David Lindley: Forging new musical connections

April 30, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Talk about worldbeat with most music fans, and they act as if its globe-hopping fusion of the familiar and the exotic -- mixing Middle Eastern melodies with reggae rhythms, say, or adding Bulgarian vocal harmonies to Celtic rock -- is a relatively recent development.

Talk with David Lindley, on the other hand, and he just chuckles at the naivete of these newcomers. "It's really funny, because there are a lot of people who have just discovered that," he says, over the phone from the Howard Johnson's in Portland, Maine. "It's different than what you'd ordinarily hear, and people are getting kind of tired of the same thing. They just kind of want to hear something a little different."

Something, for instance, like Lindley's current project, a tour with Jordanian percussionist Hani Naser. It's not exactly a rock gig, particularly since Lindley is augmenting his guitars with bouzouki and two types of Turkish saz, while Naser will be keeping time on dumbek and mizhar. "It's not your ordinary kind of acoustic instrument thing, either," adds Lindley. "It's big and it's loud. It's not polite at all."

Definitely something a little different, then.

"But I've always played different things," Lindley says. "I've been doing this since the '60s."

This may come as news to those who only know him as the slightly eccentric picker whose guitar adorned albums by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne (that was Lindley singing falsetto on Browne's version of "Stay"), Little Feat and others. But Lindley's interest in the exotic dates back to his days as a member of Kaleidoscope, a mid-'60s ensemble whose repertoire included everything from jug-band standards to Turkish dance tunes.

bTC Kaleidoscope barely made a dent commercially, and Lindley looks back at the band's recordings -- many of which have been recently reissued -- with mixed emotions. "I'm not really fond of that whole recording period," he says. "A lot of it was kind of dated sounding, and it was a little bit weird.

"But there was some good stuff done there, and it was one of the few democratic bands I've actually been in. The reason was that we all liked different things. It was a forum so that we could all play the different things that we liked, so we learned a lot. I learned a lot about Balkan and Turkish music and about blues and stuff from everybody else."

Lindley remains an assiduous student, too, taking advantage of every opportunity to learn more about other instruments. While on tour with Naser, for instance, he's having his companion teach him how to play a percussion instrument called the jimbe. "I'd heard it, and always thought it was two different instruments -- finger cymbals and a kind of frame drum," he says. "But it wasn't. It was all one instrument.

"It's really amazing. You put it with reggae stuff, and it's just a killer."

Needless to say, Lindley gets enormous enjoyment from finding a connection between seemingly unrelated musics. "I've developed a thing with old banjo tunes, what are called 'play party tunes,' that people know in Indiana and down in the Appalachians," he says. "You usually do them with a five-string banjo. You sing a verse, and then you play something that's a complimentary lick.

"A lot of the Turkish stuff is like that. You sing a verse and then you play something. So what I've done is I've taken the Appalachian verses and then fit the Turkish musical break in between.

"They sound very similar anyway, because a lot of the stuff is interchangeable," he adds. "But I didn't realize how interchangeable until I started playing the tunes."

David Lindley

When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Where: Max's On Broadway, 735 S. Broadway.

Tickets: $12.50 in advance, $14.50 day of show.

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

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