Beppe Gambetta in concert


I had the very good fortune of seeing Italian acoustic steel string guitar maestro Beppe Gambetta play last night at my favourite concert venue of all time, a little café restaurant in the north of Luxembourg. The café seats around 100 and does some great food so it’s nice to turn up early, have a candlelit meat with friends and then watch an intimate performance. I’ve never yet been to a bad gig there and always thoroughly enjoy myself. Last night was no exception.

I first heard of Beppe through a friend of mine, picksmith Dave Skowron of Tortis Pick fame. When I heard that he was playing with Dan Crary at the same little café back in 2004, Dave told me to jump at it. “That’s half the Men of Steel at one gig!” was his cry! (the other half being Tony McManus and Don Ross). So I went to that and was blown away.

Then in 2005 I went to Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp in Maryland, Tennessee where Beppe was one of the instructors (so were Tony and Dan!). So I took a couple of masterclasses with Beppe and came away suitably impressed with his teaching material and style.

He then played again at the little café last year and, finally, once again last night. It’s funny to think that our guitar heroes get better the same as we mere mortals do – I always think, well, they’re such great players anyway, so how can they get better. But as a player, I understand all too well that, as long as the passion and hunger is there, one is never really satisfied. I can think of several times when I’ve thought to myself, now if only I could play that, I’d be happy. But of course that’s not how it works, and thank God for that! And naturally it is the same for all players, no matter what the level. All of which is to say that Beppe really has improved since I saw him last year. He’s got a new solo CD out (Slade Stomp) and much of the material is technically more complex than his Blu di Genova CD. In short, he blew me away last night. He has an arrangement of an Ave Maria which would bring a tear to a glass eye — he composed that to play at a friend’s wedding.

It was gratifying to be recognised when I went up to say hello – “ah, my Scottish friend – sorry about the football!” Well, I’ll give him that. The music levels the playing field, to use a football metaphor (and to my dear American readers, I of course mean soccer, which really is proper football since we play only with our feet – not the American football where one is permitted to use one’s hands!)

He had a new guitar with him this time as well, an R. Taylor in Engelmann spruce and Madascar rosewood with a bevel. I’ve never much cared for the Taylor sound, but this was different. The R. Taylors are hand made by Bob Taylor so I guess it’s the same deal as the Lowdens and George Lowdens. It sounded really great acoustically, but boy oh boy, when he plugged it in, it was about as good as it gets. I’ve heard a LOT of plugged in sounds and this was up there with the best I’ve heard. It had an Expression system installed but he played also into a condenser mic. I should start doing that.

Beppe Gambetta @ L’Inoui, Luxembourg

Anyway, back to the gig. He played a mix of old and new and I was really pleased to hear him play my two favourites from Blu di Genova, On the Road with Mama and Church Street Blues. I mentioned to him at the break that he had already played two of my three favourites from the CD, the other being haunting Fuinde. So he said he would play that for me in the encore, and he did! Thanks, Beppe!

I bought his new CD and the accompanying tab book as well. I’d dearly love to learn to play some Beppe tunes but they seem to be getting up there with Pierre Bensusan’s tunes in terms of difficulty. One day, for sure!

Here are a few tunes for your enjoyment. If you like ’em, go and see him or buy his CDs. You won’t regret it!

Beppe Gambetta
On the Road with Mama
Beppe Gambetta
Church Street Blues
Beppe Gambetta
Ave Maria
Beppe Gambetta