It's only taken Hank Marvin 54 years to get to Invercargill, but he promises fans the wait will have been worth it. Chris Chilton reports.
The Rolling Stones described Invercargill as the arsehole of the world after their surly shows here in 1965. Don't expect any similar dark shadows over the city when famed English guitarist Hank Marvin visits next month.
The impeccably well-mannered Marvin is in the unique position of having a hit album in every decade since he and the Shadows formed as pop idol Cliff Richard's backing band in 1959.
But it won't be that famous red Fender Stratocaster he'll be slinging when he performs at the Civic Theatre on October 27.
His first visit to Invercargill will be as part of his Australian-based gypsy swing trio, exploring the 1930s-era music of guitar great Django Reinhardt and violinist extraordinaire Stephane Grappelli.
Marvin's trio includes Nunzio Mondia on accordion and Marvin's longtime musical sideman guitarist Gary Taylor. They'll be playing a lively, stripped-down form of acoustic swing jazz, with improvisations.
For Marvin, who experienced pop hysteria before the Beatles, this nine-date New Zealand tour is like coming full circle in his stellar career.
"We don't do a lot of live stuff," he says on the phone from Perth, where he has lived since 1987.
"I want to keep it to a minimum. I don't want to go slapping around the world . . . It's a bit like the early days, when you had to carry your own guitar."
The farthest south Marvin has previously ventured is Dunedin, with Cliff and the Shads on their first Australasian tour in 1961, "in the days of grass runways and DC3s".
They had a "terrible, appalling landing" which almost scared Cliff Richard into touring New Zealand by car until the logistics were gently pointed out to him.
Marvin says the gypsy jazz music he'll perform in October is very accessible, surprisingly so to people who haven't encountered it before, with great tunes and structured arrangements.
He cites Reinhardt's "monster vibrato", prodigious string bending and use of octave melodies as influential and widely imitated techniques, but says he has put his own Hank Marvin stamp on the music.
"I tried to put myself into it, so that there's something there that people recognise. At the same time there's a certain approach to this music that you have to incorporate to make it sound gypsy swing."
To those who cannot get past the iconic images and sound of Hank B Marvin's echo-drenched Strat playing Apache and countless other instrumental hits of the 60s, he points out that he has been dabbling in acoustic guitar work since the Shadows split up.
In fact, the acoustic guitar has been featuring in his live shows since his major tours of the late 1990s-early 2000s.
Marvin says people responded well to it and he was encouraged to record the album Guitar Player 11 years ago, which featured him playing acoustic guitar. It became a top-10 hit in the northern hemisphere.
He'd been rediscovering the vastly influential Reinhardt at the time, had fallen in love with the old jazz track Petite Fleur and had the thought that the song could be done Django-style.
He bought the first of an ever- growing collection of gypsy jazz guitars, an old French Savino model, which he put to good use.
"It sounded so good on the record I ended up using it on all but two tracks," he says.
Marvin tested his new love out on some club crowds with Taylor before calling in accordionist Mondia and making something serious of their little project.
He briefly contemplated using a violinist a la Grappelli, but "it's so hard to find a violinist who's not only good technically but can actually swing".
Marvin says he's enjoyed a career beyond what any of the Shadows could have dreamed about when they started out with Cliff Richard.
"We're very happy and feel very privileged to have had that. That status does give you opportunities to do other things."
He's flattered to have worked with artists as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton and Brian May, and counts among his friends Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend ("Peter, he prefers now".)
He's also well aware how influential his own playing in the Shadows was on that formidable generation of great English guitarists, because many of them have told him so personally.
"Some British guitarists refer to me as the Godfather of Delay," he says with a laugh.
Being asked to perform guest spots at the Django Reinhardt Gypsy Jazz Festival at Samois-sur- Seine near Paris was also "quite a thrill".
"The opportunities have been there and I've enjoyed doing different things, and even now doing this [gypsy jazz trio]. It started off as a bit of fun and it still is, trust me, but we've taken it to a level where we feel it's got a lot of value."
Marvin says he no longer has the ambition to undertake major international solo tours.
"It's quite a thing to put together . . . it gets incredibly expensive. It's not something now that I'm particularly interested in doing, unless something special came up."
HANK MARVIN LIVE
Hank Marvin's Gypsy Jazz trio will perform at Invercargill's Civic Theatre on October 27. Tickets: Adults $89.50, senior citizens $79.50, children $79.50, 10 or more $79.50. Available at TicketDirect, Invercargill City Council booking office.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with the city council's cut back on meals?Related story: Shadbolt bemused by 'prince of gluttony' tag