Fingerstyle guitarists are by nature a solitary breed. Employed in a global array of guitar traditions from São Paulo to Madagascar to Nashville, fingerstyle techniques seem to thrive in solo settings, which is why the International Guitar Night tour has turned into an invaluable showcase for guitarists and fingerstyle fans.
Launched in the mid-1990s by self-taught San Francisco guitarist Brian Gore, IGN turns roaming free agents into a frolicsome pack.
“There is this lone wolf mentality that comes from being a soloist,’’ says Gore, who brings IGN to the Regattabar for its Boston-area premiere Wednesday.
“Real fingerstyle guitarists, there aren’t two that are alike,’’ Gore says. “IGN has provided a space that’s noncompetitive. It gives the players a chance to explore elements of their own music that they might not otherwise get to.’’
With each season featuring a revolving cast of four players, IGN has introduced numerous fingerstyle masters to North American audiences, including Brazil’s Guinga, Alexandre Gismonti and Badi Assad, Madagascar’s D’Gary, Italy’s Peppino D’Agostino, the UK’s Martin Taylor, Algerian-French Pierre Bensusan, Serbian-born Dusan Bogdanovic, and American expat Ralph Towner. A series of albums documenting various lineups has expanded the tour’s reputation.
The latest IGN incarnation features the preeminent Brazilian guitarist Marco Pereira, the wondrously idiosyncratic British guitar explorer Adrian Legg, German-born Gypsy guitarist Lulo Reinhardt, and Gore, who’s honed a lushly lyrical approach informed by his collaborations with jazz and soul vocalists.
A typically diverse cast, the latest foursome toured widely in Canada last year after releasing an album, “International Guitar Night VI’’ (Pacific Music), that reverses the format of an IGN performance, opening with an all-hands-on-deck showdown followed by solo numbers and revolving duos.
While the duets are often thrilling, these practitioners are at their most eloquent alone onstage. For Pereira, “the guitar is an instrument that has a charm when it is alone, you can feel the whole potential of the instrument. When you play with bass and drums, you lose the inner voicings and harmonics.’’
Working in the tradition of the late Brazilian guitar master Baden Powell, the São Paulo-reared Pereira is probably the most versatile player on the tour. “He’s a real heavyweight,’’ Gore says. “He can improvise a fugue, play jazz, and knows the complete classical repertoire. He’s a fantastic arranger and a scholar of Brazilian rhythms who writes great original compositions.’’
While IGN takes the guitarists out of their natural element, Legg is no stranger to traveling guitar shows. He gained widespread notice in the mid-1990s as part of the G3 tour with notorious shredders Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, and Steve Vai. Opening for his plugged-in comrades could have turned disastrous for Legg, a mostly acoustic player, but their avid fans quickly adopted him.
“I think the reason they liked me was that I could be very loud, and because I was nervous, played much too fast, which impressed them,’’ Legg wrote in an e-mail interview.
Legg plays a custom-built instrument designed to sit diagonally across his lap (“similar to a Portuguese guitarra,’’ he wrote) that allows him to change tunings in the middle of a piece. His rig incorporates subtle electronics, which expands his already vast palette of slides and smears. A wry and often ribald raconteur, Legg peppers his recitals with disarming observations and stories, some of which have found a home as commentaries on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered’’ (as have his sly interpretations of the show’s theme).
“I’ve never met anyone who has that combination of techie savvy on guitar with really good songwriting ability,’’ Gore says. “He’s more acoustic/electric, a whole different texture than we’ve had in the show before.’’
Among his IGN tourmates, Reinhardt - the grandnephew of Gypsy guitar legend Django Reinhardt - possesses the best-known name. He wears it proudly, but it’s no stylistic straitjacket. Born and raised in Germany amid a prodigiously musical Sinti family, Reinhardt got his start as a performing artist playing Django-style Gypsy swing with various cousins in the mid-’70s. By the early ’90s, he was determined to develop his own sound.
“My music combines original Gypsy swing, Latin, samba, flamenco, and jazz,’’ Reinhardt wrote in an e-mail. “Most people expect that I will only play the Django style and are surprised that I have taken my music to a whole new level.’’
While Gore is the mastermind behind IGN, he’s often the lowest profile player on the tour. Clearly influenced by the percussive style of the late Michael Hedges, he draws on American folk, European classical, and Brazilian influences.
Given to expansive soundscapes, Gore is in the enviable and sometimes daunting position of hiring his guitar heroes. He recalls being terrified the first time he performed with Towner, but Towner’s effusive praise after the show helped assure him that he belonged on the stage.
“I’ve learned a lot from these guys,’’ Gore says. “Pierre Bensusan always tells me to make the melody sing. It’s a pretty cool situation. In the rider for the tour I always stipulate that I sit stage right. That’s a privileged position, to sit stage right and watch some of the finest guitarists in the world.’’
Thanks to Gore, that’s a privilege fingerstyle guitar fans can share in.Andrew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.