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Lofgren to perform at Jax

Jazz guitarist is scheduled to play Christmas Eve show.

December 23, 2013|By Jonny Whiteside
  • Bruce Lofgren at his Altadena home on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. Lofgren will rotate as a regular at Jax in Glendale.
Bruce Lofgren at his Altadena home on Wednesday, Dec.… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Bruce Lofgren is a stone jazz cat. His guitar sidles along at a decidedly hep angle, with a warm, sensual tone and a strategically relaxed plan of attack, one that allows him to pull the listener in and really communicate some purely emotional psychic information.

"Emotional awareness. It's a quality that jazz needs," Lofgren said recently. "If you start writing with a concept that doesn't have that emotional content, you can put a lot of work into it but still get something that's just OK. If you don't make that good start with a composition, you won't end up with anything."

Lofgren, who appears Christmas Eve at Jax in Glendale, is a prolific composer and arranger and a guitarist of rare capability, skills he's steadily perfected since his start as a teenage rock 'n' roller in 1950's Seattle.

"In high school I was really into the blues, I'd play along to old blues records and teach myself Chuck Berry licks," Lofgren said. "Bill Doggett's guitar Billy Butler was a favorite of mine. And I heard Rick Dangel, from [seminal Seattle blues rockers] the Wailers, he was a great blues player. I had my own combo and we did some gigs, parties, dances.


"When I was in college, I heard [jazz great] Barney Kessel play one night — and that was a real eye-opener for me, he was a very humble and marvelous player. On the break, I went up and said hello and he was a very gracious person and took the time to chat with me. I was surprised to find that someone as important as he was — one of the best in the world — was also so nice. So many of the big names I'd encountered would present this sort of falsely egotistical front, as if being famous rendered them untouchable, but not Barney. After that, even though I was still playing teenage dance jobs, I had found my direction."

Lofgren's skill as an arranger and composer led to jobs with famed trumpeter-bandleader Ray Anthony, for whom he both played bass and provided original compositions; Anthony ultimately recorded an entire album of them.

Not long after Lofgren relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, he heard that legendary swing drummer Buddy Rich was down at the Hollywood Musician Union's Local 47 auditioning new material, and took a chance that the famously cantankerous Rich might like a piece he'd written the night before, "Three Day Suckers." Rich dug it, so much so, that at one point, he used it as both the opening and closing number of his live show.

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