The Fourth Annual edition of Guitar Workshop Plus returns to San Diego on June 16-21. Taking place at the historic Lafayette Hotel, attendees will take in a week of intensive music instruction, with a schedule full of lessons and concerts, including some held in the legendary venue, The Mississippi Ballroom. The music camp features a wide range of world-class music teachers, this year set to include guitarists Matt Schofield, Christie Lenee, and Laurence Juber. All are incredible musicians, but few modern era players have racked up the accomplishments of Juber.
Perhaps best known for his time as guitarist with Paul McCartney & Wings, which earned him his first of two Grammy’s, for the track “Rockestra” (1980), Juber has also long been considered one of the world’s top players, including by the likes of Acoustic Guitar and Fingerstyle Guitar magazines. An acclaimed session guitarist, Juber scored a second Grammy for his take on “The Pink Panther Theme,” as featured on the album Henry Mancini: Pink Guitar (2004). It’s been a wide-ranging career. He can be heard on such pop culture moments as the soundtrack to The Muppet Movie (1979), where’s he’s one the players providing Kermit’s banjo plucking as well as on the Jennifer Warnes / Bill Medley hit, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (#1 / 1987).
While he has released instructional CDs and several music books available, Juber doesn’t teach often, making his Guitar Workshop Plus appearance a rare opportunity. “I don’t do a lot of teaching, but I enjoy it,” he said. “I learn from the process.”
Juber is no stranger to the San Diego area. “I haven’t stayed at the Lafayette, but I’ve played many times in San Diego in a variety of venues,” he said. “Living as I do in Los Angeles, San Diego is local. I support Guitars In The Classroom, which is based in the area. I also perform regularly at the NAMM Museum Of Making Music in Carlsbad. My favorite musical memory is seeing Ravi Shankar perform there.” He notes a local guitar manufacturer as well. “Back in the ’90s, I was performing and recording using Taylor Guitars, who are local to San Diego. Watching them grow within the space of a few years was quite remarkable.”
According to Juber, his instruction will combine several elements. “I describe it as ‘Guitaristics’ – the nexus of musicianship and the guitar,” he said. “Technique, for me, is a means to a musical end. I’m not a pedagogue, but I am quite ‘old school’ in my approach, so while I reference contemporary techniques such a tapping, slapping, and percussion, they are secondary to the basic concepts of tone and dynamics, along with arranging, effectively using altered tunings, fingerboard awareness, etc. I include some historical perspective too.” What does he hope students take away from his lessons? “A new appreciation for the possibilities of the acoustic guitar,” he said. “There are many years of music-making embedded in my approach to the instrument, so I can cross-reference a range of styles.” You don’t need to be a virtuoso to take the class. “The workshop is multi-level, so as long as the basic skills are in place, there’s always something to learn.”
In addition to his work with Paul McCartney, Juber has participated in many hit recordings, including Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” (#3 / 1986) and Eric Carmen’s “Make Me Lose Control” (#3 / 1988) while TV fans have heard his playing on the soundtracks to such programs as Home Improvement, Family Ties and Happy Days. “I’ve been a studio musician since the early ’70s, so there’s a long list of memorable sessions,” he said. “Recording with George Harrison (on the Shanghai Surprise soundtrack / 1986) was extremely cool. Sharing a microphone with him while we recorded backing vocals – you can imagine…” he said “Before I joined Wings I played on the soundtrack of The Spy Who Loved Me. Playing the ‘007′ theme for real was a teenage ambition realized. I’ve played on a few Academy Award-winning scores – Pocahontas, Good Will Hunting, Dirty Dancing – each one of those was a memorable session.” He does have a favorite overall recording, however. “The standout one in rock is the ‘Rockestra’ session for Wings Back To the Egg (#8 / 1979). Playing in a guitar section with heroes like Pete Townshend, Dave Gilmour, and Hank Marvin was exciting, to say the least.”
Will Back to the Egg, get the deluxe expanded reissue treatment this year? “There have long been rumors of a re-release. We are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the album’s release, so this would have been a good time for it,” he said. Possible extras on such a set would include live footage of Wings brief 1979 tour, which saw Juber performing tunes from the new album as well solo era hits and Beatles classics. “My favorite of the set was “Let It Be,” Juber said. “I tried to put my own spin on the solo. The live recordings from Glasgow in ’79 capture the energy of the band. Paul was in fine voice and his bass playing was, in my opinion, the most muscular of his career.”
Juber’s most recent recording is the album, Downtown. “It’s a solo collection of standards recorded in one five-hour session at Capitol Records, with Al Schmitt engineering. It combines the intricacy of fingerstyle arranging with improvisation.” Fans of the guitar will also want to hear his recent album Touchstones. “It was a singular project in that it is a historical perspective and matches a Hal Leonard folio that includes much info on the development of the guitar and its repertoire. I started with the first published lute tablature in 1507 and found representative examples of fingerstyle music through to the early 20th century.”
For his part, Juber is happy to be coming to San Diego for Guitar Workshop Plus. “I enjoy being part of the guitar community and these kinds of workshops are a great forum to learn and to communicate,” he said. “Hopefully, attendees will be able to take away some nugget of information that will inspire them to continue to explore the guitar.”