In a long and distinguished career, he has played lead guitar in 70s and 80s rock fusion band Soft Machine; formed a long term collaboration with Stéphane Grappelli (following in Django Reinhardt’s footsteps); played duos with classical guitarist John Williams; and founded the Zappatistas to keep alive the music of Frank Zappa. These are just some of the many reasons why appearances by legendary jazz guitarist John Etheridge in Shetland next week are highly significant events.
In a collaboration between Shetland Arts and Shetland Jazz Club as part of the Peerie Willie Guitar Season, Etheridge will perform a series of concerts in Aith, Lerwick and Brae.
The concert season comprises a monthly visit by a world-class guitarist to celebrate the life and legacy of the late local guitarist.
Last month saw performances by Ian Bairnson and Jim Mullen. Upcoming concerts include the Lulo Reinhardt Quintet on Wednesday 24th November and the Michael Janisch Quintet on 17th December.
Next Saturday’s concert at St Columba’s Church in Lerwick will feature a special collaboration between the guitar legend Etheridge and The Harris Playfair Youth Big Band.
The group includes some of Shetland’s finest young musicians who fuse traditional Shetland, jazz and a range of eclectic influences under the guidance of Playfair to produce a unique and full sound.
The group first played at this year’s Fiddle Frenzy with a line-up of 23 musicians. This time, they will be in a smaller format of around 12 performers including saxophone, piano, trumpet, fiddles, flute and drums.
Friday’s concert at the Aith Hall and Sunday’s at Busta House, Brae, will feature a support slot by young guitarist Ben Ferguson from Walls.
It is fitting that Etheridge performs during the Peerie Willie Guitar Season since the two appeared together on the BBC1 documentary series The Shetland Sessions, recorded during the 1991 Shetland Folk Festival.
The pair played a rendition of Honeysuckle Rose when Willie performed alongside Danny Thompson’s Whatever, a group of whom Etheridge was a member.
Etheridge’s Shetland ties continued when his acclaimed 2004 solo album I Didn’t Know was produced by Shetland recording engineer and Filska guitarist Andrew Tulloch.
John Etheridge has been at the top of the jazz and contemporary guitar world for 25 years. He was first touted by the music press in the early 1970s while playing with a number of progressive rock and early fusion units (most notably Darryl Way’s Wolf – producing three albums for Decca).
In 1975 he was offered the chance to replace Allan Holdsworth in the legendary jazz-fusion group Soft Machine.
International touring and recording followed until the band’s demise at the end of the 1970s. More or less simultaneously (starting in 1976) Etheridge joined the touring group of the celebrated jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
For a number of years these two commitments ran parallel, revealing the broad range of his abilities.
Etheridge left Grappelli’s quartet in 1981. For the last 20 years he has pursued a career involving associations with many of the great players of the jazz world.
Either in single concerts, touring or recording he has appeared with – Barney Kessel, Didier Lockwood, Nils Pedersen, Gordon Beck, Herb Ellis, Mundell Lowe, Vic Juris, Miroslav Vitous, Birelli Lagrene, Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Williams, Yehudi Menuhin, Pat Metheny, Andy Summers, Nigel Kennedy (an association now in its seventh year), and is currently rehearsing a new group formed by the great classical guitarist, John Williams.
In the late 1980s, Etheridge started to lead his own bands and is currently fronting a quartet dedicated to Stephane Grappelli, as well as an eight-piece group, Zappatistas (performing the music of Frank Zappa) and also leads a trio with the legendary drummer John Marshall.
Next Friday and Sunday’s concerts at Aith hall and Busta House are £10 and £8 for conessions, while Saturday night’s concert in St Columas Church costs £12 and £10 for concessions. All concerts begin at 7.30pm.
Tickets for all concerts are available from Shetland Box Office, Islesburgh, Lerwick – (01595) 745555. Tickets can be reserved on the phone for collection at the venue on the night.