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Chilled-out approach to Christmas tunes
If your taste is to ease into the Christmas season with an intimate evening of cool and smooth instrumental versions of classic Christmas songs, Doug Towle has the concert for you.
The White Rock-based virtuoso guitarist will present a Christmas soundtrack as chilled as a dry martini this Sunday (Dec. 4) at 7 p.m. at Blue Frog Studios, 1328 Johnston Rd.
Towle and his band members Pete Davyduck (bass) and Calum Rees (drums) will draw most of the material from his 2009 seasonal album, High Spirits – Classic Songs Of Christmas for Contemporary Guitar.
Also on the bill will be new age finger style guitarist Steve Laszcz (who shared a memorable concert with Towle years ago at the old White Rock Playhouse).
“Steve’s great – we packed the place that time, but it’s been a long time since we’ve been able able to get back together,” Towle said.
The concert will also feature a dash of dance, courtesy of flamenco dance artist Jill Tunbridge, who has also collaborated several times, memorably, with Towle.
“We did some festivals in the summer, and she asked me to do her Flamenco del Mar festival in September,” he said.
“It provides a whole different dimension to our work. I’ve got this plan to incorporate a live band witha big-time dance element, and this is a little bit of a preview of that.”
Towle said he’s looking forward to working in the Blue Frog concert ambience.
“It’s nice – it’ll be a great room for it,” he said.
His take on the Christmas repertoire is quite different from the norm, he added.
“It’s definitely not the traditional Christmas arrangements, but it’s still very cool,” he said.
“Stylistically there are definitely some latin elements to it, of course – that’s what I do. I wouldn’t really call it jazz, but it’s definitely smooth and cool.”
There’ll also be a some material from his upcoming album (due in the spring), the 12-song Guitar Stories.
Towle, who won international recognition as a finalist in Guitar Player magazine’s Superstar 2009 contest, said he’s getting a lot more gigs these days, even as a sideman for others’ projects.
“It’s definitely opened a few doors for me,” he said.
That included a recent gig at the Canadian Consul General’s residence in Beverly Hills, he added.
Towle noted that while he has established a strong latin musical persona from his days fronting nuevo-flamenco group De La Terra, people have tended to forget a versatility that comes from years cutting his teeth in rock and blues bands.
Even so, the latin feel – particularly applied to Christmas – is also proving a bonanza for him, including recent successful dates at Christmas trade fairs in Regina and Ottawa.
It helps that Towle, a past master in creating guitar loops on the fly and improvising melodies to them, works equally well as a solo act.
“There’s been a lot of travelling this year, a lot of time spent in airports. Just my guitar and my ‘loop’ studio – that’s how I travel.
“It’s awesome, that thing. No matter what happens, I can always do the gig. The rest of the band can get stuck in a snowstorm and I’ll still be there to do the gig.”
Tickets ($20) are available from Tapestry Music or at www.dougtowle.com