Monday, April 8, 2013

Influences and Inspirations: Steve Howe

April 8 - Happy birthday Steve Howe.

It's hard to know where to start when discussing a guitarist whose influence on me has been as huge, and whose best work still inspires me as much as Steve Howe.

Steve Howe was the first guitarist who firmly implanted the idea in my mind that being stuck in one genre was neither interesting or even necessary, but also, that whatever you decide to play, you must do it the best you can and with as much feeling and commitment as you can. Steve played in a rock band with symphonic inclinations, but his big influences were jazz guitarists like Barney Kessel, and country legend Chet Atkins. And he allowed those influences, and others, to show as much as he wanted. Add in some classical, flamenco and ragtime, a penchant for unusual instruments, and a flair for pedal steel guitar, and you have a guitarist with amazing creative energy that was always turning in unexpected directions. This led to him being voted Best Overall Guitarist in the Guitar Player magazine's reader's poll, five years in a row. The only others to accomplish that happened to be two other genre-defying guitar giants, who I also rank among my biggest influences: Steve Morse and Eric Johnson.

For me, as a classical guitar student all the way back to high school, "Mood For A Day" and "Roundabout" were ingrained in my fingers very early on. But I have equally admired his genre-busting creative energy always flowing in so many directions; and his early performances, with their high intensity just-go-for-it vibe, are still riveting.

The song below, "Sound Chaser," from the Relayer album, captures all that for me in one stunning song. has a pretty good "top 10 solos" list for Steve Howe, with some very well written commentary. Click here to read and listen. I concur with most of their choices but would have to add a few others. How about you?

I have happily labored over a great number of Steve's guitar parts for many years, and been blessed with the chance to play a number of Yes songs with my band Hectic Red over the years; most recently we unveiled a Yes medley. I definitely play them in tribute to Steve.

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