Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pierre Bensusan

Pierre Bensusan (born October 30, 1957) is a French-Algerian guitarist. His family came from Spain, Spanish Morocco and French Algeria. His CDs include Pres de Paris (1975), 2 (1977), Solilai (1982), Intuite (2000), An Evening With International Guitar Night (2004), and Altiplanos (2005). The genre of his acoustic guitar music is often characterized as Celtic, Folk, World music, New Age, or Chamber jazz.

Born in 1957 in Oran, French Algeria, he moved to Paris with his family when he was four years old. He took up the piano at the age of seven and, at the age of eleven, began to teach himself guitar. He signed the contract for his first album, Près de Paris, when he was just seventeen; it was released one year later, winning him the Grand Prix du Disque at the Montreux Festival. His many influences include Django Reinhardt, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Ry Cooder, Big Bill Broonzy, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Ralph Towner, Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny and Paco de Lucía.

Pierre Bensusan has a reputation as something of an innovator in the field of solo acoustic guitar, including his use of the DADGAD tuning system, and his experimentation with electronics such as delays, distortions and volume pedals, which have been largely abandoned on recent tours. Stylistically, his playing exhibits remarkable dynamics and tone control, usually to be found only in the playing of high-profile classical guitarists. The sophisticated, highly syncopated bass lines incorporated into his counterpoint arrangements also set him apart from the main host of contemporary fingerstyle players.

His unique style of scat-singing more than makes up in warmth, inventiveness and charm what it lacks in technical ability and he has continued to work this semi-improvised style into his compositions, both pre-composed and improvised. He has collaborated extensively with saxophonist Didier Malherbe, but today his tours are largely solo. He also performed the song "ELM" for the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack Cowboy Bebop No Disc for Yoko Kanno.

In 2001 he released Intuite, his first new studio recording in eight years and his first totally acoustic one. It won him critical acclaim and was followed up with Altiplanos in 2005 (see below for full discography). He continues to write and tour, playing occasional gigs with French wind maestro Didier Malherbe, as well as holding guitar workshops and writing guitar books. Often referred to as the "Mozart of Guitar," Bensusan is considered a virtuoso player by other virtuosos, including Michael Hedges, who wrote a piece for Bensusan. After Hedges' death, Bensusan wrote and recorded the song "So Long Michael" in tribute to Hedges' own masterful work as a virtuoso player.

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