published Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

French guitar guru brings anniversary tour to Barking Legs tonight - April 3

IF YOU GO

■ What: Guitarist Pierre Bensusan.

■ When: 7:30 p.m. today, April 3.

■ Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

■ Admission: $15 in advance, $18 at the door.

■ Phone: 423-624-5347

■ Website: www.barkinglegs.org.

DISCOGRAPHY

■ 1975-79: “Pres de Paris,” “Pierre Bensusan 2,” “Musiques”

■ 1981-88: “Solilai,” “Spices”

■ 1993-97: “Wu Wei,”

“Live au New Morning/Live in Paris”

■ 2001-13: “Intuite,” “An Evening With Inter-national Guitar Night,” “Altiplanos,” “Vividly,” “Encore”

COMING UP

■ What: Wide Open Floor, a monthly performing-arts showcase for dancers, poets, musicians.

■ When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 4.

■ Where: Barking Legs Theater.

■ Admission: $5, cash preferred.

When Pierre Bensusan was 12 years old, he decided he was going to play guitar for the rest of his life.

Bensusan’s parents, French-Algerians who immigrated to Paris in the ’60s, took the declaration with a dismissive grain of salt. His father said nothing. His mother, a mathematics teacher, nodded her head and told him he could do whatever he wanted after he attended university.

This was no idle fantasy, however, and Bensusan wasn’t building a castle of air. He knew his fate as surely as his nimble fingers knew his instrument’s wooden curves.

“I said, ‘No, no. You don’t get it, momma. That’s not exactly what I have planned,’” he recalls responding. For the next four years, he made an annual birthday tradition of counting down to when he would be old enough to drop out of school and pursue his dream.

“Then, I said, ‘Momma, next week, I turn 16, and I will be able to leave school, and I will, on my birthday,’” he says. “Then she really started to freak out.”

Bensusan made good on his threat, and within a year, he signed his first recording contract, releasing his debut, “Prés de Paris,” at age 17.

Forty years later, Bensusan’s name is revered in acoustic guitar circles. His guitar-playing — a blend of jazz, world, folk, Celtic and New Age — is lushly empathic and has earned him many accolades. In 2008, readers of Guitar Player Magazine named him Best World Music Guitar Player. In 2002, he won the Best Acoustic Instrumental Album honors from the American Association for Independent Music Awards.

To celebrate the 40th year of his professional career, Bensusan dug through his stockpile of live recordings to assemble material for a three-disc album, “Encore,” which was released last November. He has been supporting the album this year with a frenetic international touring schedule that will bring him to Barking Legs Theater tonight, April 3.

Although he is typically reluctant to revisit recordings of himself, Bensusan says, he lives for the thrill and spontaneity of live performance. The energy of a concert, he says, more than makes up for the tedium of the road and the many frustrating, often distracting, requirements placed on modern musicians to generate interest in their work.

“And yet, I’m grateful … to be able to do this because for me, the beauty is not only to be able to transform music and imagination into a sound but to be able to share that sound with people,” he says. “This is exactly what I wanted my life to be.”

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205.

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