one at first listens to one of Preston Reed's CD's one gets the impression at least 3 guitars are played in a trio setting, but Preston does as well the bass, melody and
percussion part all by himself. He plays as well acoustic, classical as electric guitars, but most of his fans will see him as a gifted musician who is as well a creator of atmosphere as a phenomenal technical skilled guitarist/ composer.
Groove is one of the ingredients of his music which makes his music so
attractive and one feels the chemistry with a listener as on Dead Cool, a very appealing track with a superb approach to acoustic guitar music. Signal Path is full of hammer on and pulling of and slapping and tapping techniques.
The captivating ballad Woman in the Tower, reveals the composing talent of this guitar virtuoso, in an intimate and touching ambiance. Chord Melody, a track which covers jazzy chord changes in another magnificent composed piece of art. The melancholic interpretation of False Spring takes one on an
adventurous lazy trip in many moving sound escapades. Lost Time, with a bluesy setup with a jazzy coating is breathtaking. History of Now shows the diversity and versatility of one of the most talented guitarists in the acoustic
guitar circuit.

Henk te Veldhuis
Bridge Guitar Reviews (Netherlands)

- Various Reviews


History Of Now
Released 2005 Outer Bridge OB1004

Handwritten Notes
Released 2000 Outer Bridge OB1001

Ladies Night
Re-released 2004 Outer Bridge, OB1003
Original release 1997 Dusty Closet Records, DCD-96002

Re-released 2002 Outer Bridge, OB1002
Original release 1995 Dusty Closet Records, DCD-95001

Groovemasters, Volume 1
Solid Air Records,(1997), Duet with Laurence Juber

Border Towns
Released 1992 Liberty 98708

Halfway Home
Released 1991 Liberty/Capitol Nashville Master Series 95885

Blue Vertigo
Released 1990 Capitol Nashville Master Series 94381

Preston Reed
Originally released 1990 Flying Fish 7011 (includes Pointing Up and Playing by Ear)

Instrument Landing
Originally released 1989 MCA/Universal Master Series 7800
Re-released 1990 by Liberty/Capitol Nashville Master Series 93957

The Road Less Travelled
Released 1987 Flying Fish 70423

Playing By Ear
Released 1984 Flying Fish 324

Don't Be A Stranger
Originally released 1982 by Folkstudio

Pointing Up
Released 1982 Flying Fish 244

Acoustic Guitar
Originally released 1979 Sky Records


Feeling a bit camera shy


Preston Reed has virtually reinvented how the acoustic guitar is played. Reed practices a flamboyant self-invented style, characterized by percussive techniques and simultaneous rhythm and melody lines that dance and ricochet around each other, giving his music a level of excitement that is unparalleled among today's guitarists.

Playing an array of guitars from acoustic to electric to classical, Reed's vast range of explosively original music will forever change your expectation of a guitarist.
First-time listeners find it impossible to believe that they're hearing just the one musician, in real time. Reed attacks the entire instrument in a never-ending search for the orchestra he knows is lurking inside. At full tilt, his fingers, thumbs, fists and hands at once suggest a drummer, keyboardist, bassist and several guitarists at work.

The most impressive thing about Reed's technique, though, is that it doesn't draw attention to itself. His compositions are far from abstract virtuosic displays; even without lyrics he creates vivid, engrossing scenes. Sometimes the effect is almost onomatopoetic. Reed generates visual stimuli with every tweak of his instrument, thus augmenting his wordless compositions with an aura of the poetic. Each tune is a story in itself with a potent, cinematic atmosphere and an almost tangible thread of communication between Preston Reed and the listener.

Reed's entry into this guitar odyssey was inauspicious enough, his path thereafter largely self-discovered. A few chords learned from his guitar playing father, a brief, very brief, flirtation with the ukulele, clandestine practice sessions of his favourite Beatles and Stones songs on dad's guitar .... and then a too-strict classical guitar teacher led to premature retirement.

At 16, however, Reed heard Jefferson Airplane's rootsy blues offshoot, Hot Tuna. His interest was rekindled big time. Acoustic guitar heroes John Fahey and Leo Kottke were studied, their styles absorbed but not imitated, and at this point things really begin to get interesting because, at 17, Reed, by now precociously proficient, played his first live gig, supporting beat poet Allen Ginsberg at the Smithsonian Institute.

Just getting on a train from his native Armonk in New York State to Washington was a cool adventure. And it was just the first of many, not least of which was the one which resulted from his signing his first deal with a major record company, MCA, through the auspices of his friend, country singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett.

Determined to make the most of this opportunity, Reed pushed himself to go beyond the standard fingerpicking styles he'd perfected. The result was the beginnings of Reeds startlingly innovative style, with its percussive, two-handed fretboard attack, that you hear today and which has caused guitar luminaries such as Al DiMeola and the late Michael Hedges to describe Reed as "phenomenal" and "inspiring". His playing has spawned a generation of imitators, yet Reed remains one of a kind.

Reed's compositional talents extend to film soundtracks and prestigious commissions for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, and as well as appearances alongside Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt his major performances include an historic live satellite broadcast on Turkish National Television in 1997 with renowned saz player and composer Arif Sag which reached an audience of 120 million in 17 countries, prompting a flood of international telephone calls to the station from stunned viewers.

Since 1979, he has recorded thirteen albums and three videos and charmed audiences on three continents. He continues to tour with the same hunger and relish that informs his guitar playing. The secret, he says, is to relax and let the guitar patterns run by themselves. Which explains how, at full tilt, he may sound like a full-on heavy metal band but he still won't have broken sweat.