Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Clinic Concert

By Todd Hildreth

Once a year, jazz guitarist and educator Jeff Sherman organizes a jazz guitar clinic at Bellarmine College. It lasts two days and features instructors who are true legends in the field of jazz guitar. Clinicians of the past have included Jim Hall, Howard Roberts, Jimmy Raney (now very ill), and Jimmy Stewart. The first day of the clinic concludes with a concert. This year's concert took place on June 13 in Wyatt Hall at Bellarmine.

One of the great things about the concerts is they're so laid-back. No one cares when little things go wrong, that the house lights were left on the first half of the concert, or that Cal Collins came on stage without his guitar cord and had to go and get it, or that the arrangements are often discussed right before the tune is played (sometimes during the tune).

One year Jimmy Raney was backstage talking during Cal Collins' solo set. At one point Jimmy's voice rose above the music. Cal looked up, realized it was Jimmy, smiled, and went on playing as beautifully as before. People don't come for a big production, they come for music. The music is the other great thing.

This year's lineup consisted of Cal Collins, Peter Leitch, and the legendary Herb Ellis. All three were great, but Cal Collins really knocked me out. I've heard him before, but this time he really moved me.

Cal plays bebop that twangs and growls in just the right places, and he's harmonically fantastic. And when Cal gets to the lowest note on the guitar and needs to get lower, he just grabs the tuning peg and gets down there. I can dig it.

All three guitarists played separately, then together for a finale. The closing tune was a blistering take on "The Flintstones" that brought the audience to its feet. For an encore they played a funky down-home blues.

The rhythm section featured locals Bruce Morrow and Ben Ingram on drums and bass, respectively. Backing these three giants is no easy task, but they did not disappoint. Check the clinic out next year -- at least the concert. It's well worth it.