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Legendary guitar player Amos Garrett comes to Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod

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The Amos Garrett Jazz Trio performs at the Empress Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12.

A guitar legend performs this month at the Empress Theatre.
The Amos Garrett Jazz Trio performs Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the final concert of the 2015-’16 Centre Stage Series.
“Having an artist with Amos’ pedigree play at the Empress continues a long tradition of presenting top drawer entertainment in town,” Empress Theatre Society executive director Tim Ranson said.
In addition to carving out a career as an independent recording artist, Garrett has played with a who’s who of the music industry.
The 74-year-old’s guitar is heard on such classics as Anne Murray’s Snowbird and Maria Muldaur’s Midnight at the Oasis.
Garrett toured with Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s band Great Speckled Bird and performed with stars such as Bonnie Raitt, Jesse Winchester, Bobby Charles and Emmylou Harris.
The news that Garrett was going to perform in Fort Macleod was heralded by fellow musicians and music promoters.
“Many people are unaware that we have a musical giant living in our midst,” Fort Macleod singer-songwriter John Wort Hannam said. “Just up the road in High River is one of the most respected guitarists in the roots music world.”
“While Amos may not be a household name to the casual music listener, he holds an esteemed place in music royalty. We literally have a legend playing in town.”
Maureen Chambers, one of the founders of South Country Fair and its long-time artistic director, agreed with Wort Hannam on Garrett’s place in the music scene.
“He is one of the guitar players of the age, an avatar recognized by the stellar artists of our time, contemporaries of Amos’ or not,” Chambers said. “Amos has played with the best of them.”
Born in Detroit in 1941 and raised in Montreal and Toronto, Garrett studied trombone and piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music, but it was the guitar that grabbed him.
“It was really the advent of rock and roll,” Garrett said. “I started hearing the first rock and roll guitar players, who were really blues players.”
Garrett listed Chuck Berry, T. Bone Walker and Bo Diddley and other early rock and roll guitarists as influences.
“I heard it on the radio and I said I’ve got to go get one of those things. It was kind of a magic age with the advent of rock and roll. It just sort of exploded into the world in 1954 and all of a sudden I had a guitar in my hands.”
Garrett was playing engagements for money within a year of picking up the guitar for the first time.
Garrett went on to tour with Ian and Sylvia Tyson and Great Speckled Bird and later Geoff and Maria Muldaur.
In addition to supplying guitar licks for Snowbird and Midnight at the Oasis, Garrett has played guitar on recordings by more than 150 artists.
He became known as a player who could handle blues, jazz, R&B, rock and roll and country rock.
Garrett released his first album Go Cat Go in 1980 and followed with eight more albums.
The Amos Garrett Jazz Trio with Greg Carroll of High River and Keith Smith of Calgary was formed five years ago and has recorded one album.
The trio plays mostly instrumentals, favouring the music of Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Freddie Hubbard and Bob Erlandson, along with what is known as jazz blues.
“There’s a lot of story-telling, a lot of history talking about the different music forms that we explore,” Garrett added.
The decision to record a jazz album that late in his career surprised some people who knew Garrett, but he felt it was a natural thing to do.
“I’ve been playing jazz secretly since I was a child. I pursued a career in the blues field because I thought it was a little more popular and stable business form than jazz. Jazz has been a very difficult way to make a living since the demise of the swing era.
“I’ve always loved it. It was a part of my music heritage from the time I was a child because my dad was a jazz fanatic.”
Garrett’s father introduced Amos to jazz through his music collection, and the youngster was soon playing along on trombone and piano.
“I just loved it. I was playing along with that music and immersing myself in jazz.”
Garrett loves the quality of the musicianship in jazz, along with the improvisation that has musicians creating music on the spot.
“As long as there’s a form of music where there is improvisation, you’ll find me in the audience.”
Garrett continues to perform and record at an age when many people have slowed down and retired. He has no plans to quit.
“I’m in pretty good shape physically, that’s an important thing,” said Garrett, who credits his fitness to a passion for hunting and fishing. “Music is a bottomless study. You can never master it. As long as I’m learning I’ll never quit playing.”

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