Multifaceted guitar ace John Jorgenson gives an eclectic free concert

John Jorgenson is a real
guitar hero
Photo by Piper Ferguson

Most guitarists strive to master one style. Former Southlander John Jorgenson has earned his virtuoso cred playing bluegrass, country, gypsy jazz and rock — and snapped up a clutch of Grammy and Academy of Country Music awards for his trouble.

Diversity has been a hallmark of his musicianship since his dues-paying days playing bluegrass, Dixieland and gypsy jazz for Disneyland tourists. By the mid-’80s, he had teamed with ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen in the Desert Rose Band, an acclaimed country-rock outfit rooted in Bakersfield and blue-grass. Unexpected fan Elton John subsequently hired Jorgenson for six years of touring and recording, after which Jorgenson launched the Hellecasters, his over-the-top electric guitar trio with Will Ray and Fairport Convention alum Jerry Donahue. Over the years he’s worked as a hired gun with the likes of Kenny Chesney, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, Earl Scruggs and Barbra Streisand.

In 2004 Jorgenson portrayed Django Reinhardt in John Duigan’s film “Head in the Clouds,” and that same year formed his own gypsy jazz quintet — the only American ensemble to headline France’s Django Reinhardt Memorial Festival. The elegantly precise, fleet-fingered interplay between Jorgenson and violinist Jason Anick is evocative of Reinhardt’s swinging collaborations with Stéphane Grappelli, but flamenco-esque percussion — not to mention Jorgenson’s occasional clarinet solos — sometimes dances beyond specific genre boxes.

Still promoting his 2015 box set “Divertuoso,” a three-disc collection of his eclectic recordings, he’s bringing his quintet to Culver City next Thursday as part of the Boulevard Music Summer Festival.

— Bliss Bowen

The John Jorgenson Quintet plays from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at Culver City City Hall, 9770 Culver Blvd., Culver City. Free. Call (310) 398-2583 or visit boulevardmusic.com for gig info; johnjorgenson.com for artist info.

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