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Sonny Greenwich

The One and Only

Hear Sonny Play
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Montréal's Sonny Greenwich has been compared to a number of the giants of jazz... usually as a way of describing his incomparable-ness! Much like his fellow guitarist Lenny Breau, Sonny is often considered a "musician's musician". On several occasions, his playing has been likened to that of John Coltrane: both exhibit a piercing intensity of tone which conveys their sense of powerful spirituality to their listeners. And Sonny also has an inclination to pursue a broad spectrum of artistically challenging, "it'll-never-sell" projects -- a kind of relentless integrity and sense of self that reminds me of no one so much as Ornette Coleman!

But personally, if I were to try and compare the unique Sonny Greenwich to anyone, it would be the also-unique Thelonious Monk. Both of them play in a style which is, for the most part, deliberately a-technical -- starker, searching for the uncommon chord or new run, less flashy than most of their contemporaries, but a careful listen will reveal sparks of technique that tell us it's all there, they can use it when they wish to. Both of them have an aggressive, utterly personal sound which can be identified nearly by a single note.
In Sonny's case, it's a personal sound distinguished by a firm, direct attack tempered with the odd fluid line, a powerful guitar tone which also avoids the hard-rock distortion we usually associate with guitar "power". What he ends up with is a sound of focused, laser-like guitar purity [indeed, much like Trane's penetrating tone], the sound of a man confident and comfortable with who he is and what he's doing.

While I'm admittedly a Greenwich newbie, I've already learned that, like Monk, like Trane, the sound of Sonny Greenwich is the sound of a master.

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