Adrian Legg looks more like an oboe player than a guitar hero. In fact, the British multi-instrumentalist started out as an oboe ace, but shifted to guitar as a teenager while growing up in London.
The bookish Legg, 70, made the correct call. The laid-back fingerstyle guitarist is one of the most revered axemen in the industry.
Celebrated guitarist Joe Satriani of G3 fame gushed when asked to comment on Legg: “I’ve never heard an acoustic guitarist, who is better than Adrian. What he plays is simply beautiful.”
Legg was taken aback by his friend’s raves.
“He’s very kind,” Legg said by phone from London. “He has a wonderful linear facility, whereas I seem to be little polyphonic clumps of hymn tunes. He has great tone and melodic sense.”
It’s not surprising that Legg is showering others with compliments while remaining humble. The self-effacing Legg, who has performed with G3 and Richard Thompson and has made a number of instructional videos and books, routinely downplays his impressive skill set. It’s impossible to ignore what he has accomplished. He is arguably the greatest relatively unknown guitarist on the circuit.
Despite the lack of buzz the readers of Guitar Player voted Legg the “best acoustic fingerstyle” player from 1993-1996. Guitarist Magazine named Legg the “Guitarist of the Decade” in 1990.
“That was a huge surprise and very encouraging,” Legg said.
Legg, who will perform Tuesday (10/23) at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids, has released a number of critically acclaimed studio albums, which feature songs ranging from jazz and classical to folk and rock.
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Among his finest projects are 1997’s “Waiting for a Dancer,” 1999’s “Fingers & Thumbs” and 2004’s “Inheritance.”
However, Legg is at his best live. Fans can experience how he creates so many sounds from one guitar. They also will be treated to anecdotes when he hits the stage.
“I’ve been surprised and delighted by how much people like stories, and I enjoy the ramble,” Legg said. “I’m never quite sure where one story might end up. They’re all formed off the cuff onstage. I guess it just grew semi-accidentally. You never know what will happen when you get up there onstage.”
Sometimes you don’t know what will happen when you’re driving from town to town. Legg will never forget the Cedar Rapids flood of 2008, which canceled his show at CSPS, owned by Legion Arts.
“I remember when the floods came,” he said. “I was on my way on I-80 east to play at Legion Arts that night when I got a message that Cedar Rapids was under water. So I got diverted down I-35 to I-70 east and on to the next gig (in St. Louis). I don’t remember much beyond its being a stunningly badly planned route. It was sad business but the recovery has been splendid enough that I no longer use Legion Arts’ old front door chair lift to load my stuff in. The new elevator is magnificent.”
Legg enjoys playing the CSPS Hall since he sacks out at the venue after the show.
“I told friends I’ve slept under the stage when I played at Legion Arts in true troubadour style,” he said. “At first I didn’t tell them about the artist’s apartment there. It’s really beautiful and has a lovely, calm and nourishing ambience.”
Original only begins to describe Legg. Comedian Steven Wright noted during an interview that he didn’t realize he was a different sort of humorist until he read a review of one of his shows. The same can be said for Legg, who wasn’t sure how left of center he was until a journalist pointed it out in Guitar Player magazine.
“When Joe Gore wrote that I was happy to jump genres, even within a song, made me much more aware” of playing on another level, he said.
Few recording artists veer from one genre to the next in the same tune.
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“I’ve never fitted into any of them.” Legg said of genres. “I thought I was possibly a little eccentric.”
WHAT: Adrian Legg
WHERE: CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday (10/30)
TICKETS: $17 advance, $21 show day; CSPS Box Office, (319) 364-1580 or Legionarts.org
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Adrianlegg.com