Billboard (February 22, 1986)

His First Album for Private Will Be Voiceless;
Kottke's Acoustic Music Is Again in Vogue

By Steven Dupler

      New York -- The surge of interest in new age and acoustic instrumental music is helping guitarist Leo Kottke get his career back on track.

      The Minnesota-born virtuoso recently signed with Private Music, an unexpected move that will see him release his first album in almost three years and undertake an extensive tour later n the year.  

      Kottke first came into the national spotlight in the early '70s, a period when stringed acoustic music was enjoying one of its periodic renaissances.

      "It's a cyclical thing," Kottke says.  "the flurry of interest in Europe a few years ago followed by about eight years the same surge that was occurring here when I was with Takoma and then Capitol."

      The foggy-voiced Kottke (who says he will not sing on his Private debut) is regarded as a master of a singular and very American style of guitar which draws as much from Appalachian bluegrass as from bottleneck blues and classical music.

      The "folkier" sound of his earlier product, on the Takoma label, similar to work by John Fahey and Bola Sete, was eventually augmented by a grander, more fully orchestrated approach on Capitol albums such as the live My Feet Are Smiling and Chewing Pine.

      Kottke recorded six albums for Capitol before moving to Chrysalis, where he cut another five including several greatest hits packages.  Since his deal with Chrysalis expired two and a half years ago, he's kept busy playing concerts and working on his technique.

      "I've been touring here, in Europe and Australia," he says.  "Mostly, though, I've been taking a break to see what would develop.  I also finally learned to read music."

      Kottke notes that he "quit using picks a few years ago" and has become partial to the six-string rather than 12-string guitar as a result.

      "The music is still coming form the same source, though," he says.  "I haven't deliberately tried to write something different.   However, I can see a lot of development in my writing.  I've grown harmonically, and I've got a better grip on rhythm -- what it is and how to feel it."

      Kottke was introduced to Peter Baumann through talent manager Elliot Sears.  "He called me one day and said 'These people know about you.'  I was itching to go -- I've got a lot of new material around -- and they were real happy to trust my judgment."

      The record Private will get from Kottke will likely be considerably different from any project he's done before.  Jazz bassist Buell Neidlinger is set to play on and produce the album in a lineup that also includes cello, synthesizer and Kottke's guitar.  Neidlinger, whom Kottke says he met some nine years ago, played bass with Cecil Taylor's band in the late '50s and early 60s; co- wrote with Stephane Grapelli and David Grisman the soundtrack to "King Of The Gypsies"; and composed the soundtrack to Little Treasure with Kottke.  The band finished recording about two weeks ago with engineer Danny Wallin at Studio M on the Paramount lot.

      According to Kottke, Neidlinger's conservatory training helped keep the rehearsals quick and organized.  "I like to be able to go into a session well rehearsed and record stuff in just three or four days." Kottke says.

      The guitarist believes that the primary reason Private become interested in him is his willingness to tour.  "I like to tour," he says.  "Live is better.  On a good night, special things come to me and the audience.  I find it all very mysterious."

      Kottke's resurgence won't be limited to the record and proposed tour:  This summer publisher Hal Leonard will release a book of Kottke's music printed in both standard notation and guitar tablature.  He's also got high hopes for the new record.  "I've sold a few records, but I don't think I've made the right one yet.  Maybe this is it."

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