By Kevin Johnson*
Reprinted from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 28, 2000
Sometimes bearing the title of St. Louis' best acoustic guitarist can be difficult, but Dave Black manages. "That's a lot of luggage to carry. But I could think of worse problems to have, not to be recognized at all. So it's a double-edged blade. I guess you have to be careful what you wish for," says Black. "But it really does bring some pressure. But my intent as a musician is not being the best. It's doing what I enjoy doing."
Being regarded as the city's finest on acoustic guitar is especially interesting to Black since it's only one part of what he does. He plays electric guitar with the funk band Dangerous Kitchen and electric and acoustic guitar with Brilliant Corners, an experimental jazz band he co-founded with Paul DeMarinis.
"As a musician, I learned a few years back that you gotta put your eggs in more than one basket, and one of my baskets happens to be playing the acoustic guitar. Playing solo acoustic guitar has been really fun. It's a great way for me to express myself all in one shot, express myself more freely than just one genre," says Black, who teaches jazz guitar at Webster University.
"There's some jazz, there's bluegrass, folk - that's the cool thing about solo guitar. All those styles are embraced when I play at the restaurant," he says, referring to his standing Sunday night gig at Brandt's in the University City Loop. He's able to show more of his true self there than when's he's performing with one of the groups, when he has to stick with one particular style because that's what their fans prefer.
Black also shows his various sides on his debut solo CD "Alone & Together." "It's my honest expression, to show how I embrace all the styles. I wanted it to show the different colors of what I do. There's jazz, blues, folk and country," he says.
The CD is mostly an engaging collection of hugely popular cover tunes including "Ain't Misbehavin," "St. Louis Blues," "Isn't She Lovely" and "This Masquerade."
"I wanted to connect with people, and playing the more popular tunes would be more effective in doing that," he says.
"I have to really like the song for me to put anything into it that I would consider genuine," he says of his song selection, which also includes "On Green Dolphin Street," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and "Bye Bye Blackbird." "It's not a situation where I sit down and scientifically decide I want to do this and do that and come up with this sort of contrived structure. I sit down and mess with it and gravitate a certain way with a song. It's more of a natural thing," he says.
"Alone & Together" also features one original tune written by Black, the ragtime-inspired "See Ya at Five." "That's my original in there. I had to put one in. I write a lot of tunes, and when I play solo I do quite a number of originals," says Black.
The CD features 17 tunes, culled from more than two dozen that were recorded.
"I tried to keep a stylistic balance so there wasn't more jazz than pop. I tried to create a flow," says Black, who was concerned that an entire CD of solo acoustic guitar songs might get old to listeners after a while: "Oh, here's another song on solo guitar," he jokes.
"I tried to keep it fresh, vary the tone, to keep that from happening."
Local artists like Beth Tuttle and Sandy Weltman appear on the CD, helping to break things up. And in an effort to effectively portray what it is Black does live, he says he "didn't want a polished, studio, larger-than-life, perfect rendering. I wanted it to reflect what I sound like when I play live. More often than not, the songs were first takes. A few songs were second and third takes."
*Article reproduced with permission by the author