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Here we are, back for part two on the Jason Becker "Not Dead Yet 2011" show in Amsterdam. Part one saw some great players that you may not know of, along with a couple of big names. This part will feature some of the biggest names in the game, who need no introduction. There are some many players here with such unique voices I couldn't help but include some of their greatest licks just so you can dig a little deeper into their style. And no article on Jason would be complete without some coverage of the master's licks, so read on for an analysis of some of Jason's greatest recorded moments - just don't let it stop here!

 

Hopefully you are already aware of Jason Becker's plight, but if you were only introduced to his terrible fate in the last part of our coverage, you should have a better understanding of exactly why we're all here celebrating. In this part we will look at just why his playing set the world on fire, long before he was struck down with ALS.

Cacophony literally means "A harsh, discordant mixture of sounds", and although Jason and Marty's band shared the same moniker, they were not just an atonal mess. This is certainly an element that the band explored, but never deep into the realms of serialism. It was my introduction to music that moved away from the key centre and to this day it still grabs me when I hear Jason break into one of his atonal lines. I guess I think of them as little musical jokes and the serialist element is the punch line. For example, the following line in "Savage" (from the Speed Metal Symphony Album) which reminds us just why they picked such a name.

The first technique that people usually associate with Jason is, of course, his flawless command of sweep picking. Jason's music is very much rooted in the classical genre (of course there are some timbral differences!) so it's very much dependant on chord progressions and Jason loved nothing better than punctuating these with rapid arpeggio sequences. There are many players who are associated with sweep picking, from Malmsteen to Loomis, but none have shown the creativity that Becker has. Jason loved to mix 3 string arpeggios (ala Malmsteen) with bigger 5 and six string arpeggios (like Cooley and Loomis), his more unique element was his addition of 3 string sweeps at the bottom of arpeggios as well as at the top. This next example taken from "Black Cat" (from Go Off!) illustrates that well as Jason outlines a huge Emaj triad arpeggio moving through 2 positions ending with a 3 string sweep at the top, he then moves down a 5 string Bbmaj triad and executes a 3 string sweep at the bottom (notice the fingering Jason uses for an arpeggio with the root on the 5th string, most player have 2 notes on the A then sweeps through the D,G and B strings. Jason plays just 1 note on the A then a hammer on the D string before sweeping through the G and B string.)

The next element of Jason's appeal is far to broad for me to include a musical example, so instead I'll include a video. Just take a listen to the title track from Speed Metal Symphony and listen to how the two parts work together. When Jason writes, very rarely is he composing a single part, everything is layered to create a rich complex texture. When I was younger and learning all of Jason's music, if found myself asking "well which part to I learn, they're both so cool!" Obviously here Jason is playing with Marty, but if you look into Jason's solo recordings you find the same thing, for example, on Altitudes everyone wants to learn Jason's sweep picking line, but what about the actual melody playing over the top? The sweeping is just a texture, it's not the part you sing is it?

Lastly I'd just like to point out one of Jason's other incredible talents that many people forget to mention. I remember when I got my first Floyd Rose loaded guitar (A 1990 PGM100) and at the time I was really into sweep picking, so I decided to give "Perpetual Burn" another listen for those little golden moments. The thing that really grabbed me was how incredibly vocal Jason was with his whammy bar. Often people say that (in a rock context) players like Steve Vai are the undisputed master of bar manipulation, but just go back and listen to Perpetual Burn to see how the true master did it. Remember that Perpetual burn was released 2 years before Steve's seminal "Passion and Warfare".

Anyway, back to the concert!

After a short break we're back and it's time for Daniele Gottardo to take the stage. Daniele is a two time Guitar Idol finalist (who should have easily won both times!) from Italy who's current release album is called "Frenzy of Ecstasy". Daniele is HOT property as he demonstrates incredible technique and compositional maturity. Daniele is truly a master of the 8 finger tapping technique (just check out Cardiology to have your mind blown) but it doesn't define his style like many players who's names are synonymous with a technique. Danieles music is far from party pieces and extended etudes (except perhaps Scarecrow Dance) instead he relies on powerful chord progressions with extended harmonies and beautiful melodies with a dynamic control not often heard today. Yes, I am a big fan of his playing and I'm proud to be, I urge you to go out and purchase his album right now (the latest version even includes my transcription of Guitar Sbrego).

