Peppino D’agostino

Peppino D’Agostino was a musician who emerged in the 1980’s to redefine the limits of the acoustic guitarist. His unique compositional style has inspired musicians and audiences for many years. His natural warmth, musical taste, and playfulness make up the “minestrone” music. D’Agostino’s musical style is constantly evolving and growing in ways that are hard to imagine when Acoustic Spirit, Close to the Heart and Every Step of the Way were released. Acoustic Guitar magazine readers voted Acoustic Spirit one of the best acoustic guitarist albums of 2008. D’Agostino’s debut album, Bluerba was recorded in Italy in 1981. He has since performed in over 26 countries, been featured at prestigious international music festival in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Ravello, and also performed in world-renowned venues like the Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall, Istanbul, and the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco. He often plays with some of the most prominent musicians in the world, such as Tommy Emmanuel, Leo Kottke and Martin Taylor. There are 17 of his recordings, including releases on Favored Nations and Mesa/Bluemoon as well as Acoustic Music Records. Acoustic Guitar magazine hailed D’Agostino as “a guitarist’s guitar player” and the San Diego Reader called him “a giant of acoustic guitar”. Guitar Player magazine readers voted D’Agostino the Best Acoustic Guitarist in 2007. D’Agostino’s success has been largely due to his collaborations. D’Agostino and David Tanenbaum, the chairman of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Guitar Department founded The Pacific Guitar Ensemble in 2010. This eclectic group of six guitarists plays everything from steel-string and nylon guitars to electric basses, 17th-century therobos, and spans musical genres such as Bach, minimalist composers, and Piazzolla, along with Peppino’s rich and dynamic originals. D’Agostino is often seen collaborating with other amazing musicians, such as guitarist Jeff Campitelli (Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest drummers of all time); legendary Paraguayan violinist Carlos Reyes; Frank Martin (a keyboardist extraordinaire who has performed with Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen); and many others. Aleza D’Agostino, his daughter, is often seen joining him on stage for a song or two. This is when you can see how deeply he loves music and his love of family. D’Agostino’s 2011 composition, “Stammi Vicino”, was sung with Stef Burns, an electric guitarist, and Vasco Rossi. It reached number one on the iTunes Italian rock charts. D’Agostino states that although Vasco Rossi is not well-known outside of Italy, he’s still the most popular star in Italy. This song, which was the best-selling CD in 2011, started with an instrumental composition from me. They started the recording with my guitar. This was the only thing they kept from our demo tape. My brother called me and said, “Peppino! This song is all over Italian radio.” D’Agostino performs but also teaches. As well as meeting with students, he also offers group instruction and vacation learning packages such as the Acoustic Guitar Cruises and Creative Vacances in La Moreau. Truefire, the world’s leading online tutoring company, will release a series videos explaining D’Agostino’s guitar techniques and composition approach in 2015. He also enjoys writing music licks for new games like Sims, an Electronic Arts product, or Dragons of Atlantis (for Kabam), both of which were released in Fall 2014. His immersion in both the rock and classical worlds has led to Penumbra, his latest solo album. It will be released by Mesa/Bluemoon in Fall 2014. He says, “There has been a evolution in my playing because of all the incredible musicians I have met. This new CD reflects that.” How can I not be influenced and inspired by these great musicians? It’s hard to quantify how much I’m influenced by these great players. But, working with them and learning from their inspirations has made a significant difference in my approach. “I feel that this album expresses all those different influences.” D’Agostino says Penumbra is a blend of complex, yet melodic compositions. Penumbra contains two compositions by Sergio Assad, a Latin Grammy Award winner and a classical guitarist legend. D’Agostino relates that they became close friends after he began teaching at the Conservatory of San Francisco. I admire his work as a composer and we had dinner at North Beach. I asked him what his approach was. He replied, “Well, there are many things that I do. One is that I use numbers like the dodecaphonic method. For example, if I get your name, each letter of p-ep-pi-no is a note. Then, three weeks later, Sergio came up with a tune that was very melodic, and lyrical, based on my name. Sergio and David Tanenbaum went out with me on another night and Sergio told me, “Hey, I wrote another one for your pleasure.” This is a more samba-like song and it’s very fast. David later told me that Sergio had just given Sergio two compositions – which is quite remarkable considering how many classical guitarists ask him to write them. D’Agostino says, “I really admire Roland Dyens.” He is a great guitarist, mixing jazz and classical. He is a man who can think in both directions. Every concert starts with an improvisation. His piece “Valse des Anges” (‘Angel’s Waltz’) was always a favorite of mine. It’s more of a jazz waltz, very melodic, yet also jazzy.” Colonna, an Italian guitarist, contributed two pieces. D’Agostino says that Maurizio was someone I met years ago. He uses a classical technique but has also recorded complex arrangements of songs by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. But the two pieces that I recorded were his original compositions. The first is very melodic and uses a lot classical tremolo techniques. It is difficult to do this on steel-string. “Synchronized movements” is the other piece. It’s a minimalist piece with phrases that are rhythmic but change very little. D’Agostino says that he dedicated Penumbra, the title track, to David Tanenbaum. “Penumbra” means somewhere between darkness and light. David taught me about minimalism and Baroque music. The composition was a combination of minimalist and Baroque elements. It was a composition I wrote for him, and he started to perform it. It’s a stronger connection with classical music.” Penumbra is also an excellent example of D’Agostino’s ability to balance his classical guitar interest and his older steel-string style. The piece opens with a Baroque-sounding melody, played with great sensitivity. It then transitions into a 9/8 rhythm section that refers to D’Agostino’s rock-influenced style. D’Agostino says that the piece he wrote was more cerebral and more thoughtful, with some emotional passages. People often ask me “Where do you get your inspiration?” I think of people all the time, whether they are a friend, colleague, or family member. In this case, it was a two-and-a half year-old Stef Burns’ daughter. Jamie’s Smile is a sweet piece I wrote for her because of her innocence and sweetness. Another composition was written for the son of a close friend who was killed in an accident on a motorcycle in Italy. As I was contemplating the pain felt by his father, I created this music for him. He will continue to play with the Pacific Guitar Ensemble, his long-time friends Tanenbaum and Burns, as well as with the duos with Jeff Campitelli and Carlos Reyes, harpist and violinist. He is also part of “The Great Guitars” tour, which he will be performing with Martin Taylor, Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. These projects, though they are all different in scope and nature, share one thing in common: D’Agostino’s desire to continue expanding the repertoire of steel string guitars and to affirm the importance music plays in our lives. from

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