Guitarist to star in series finale

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat /

The Twisted Folk Concert Series in Vallecito will go out swinging on Saturday.

Twisted Oak Winery's sixth and final summer show will feature the John Jorgenson Quintet, specializing in Gypsy jazz in the style of Django Reinhardt. The quintet is the only American act ever to headline the Django Reinhardt Memorial Festival in France.

This will be Jorgenson's first visit to Vallecito, though not his first to the Sierra foothills - he has performed several times at the Strawberry Music Festival, dating as far back as 1984 with the Rhythm Brothers and Thunder Mountain Boys, and packed the house in 2005 at the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland.

He also will perform Sept. 11 on opening night of the 2014 Strawberry Fall Music Festival in Grass Valley.

Joining Jorgenson at Twisted Oak will be John Jarvis on piano, Simon Planting on bass, Jason Anick on violin and Rick Reed on percussion.

"This is the first time we'll be out there with a piano player instead of a rhythm guitar," Jorgenson said by phone earlier this month from Canada, where he was performing after a month-long tour of Europe and before shows at the Grand Ole Opry and in three Southeastern states.

"In the month of August I'll be home about four days," he said.

Born in 1956 in Madison, Wis., Jorgenson began playing piano and clarinet at age 8 and has been playing music professionally since age 14. He attended junior and senior high school in Redlands in Southern California, and in his early 20s he played clarinet full-time with the Main Street Maniacs at Disneyland.

Jorgenson came to national attention in the mid-1980s, co-founding the country-rock Desert Rose Band with Chris Hillman and earning the Academy of Country Music's "Guitarist of the Year" award three times in a row.

In the 1990s, he became one-third of the Hellecasters, renowned for their fretboard fireworks. Elton John then invited Jorgenson to join his band in 1994 for an 18-month tour that stretched into a six-year stint.

He also has collaborated with the likes of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Rodney Crowell, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Luciano Pavarotti, Barbra Streisand and Roy Orbison and is regularly featured on saxophone, clarinet, bouzouki, pedal steel, mandolin, bassoon, string bass, Dobro, piano and vocals.

In the movies "Head in the Clouds" and "Gattica,"Jorgenson was tapped to re-create Django Reinhardt's music, and in "Head in the Clouds" he appeared onscreen as Reinhardt alongside Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz.

At present, Jorgenson leads three separate bands - the John Jorgenson Quintet, John Jorgenson Electric Band and John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, or J2B2 for short, which will be the incarnation at Strawberry.

Jorgenson said his favorite band is "whichever one I'm doing at the moment - if I don't get to play a certain style for awhile I kind of miss it."

He also continues to play regularly with the Desert Rose Band and as called by Elton John, often leading to logistical dilemmas.

"I need a flow chart for the equipment because you can't carry it all," he said.

The music is not as difficult to keep straight, as proven when he performed with all three of his bands two weeks ago at the 10th annual Guitar Town festival in Copper Mountain, Colo.

"When I get a certain guitar in hand, that music just comes - like if you put on your Sunday suit, you're not going to want to go out and do paintball," he said. "When I pick up a mandolin, it takes me right to bluegrass world."

The quintet also played last night at Yoshi's in Oakland and will play Friday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz.

Among the tunes Jorgenson will play Saturday is an original work titled "Sonora Spring," which was actually inspired by a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

He has three new albums coming out in January, all in one package with each of his bands.

" 'Returning' is Gypsy jazz, 'Gifts From the Flood' is a bluegrass album using instruments and amps that were salvaged after the big flood in Nashville, and the electric album is called 'From the Crow's Nest' because it was recorded at Sheryl Crow's studio," he said.

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The Union Democrat
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