Skeets Henry McWilliams 1924-2017   


I had great pleasure of knowing Skeets for a brief moment in time. He was an extremely unique virtuoso guitarist and a humble gentleman. He was my first guitar hero. I used to sneak out of church so I could go hear his brunch gig at Ralph and Kacoos in Jackson, MS. Revisting all these recordings affirmed he was a very special guitarist. His style had lots of Django in there but with more humility and tenderness, but still the playfulness. And he always had that DOD delay pedal going when I hear him- reminds me of Les Paul in ways. Perhaps that explains my fascination with warm tape echo today.  I was hearing him in his 70's,  not that he sounded slow then but I can't imagine what he was like early in his life. I did manage to get a ebay copy of his 1976 "Guitar styles  of.." record. It features a lots of overdubs and is a great window into his playing but, I think these solo pieces I recorded of him are even more noteworthy. Check out the Ephiphone ad from the 60's with him on the right!



So, here is a sound cloud link of lots of his recordings  :


I am putting these recordings out there so others might hear and experience his music. I recorded the solo pieces at his house on minidisc sometime in early 2000's. Bringing the recorder that day might have been the smartest thing I 've ever done. Not sure I knew just how special he was then. I wish I would have gotten together with him more but, so lucky for what time I did have with him... The trio recordings were recorded at Musiquarium in Jackson, MS around the same time. They are with Raphael Semmes on bass and Doug Thomas on Drums. 

Skeets was born in Jackson, Miss., where he spent his younger years learning to play guitar. He went on to become a jazz guitarist working with the Ray Anthony Orchestra, radio station WGN and TV station WBKB in Chicago, Illinois, and later owned Skeets' Guitar Shop in Jackson, Miss.  I believe he studied  music with Pasco Roberts in Chicago and played for Al Cappone at the Green Mill. He was one of five guitarist invited to perform at the World Guitar Exposition in France and was inducted into the Mississippi Musician's Hall of Fame in 2000. Skeets was a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

David Garibaldi quote 

"It's not overanalysing. It's a beat, you play it. Let it go. It's a perception that can be developed and improved upon throughout your musical life but it can also be your musical handwriting, how you perceive time.  
"In the end you have to accept what you are. If it speeds up a little bit, if it slows down a little bit, that's what happens in the course of your musical life. In a way, it's a reflection of your life but you can certainly work on it and as you develop your life to become more of a stable person that can be reflected in your music and playing in a more stable way."

Fred Frith quote 

" When you do it with other people, then all kinds of social aspects come into play, and mostly the qualities that make a good improviser are not dissimilar to the ones that I appreciate in my friends: being a good listener, sensitivity to your social surroundings, being there when you’re needed but knowing how to step back too, knowing when to be supportive, when to be assertive, when your opinion is valuable, when to just go along with something, when to insist! Patience. Tolerance. Openness. The fact that I’m teaching in an institution is pretty much irrelevant to the way I work with improvisers; I focus on the same things when I work with them outside the institution."

LPO Wu Man - pipa 

The LPO presented a special concert to celebrate the Chinese new year here in New Orleans on January 31.  The program included Mahler, Stravinsky, and a Pipa concerto by chinese composer Zhao Jiping. The concerto was performed by Pipia Virtuoso Wu Man.  The Pipa is a four string 26 fret traditional Chinese instrument that has similarities to the oud and guitar.  Wu Man completely blew me away with her amazing control of this instrument. There were elements of bluegrass banjo playing, bending Blues guitar, and ferocious strumming similar to mandolin or quatro. The pipi is played  using large pitch bends on the strings to embellish and project melodies. The sound  is like a tele b- bender, but with more bends, wider bends and with lots of vibrato. When watching the performance I couldn't help but wonder how I could get some of the pipa's sound and vocabulary on the guitar.  Specifically, the use of bends, vibrato, and the fast tremolo picking. All techniques the guitar uses but not very frequently, especially in jazz. I would really like to integrate theses techniques more and have them flow musically when playing in any style. The music and playing was very inspiring. If you ever get a chance, go see Wu Man perform ( I think she performs with Yo-Yo Ma) or any other pipa performer.