Bensusan gives new meaning to the guitar |

Bensusan gives new meaning to the guitar

Stewart Oksenhorn
Fingerstyle guitarist Pierre Bensusan performs at Steves Guitars in Carbondale tonight. (Robert Caldarone photo)

To the observer, Pierre Bensusan is not only a guitarist, but an outstanding one. Even among those who play the demanding finger-style form of guitar, Bensusan is esteemed, appearing on the cover of the current Fingerstyle Guitar magazine, in which he is called “the most creative energy in the world of steel string guitar by far.”And to think, Bensusan doesn’t even see himself as a guitarist.”I don’t think of myself as a guitar player – though I’m completely perceived as one,” said the 47-year-old Bensusan, who performs tonight at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale. “I’m using the guitar as a vehicle to compose.”

Growing up in Paris, Bensusan first studied piano before being swept up by the folk music revival. At 11, he taught himself guitar, and also began singing. He began his recording career at 17, but it was not until his fourth album, 1981’s “Solilaï,” that he headed down the path on which he now finds himself.”That album was all original material, and it was a definite curve, a change of direction into what I wanted to be doing,” he said. “I’m focusing on playing music with different ethnic references.”Bensusan mixes influences of Celtic, American, Latin and Middle Eastern styles, and if that doesn’t make him unique enough, his signature sound is compounded by his playing entirely in the unusual DADGAD tuning. Of late, he has gone even farther to make his music one-of-a-kind. After the 2001 CD “Intuite” – a solo, instrumental effort for which he laid the ground work in Aspen – he followed with this year’s “Altiplanos.” The new CD features a pair of Bensusan’s vocal numbers – “Demain Des L’Aube” and “La Nuit des Meteores” – and collaborations with bass, percussion and saxophone.

“There’s more variety, more colors; it’s away from guitar and more toward symphony,” Bensusan said. “I’m using the guitar as a receiving point, to put all kinds of ideas into a guitar form.””Altiplanos” puts Bensusan one step nearer the ultimate goal, of being an artist with a thoroughly original sound.”I want to come up with my own voice, my own identity,” he said. “I want people to hear me and know it’s me.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

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