World-Class Talent on the Whitefish Stage

By Beacon Staff

Jam sessions are an integral part of guitar culture. Musicians can gather and create new song patterns, collaborate or hold impromptu concerts. Just imagine a jam session with some of the best guitarists in the world.

Such an opportunity will present itself in the Flathead on Jan. 28 when the International Guitar Night concert comes strumming into Whitefish. The men who make up the group – Brian Gore, Itamar Erez, Lulo Reinhardt and Stephen Bennett – represent some of the best guitar talent from around the globe.

Carolyn Pitman, executive director of the Whitefish Theater Company, said the group provides a unique opportunity for Flathead audiences because of the level of talent in the show.

“I think it’ll be diverse and just a presentation of great talent. These are really four wonderful guitar players,” Pitman said.

Gore, the founder and a player in IGN, said the show started out as a grassroots music event in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1990s. It consisted of guitar players just getting together and playing their own music, Gore said, and feeding off each other’s creativity.

“A lot of people would come; guitarists liked it a lot,” Gore said last week on the phone during the sound check for a show in Virginia. “I’ve always been good at creating a kind of vibe that’s more friendly and harmonious than competitive.”

The show eventually evolved into a concert opportunity, complete with two acts. The first act gives each member a chance to showcase their talents with solo songs and will close out with a couple quartet performances. The second act features original collaborations, Gore said. All of the music must be original work by the artists to be played at IGN, he added.

Gore specializes in melodic finger-style guitar and also works as a producer for the show. Reinhardt plays a type of music dubbed Latin Swing because it mixes Gypsy jazz with Latin flavors. His relative, Django Reinhardt, was one of Europe’s first prominent jazz musicians.

Bennett is a nationally recognized harp-guitarist who also plays a 1930 National Steel slide guitar. Erez rounds out the group as a classically trained musician from Israel who mixes Middle Eastern influences with Spanish sounds.

The group tours across the country, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. Pitman said the WTC was able to snag a performance because the group was already going to be in Montana; otherwise, the theater could not have gotten them here.

“They come very highly recommended,” Pitman said. “They’re great artists.”

The group also agreed to play a second concert for the fifth- and sixth-graders in Whitefish, which is an important attribute when the WTC considers bringing a show to town, Pitman said.

The IGN will come to Montana after a week of shows in several different states, including New York, Georgia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Most of their shows sell out, Gore said, because they have developed a dedicated following in the past 10 years.

Not every show is the same because the group has changed over the years, Gore said, with guitarists coming and going. But there is always a search for excellent talent, he said.

“We’ve been having standing ovations and encore requests at every place that we’ve played, which is great,” Gore said. “We’re real, real grateful.”

Part of the IGN show is being dedicated to the idea of bringing new types of music that people may have never experienced, Gore said. Guitar summits pop up and fade away, he said, but IGN has exhibited staying power.

“We’ve been at it for more than a decade and we give a great show,” Gore said. “Hopefully it will be a revelation for some; it can turn people on to guitar for lifetime.”

The International Guitar Night takes place at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish on Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Call the Whitefish Theater Company for ticketing information at 862-5371.

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