Late last summer, ace guitarist Jimmy Robinson played a memorable gig at an olive garden—not the chain restaurant, but an actual olive garden in Franciacorta, Italy. He was in town to play an acoustic guitar festival, and while there he was knocked out by an Italian guitar duo, Eugenio Polacchini and Matteo Minozzi, who perform as the Bruskers Duo. This month he brings them to town for their New Orleans debut, and he’ll join them on three consecutive nights at three different venues.
“They’re really virtuoso players, both in their mid-thirties. They play classical guitars but their approach is a lot jazzier—great technique, a lot of humor. They do a lot more of the standards than I do, wildly different interpretations of jazz and classical pieces.” Among the tunes in their repertoire are Ellington’s “Caravan,” Brubeck’s “Take Five” and even Sting’s “Fragile,” all reimagined as guitar duets.
The shows are at Snug Harbor on March 8 (an early show with no cover), Music At The Mint on March 9, and Chickie Wah Wah on March 10. They’ll include a solo set by Robinson and one by the Bruskers, then a trio finale. Robinson has written a new piece for the occasion—“it has the really clever title ‘New Guitar Trio’ until I can come up with a real one”—and plans to do more shows abroad with them this year. This isn’t the first cultural exchange Robinson’s been behind: In the past he’s brought international songwriters to town (Brick de Bois from Antwerp and Lily Kiara from Amsterdam), and last month he hosted Austrian promoter Paul Zauner. “He was there with a film crew who were filming musicians. I brought them to see Helen Gillet, John Rankin and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, and their minds were indeed blown.”
Robinson, who released an acoustic solo album and a live Woodenhead album last year, has a few more projects up his sleeve. He’ll play Jazz Fest this year with John Rankin and Cranston Clements as the Guitar Masters; their set will include their own version of the new trio piece. Meanwhile his prog/fusion band Woodenhead have begun a larger-scale collaboration with singer and cellist Helen Gillet, who was one of the guests at last year’s 40th anniversary shows. They’ve worked out a set with arrangements of her songs and theirs, and fans can get the first taste at Chickie Wah Wah on March 4.