Daniele Gottardo

Gottardo begins his set with an incredible rendition of Cardiology - it really is incredible to see his music played as it was intended, with a full band including keys. It really is a world away from seeing these tunes played with backing tracks. Stephan Forte has remained on stage for this one and he does a flawless job of backing Daniele and the levels are perfect.

Some of you may remember his recent competition on youtube, this is worth mentioning because one of the judges was Jason Becker. The winner of which was my good friend Martin Miller. Martin is an incredible talent from Germany with an album on the way which will also blow your mind, so it was really great to see him take the stage and have two of my favourite people playing together.

Martin Miller

Daniele is truly the most phenomenal of humans, the day before the concert I caught up with Daniele along with a few others (the amazing Richard Hallebeek) and we went out for some great Thai food. Perhaps it's the language barrier, as Daniele's English isn't the best, but he comes across as incredibly shy though he has the fire in his eyes. When he's on stage he's out of his shell and is a true performer who commands the stage and captivates the audience, and that's before you take into account some of his hand flourished which are the guitar equivalent of stick tricks (a fitting tribute to a man who used to play the yo-yo while taking a live solo!). From here Daniele launches into my personal favourite tune "Marrakech Market", which is a ball bustingly low grinding tune which highlights Daniele's ability to take a simple melody and execute it in the most peculiar fashion putting a real perverted twist on the tune.

Daniele Gottardo

The most touching part of the show is when Daniele takes to the stage alone to play his arrangement of Jason's "End of the Beginning". False starts aside this hits the audience deep and Daniele showing off his abilities to arrange for a large ensemble. There is nothing closer to Jason that this, and I can happily tell you (technical difficulties aside) Daniele is by far the best set of the show! Well done sir, you're going big places. 

Next up we have Marco Sfogli, and I must prefix this by saying, I'm a big fan. I love his phrasing, and at the moment he's playing on some really cool things, his solo albums are great, he plays with James La Brie (of Dream Theater) and my hot pick is his part on Alex Argento's album "Ego". Marco has a nice blend of Greg Howe, John Petrucci and a bit of Holdsworth for good measure. His timing, technique, tone and phrasing are all great and It would be fair to say that he is one of the players I'm looking forward to see most.

Marco Sfogli

Unfortunately the set is a little sterile, not bad, just a bit cold. It certainly didn't help that Marco's levels are too low, but that's not quite the only issue here. We were just left of the middle of the stage, and as the photo above shows, Marco didn't come anywhere near us. Marco stood on the right along with keys, drums were in the centre as was the bass. I feel pretty bad for the guys on the far left as they just got nothing in this set. I guess it doesn't help that Marco followed Daniele who owned the stage.

I cant criticise Sfogli's playing, that was spot on. Sadly our group felt that he just didn't play to the crowd.

Next to take the stage is Kiko Loureiro, guitarist with the band Angra. I was lucky enough to catch Kiko in London 4 years ago and he absolutely melted my mind and I grabbed a copy of his first solo album "No Gravity" then. If you are unfamiliar with Kiko's playing, this is an absolute must own, a great blend of the Satriani quality vocal-esque lead lines, true fusion with Bossa Nova and Brazilian folk music and a metal edge that would fit well in Megadeth or Metallica.

Kiko Loureiro

Kiko is an absolute joy to watch, he moves around the stage and is milking the audience, no one posed for the cameras quite like Kiko, and on top of this, his playing is phenomenal. The levels are perfect and his execution is second to none. It was great to get to see him since becoming familiar with his music. The other nice treat was when Kiko brought out the up and coming Hedras Ramos to play rhythm. Hedras isn't really given the chance to shine, but his rhythms are solid and his stage presence is great.

Hedras Ramos

It's a tough call giving the set of the show to Daniele, as Kiko is flawless from start to finish. I think the only thing that gives Daniele the edge is his arrangement of one of Jason's tunes. I've been a fan of Kiko for a long time, and this set has put me right back in the mood to put his albums back on my spinner, Universo Inverso here I come.

In the meantime, here is the opening lick to Kiko's "Enferno" which Kiko rips through at the show. This is just one of about 1000 great moments on Kiko's first album - it's a great example and application of economy picking, so pay careful attention!

Thanks for tuning in for this part, in the last part we will take a look at Mattias Eklundh, Michael Lee Firkins and the ever impressive Guthrie Govan, plus a look at some of the other guys involved in this incredible concert. 

Remember, this is all about Jason; so if you can donate, there is no better cause.

http://jasonbeckerguitar.com/donation_information.html