For the first time, Guild Hall of East Hampton will be hosting a three-day music festival over the first weekend in July. It will feature some of the world’s most revered and talented guitarists.
Produced by artistic Jill-of-all-trades Taylor Barton and featuring a “Portraits” session with her husband, G.E. Smith, former musical director of “Saturday Night Live” — the Guitar Masters festival combines ticketed performances with documentary films, a talk, and a book signing.
“This is a brand-new launch project, which was conceived originally by Marty Cohen [board chairman of Guild Hall] and Ralph Gibson,” said Barton on a beautiful, breezy June day at her home in Amagansett.
“We set about doing a program that would be diversified, that would feature all the genres, and would feature one of G.E.’s ‘Portraits’ series,” she said.
The festival kicks off on Thursday, July 5, with a screening of Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police at 4 PM, based on the acclaimed memoir One Train Later by The Police’s guitarist, Andy Summers. The film is preceded by a short, Music for Lens and Guitar, by renowned photographer and musician Ralph Gibson. The film series for the festival is curated by director Mary Jane Marcasiano.
At 8 PM that night, Summers and Gibson will perform a concert, each playing solo.
Friday, July 6, brings a 4 PM film screening of Badi, which observes the personal trajectory and the international career of the Brazilian singer, guitarist, and composer Badi Assad, who will perform on the Guild Hall stage on Saturday.
From classical to pop, Assad has navigated a male-dominated musical scene, along with the pressures of coming from a family of virtuoso musicians. The documentary is in Portuguese with English subtitles and is preceded by History of the Electric Guitar — excerpted from Smithsonian Channel’s “Electrified: The Guitar Revolution” — and features Smith performing the history of the electric guitar, from steel to squeal, in just one song.
Friday night at 8 PM, Smith will present one of his “Portraits” sessions, with Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson and his son, Teddy Thompson. Richard Thompson has been called one of the greatest electric guitarists of all time. His son is an acclaimed singer-songwriter in his own right.
“The ‘Portraits’ series is a fun, intimate way of presenting music,” Smith explained. “It’s not a concert and it’s not an interview. We might only play part of a song, and then say, ‘That reminds me of that time . . .’”
“Portraits” is kind of like being invited to hang out a few old friends who just happen to be the best musicians in the world and getting to watch as they gab and jam.
Saturday is a big day, beginning with a guitar talk at 10:30 AM with noted luthier Ken Parker, who will discuss “The Art of Guitar Making.” Also, on hand to read excerpts and sign copies of her book, Please Be With Me: A Song for my Father, Duane Allman, will be Galadrielle Allman. Music journalist Mikal Gilmore called the book, “The most moving music biography I’ve ever read.”
Saturday’s 4 PM film screening features the award-winning documentary East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem, which chronicles Israeli multi-platinum recording star David Broza’s attempt to gather Israeli and Palestinian musicians together for a little over a week to experience peace, unity, and creativity through music. The film features Steve Earle, Wyclef Jean, Mira Awad, and many more.
“[Broza] did more for the Middle East peace process in eight days than Secretary of State John Kerry has done in two years,” said Jordan Hoffman in a 2015 Vanity Fair article. (See our article about Broza elsewhere in this week’s Independent.)
The festival closes on Saturday night with an all-out, all-star concert, featuring Broza, Assad, and jazz guitarist Brandon Ross, along with acoustic bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi.
“Tickets are selling well,” Barton said. “And the Saturday night concert is selling quickly. It’s going to be an incredible show.”
“Marty really wanted to do something innovative and different, and he asked G.E. and I to do this because we’re passionate about it, and we want the community to get an experience that they haven’t been able to get out here, at least in a long time,” Barton said, referring to the “Back at the Ranch” big-name concerts held at Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk in the 1990s.
Barton hopes that this becomes an annual Guild Hall happening. “It’s such a great venue, and to be able to present so many different genres — world music, jazz, rock, blues — with some of the world’s leading performers and musicians, is incredible. It’s going to be a wonderful, eclectic musical experience,” she said.
For ticket prices and more information, visit www.guildhall.org/programs-events/guitar-masters-festival.