Sandy Bull – Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo

Album Information:

Released in 1963 on Vanguard Recorda

Format: LP


On his debut album, the guitar and banjo virtuoso starts off with a 22-minute droning epic fusing American and Arabic Folk music with Indian Raga on his acoustic guitar (often trying to imitate the feeling of the oud). Here, he is accompanied by the legendary Billy Higgins on drums (whom Sandy saw many times playing at the Five Spot with Ornette Coleman). According to Sandy, the drone “is so simple an effect and yet there is something eternal about it, sort of a foundation of music. I find it—and the kind of undulating rhythms that go with it—very moving.” Billy Higgins is the perfect drummer to adapt to these “undulating rhythms” with his driving, fluid style. Side 2 is made up of 4 shorter solo pieces, mostly for the banjo, including an impressive rendition of “Carmina Burana” by German composer Carl Orff and a folky mountain song. The album concludes with the only track featuring electric guitar. “Gospel Tune” sounds like a mix of country blues and surf music with its heavy tremolo, driven by Sandy’s foot keeping time on a hi-hat. I recommend this album to anyone trying to look at guitar and banjo playing from new perspectives, for a mostly unaccompanied solo album, there really is a lot of variety here to keep it interesting.

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