Carolina Morning News (September 4, 1998)

Guitar virtuoso returning to Self Family Arts Center

Leo Kottke to perform two concerts Sept.  11-12 in Elizabeth Wallace Theatre

By Terri Jo Ryan

      For one generation, the name "Leo" evokes thoughts of swooning at some romantic flick. But for a slightly older one, the name "Leo" is followed by "Kottke" -- and a thrill of excitement at the thought of seeing this guitar guru in action.

      For the second time in two years, Kottke will perform his wizardry on Hilton Head Island Sept.  11-12 at The Self Family Art Center.  The concerts -- presented as part of the performing arts series -- are scheduled for 8 p.m.  in the Elizabeth Wallace Theatre.

      Tickets are $30 and may be purchased at the arts center box office or guaranteed by telephone with a credit card by calling 842-2787.

      Kottke's hands are in perfect working order, thank goodness.  But the musician broke his right foot at a concert several weeks ago and is still recuperating at his Minneapolis home.

      He expects to be back in full form for the island concert, though.  "If not," he joked, "I'll be playing from a gurney."

      It would take a hospitalization to keep most of his avid aficionados from going to see him, as well.

      In his 30-year career on the six- and 12-string guitars, Kottke has been called a lot of things -- almost all of them superlatives.

      His music has been described as "blues on turbo speed," "mind-blowing" and "a marvel of heart and precision."

      Critics have called him a master, a virtuoso and one of the most innovative guitarists ever.

      What nobody seems able to do, however, is adequately categorize his music.  Not even Kottke.

      "It's a reflection of all the stuff I've done in my life," he said, adding that he's synthesized styles from bluegrass to opera.  Among other things, he's won a spot in Guitar Player magazine's Hall of Fame for his fleet-fingered mastery.

      A self-taught player, Kottke's formal musical training is limited to the lessons he received on the trombone at age 11.  His appetite for the instrument, however, has more than made up for his modest musical education.

      "I love the tone, the way the guitar sounds," Kottke said.  "When it's right, man, what a sound.  I never get tired of it."

      The 52-year-old musician spends 80 percent of his time on the road, performing all over the United States, Australia and Europe.

      To Kottke, who practices upward of 10 hours a day, it doesn't matter where he performs or what he plays.  He simply enjoys taking the stage.  "It's where I'm most at home," he says.  "It's where I have the most fun."

      Like snowflakes, no two concerts are alike.  Kottke never follows a program.  He plays what's on his mind at the moment.  At some point during the show, his fingers will fly across the strings in a spontaneous combustion of music.  Nothing is rehearsed, neither the music nor the conversation.

      Much has been made of his absurd stories and humorous anecdotes.  He doesn't set out to be funny, he just is.  While it is an important element of the concert experience, Kottke prefers to play it down.

      "I don't want to be a comedian," he said.  "I'm there to play.  It's all about the guitar."

      Most of his music is original, although he's quite comfortable playing standards.  He has written music for movies and television and recorded 24 albums.  His latest, "Standing in My Shoes," is an eclectic mix of tunes which includes three vocal performances.

      The album includes several previously recorded songs in which he uses his trademark slide guitar style that can make a six-string guitar sound like a 12-string.  All but one of the songs were played on the six-string.

      "I wanted it to be a rhythm record," Kottke said.  "I wanted to be able to listen to it with my feet."

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