|By Lawrence Cosentino|
Laurence Juber carves out his own territory
He has howled on the mountaintop, but he’d rather dally in the valley.
The London-born, California-based guitarist Laurence Juber has toured the world with Paul McCartney and held his own on stage with The Who’s Pete Townshend and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. Sunday, he’ll sit down at the one of the smallest venues on his busy schedule, Old Town’s Creole Gallery, to work the solo acoustic soil he loves best.
“Give me an audience, and the entertainer comes out,” Juber said.
It would be a big mistake to peg Juber, 56, as a rock star who settled into the acoustic rocking chair. He’s had his fingers in the whole pastry shop, from folk guitar to classical to electrified rock to Renaissance lute, since his student days in London in the 1960s.
“From very early on, I’ve been intrigued by the self-sufficiency of being able to play fingerstyle on an acoustic guitar and not need any other instrument,” he said in a phone interview last week.
When Juber crafts eclectic original tunes, as he does in his newest solo CD, “Wooden Horses,” the challenge is to discipline his wide-ranging muse. But guitar geeks and casual listeners are extra keen to hear how he’ll “orchestrate” a familiar tune for guitar. He just finished recording a new CD of Lennon-McCartney tunes last week, and he’ll play a few Sunday.
“That’s incredibly challenging, because I have to dig deep to match the voice of the guitar to the material,” he said. “I have to earn the freedom.”
To supplement his solo guitar oeuvre — 10 discs long and growing — Juber is in demand around the world as a session musician and composer.
Thursday, he was due for a 9 a.m. call at Capitol Studios to lay down tracks for ABC’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”
“I’ve loaded up my Mini Cooper with guitars, amplifiers, pedal boards, and I’m off to Hollywood,” he said.
You’ve probably heard Juber without realizing it. He played the James Bond theme in “The Spy Who Loved Me;” his sly take on the “Pink Panther” theme took a Grammy last year and plays constantly on Sirius satellite radio. His solo version of “Stand by Me” was used in a De Beers diamond commercial. For some Eastern exposure, Juber’s breezy “Magellan Suite” for guitar and string quartet plays 12 hours a day at a restaurant in Disneyland Tokyo.
It’s all gravy for a veteran session man, but solo gigs feed the fire in his belly. After Creole owner Robert Busby died in 2007, Juber was the first artist to ask for a return visit. Booking agent Meegan Holland took Juber up on the offer when she resumed booking concerts this year.
“Being able to play in intimate
The man knows from big venues. He played lead guitar for Paul McCartney and Wings for the 1979 to 1981. Beatles producer George Martin was among the first to appreciate Juber’s guitar skills.
Undaunted by the high-powered company, Juber took the night’s big guitar solo, on “Let it Be.”
“I looked over my shoulder, realized nobody else was going to take the solo, so I just stepped forward,” he said.
“It’s much more concentrated than something I would do in my own concerts, but it’s still — you pick your moments,” he said.
At the London University School of Music, he learned to play lute, jazz guitar, and avant-garde classical (with a young Simon Rattle.)
“What the Beatles were doing — pulling their influences from everywhere — was a product of that environment,” Juber said.
Nor did Juber limit himself to learning guitar parts. He
To Juber, strumming a medieval lute and tearing it up with Plant and Townshend weren’t all that different.
“The boundaries didn’t matter very much,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s all music.”