Robby Longley

New Therapy Heights

November 06, 2004

Every so often, a musician comes into my path that rejuvenates my will to see more, hear more, know more. Just for the love of doing it. There was Robby Longley, beginning his set of classical and jazz-tinged flamenco at a Folsom fundraiser for New Therapy Heights, which offers emotional and physical relaxation to handicapped children through horse exercises.

Longley, 40, plays a lot of private functions, bookstores and coffeeshops. From what I heard Saturday afternoon, I hope he's getting paid well. He certainly deserves it. Longley, who is originally from Algiers but resides in Los Angeles, played some of the best acoustic guitar I've heard. He was accompanied by his nephew on percussion.

Longley didn't just play with precision. He didn't just play with technical prowess. He played with melody and passion. That's what made his performance such an enriching experience. To see his eyes light up with fire after a bevy of feverish strums. To see his eyes fill with care as he lent more weight and spaced out each note while he played more delicate, new age-like music.

I didn't know strings could sound like that--a richness germaine to flamenco music. When Longley attacked his top strings with mean-spirited bravado, I thought they would have to break. Instead, Longley just kept turning the music on its head. What structure? Have fun transcribing his chord changes. He would go straight for short while, throw in a flourish like a drum fill, and then continue unmauled back into the weave of the song. He then might add a metallic TWING! for accentuation. Not to end the song. Just for his own cause. Then, he would play contemplative rivers of notes filled in with stone-paths of brighter notes.

Two song highlights were "Bourbon Street Burlesque" and "Voodoo Doll." "Burlesque" had a finger-snapping, swinging, percussive chorus bordered by sparse head-nodding verses. This music had the soul of New Orleans in it--that down home goodness and soul. That good-time nastiness. "Voodoo Doll" was a more contemplative song with circular mastery thrown here and there. Just dizzying ovals of repetitive, rapid progressions. Make your mouth drop.

Go see Longley. He'll only be in Covington for the next month, but it's worth the drive. Trust me. He'll be at Covington's Three Rivers Festival November 13th and 14th and he'll be at Cafe Paparazzi on November 20th from 7-11 p.m.

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