Laurence Juber winging it after a post-McCartney career.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Laurence Juber grew up in the 1960s England of Hendrix, Clapton, Stones and Beatles.
“Every time you blinked there was another band,” says Juber from his home in L.A.
Though his parents wanted him to take up the sax, he says in a polite British lilt, “I got a guitar for my 11th birthday and never put it down.”
At 13, he was playing parties and messing about in various bands. But formal music studies at London University opened the door to West End productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, studio sessions playing lead on The Spy Who Loved Me, and TV gigs. It was through a TV show that he met Denny Laine, former lead singer of the Moody Blues, who introduced Juber to Paul McCartney to audition for his supergroup Wings.
“I have no idea how many people auditioned,” says Juber. “But I think I fit the suit, if you get my expression. Paul is, himself, a versatile musician, so we just jammed.
“That afternoon my life changed.”
He would play lead guitar in Wings for the remaining years of the band’s existence, starting with a humble 1979 gig at McCartney’s former Liverpool high school. But they would ascend to heights of platinum records, Grammys, stadium concerts and gigs with Pete Townsend, John Paul Jones and David Gilmore of Pink Floyd.
“I’d find myself onstage thinking ‘Wow, that’s Paul McCartney.’ I would be playing Beatles songs with a Beatle.”
Nearly 30 years after Wings disbanded, he’s composing and playing enviable gigs, including studio work on the Dirty Dancing score (“It sold more records than any Wings album”), Happy Days, The Secret Life of an American Teenager, and Oscar-winning leads on Good Will Hunting and Pocohantas.
“I’ve got three musicals, one running in L.A., another going international soon. But my primary focus is to tour as a solo fingerstyle player.”
That style allows Juber to play multiple parts of an arrangement, including bass, harmonics, melody and percussion. And that’s what he’ll bring to his West Coast solo tour stop at Monterey Live, on Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and many originals from his catalogue of 15 solo albums.
“In fingerpicking, there’s elements of folk, jazz, blues, classical and rock,” says Juber. “The technique can be complex, but the musicality is easy to enjoy.”
As one fan testifies on a YouTube video of Juber’s cover of “Layla”: “damn!! hes actually playin the singing part as wel!!”
It’s a warm, haunting, mellow style that rings as clean as chimes, and sounds like a duet of two guitars. His record company, Solid Air, revolves around acoustic guitar.
“There’s one album that just came out recently called My Favorite Martin, named after the 1833 guitar company, which has interesting people like Steve Miller, Steve Howe from Yes, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawks from the Cars, Nancy Wilson from Heart.”
Juber says his shows typically draw amateur guitarists who sit up front and “stare” at his fret work, and couples who bask in the romantic atmosphere of the music.
“I’m good for dates,” he laughs.
Laurence Juber plays Monterey Live 7:30pm Saturday, at 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. $18/advance; $20/day of. 373-5483, www.montereylive.com