Turning Point
(Harp Guitar Music)


Harp guitarist and record company owner Gregg Miner continues to break ground with his outstanding Harp Guitar Music label based out in California. Among the latest releases on the label is a 2009 CD from France's guitar master Philippe Fouquet. In addition to classical and steel-string acoustic guitars, Philippe, Gregg and most of the label's artists also play those amazing multi-string, vintage harp guitars. But above it all these guys are simply dazzling guitarists who excel on any guitar, let alone their mastery of both harp guitar and the six-string guitar. Having worked with the fantastic guitarist / composer Jean Pierre Llabador as far back as 1983, I can attest to being a big fan of French jazz guitarists and of course all the great Django style Gypsy Jazz players that emanated from that part of Europe. That classic jazz and Gyspy Jazz guitar sound aside for one minute, Philippe Fouquet is something quite special and unique in his own right. Fans of legendary acoustic guitar icons such as John Renbourn and Pierre Bensusan and even fans of Bach's compositions / transcriptions for guitar must hear Philippe's fantastic Turning Point. The CD also features other notable influences from the world of Celtic and Baroque music. Actually, Harp Guitar Music founder Gregg Miner wanted Philippe to contribute a track for the label's 2008 CD release Harp Guitar Dreams, but unfortunately there were some technical glitches with Philippe's antique harp guitar but, thankfully Philippe had a new harp guitar built and, possessed by a new found burst of musical enthusiasm recorded and released his masterful Turning Point album. Featuring Philippe performing a mix of six-string guitar (built by Kathy Wingert) and harp guitar (Lukas Brunner), twelve of the thirteen tracks on Turning Point were composed by Philippe. Co-production by Gregg Miner, with further creative assistance by Frank Doucette, and excellent mastering from Charlie Johnson really elevates the sound of the Turning Point album, which seems to glisten with diamond-like precision. All of the 2009 CD releases on the Harp Guitar Music label are essential listening for guitar lovers but nevertheless there's something quite special about the exquisite music and performance on Philippe Fouquet's Turning Point.

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Musical Background

I began playing guitar 35 years ago. I was a teenager; it was in the 70’s. I soon discovered Stephan Grossman and his ragtime/blues adaptations and tablatures. A few years later John Renbourn produced two great albums of celtic and baroque music for guitar. I was much impressed and loved that! I immediately knew that this music was much more my style than blues and ragtime. Pierre Bensusan was beginning his story and he has been a strong influence for a long time. Classical music has always been important to me. It’s what I listen to the most. I listened a lot to Bach’s music and for many years I have been fond of romantic composers such as Schumann, Brahms and others.

New CD

My new album Turning Point is my first one with harp guitar (except for one song on my second album) with eight harp guitar compositions. There are five six-string tracks also. They are solo guitar pieces and I play all this alone. I recorded it in France between April and June, 2009. One of my friends, Philippe Manceau, runs a studio in my area (Loire Valley). He has done very little EQ as we wanted the very natural sound of my instruments. The album has been mastered in Chicago by Charlie Johnson from Yes! Master Media who has achieved excellent results with acoustic recording musicians. This album is the result of a co-production between Gregg Miner of Harp Guitar Music and me. In fact, Gregg and I have worked together for some years on my compositions for harp guitar. Gregg gave me his expertise, his artistic advice and all his energy and enthusiasm, helping me to produce the best possible music. He helped me also with editing and has done a great job. Our relationship is based on love of music. We are both passionate people!

I called this album Turning Point for several reasons but one is that it’s an important progression of my music. Of course, it’s my first album with harp guitar and also my first played totally with open tunings, but some people around me have said that it is a “maturity” album. They said that my style, while being very personal, has reached a level where it sounds very natural and where the influences have blended in a kind of unity. My style is a lot about the search for dynamics in the playing. I try to bring much relief in the interpretation. It could be compared to the rubato style of romantic pianists. In fact, I think that I am really romantic! Gregg says that my music is extremely passionate. He is correct! I play with a lot of emotion and my compositions are a way to serve this strong emotional world. Here is something I wrote a few years ago which is a good explanation of my musical style: "For me, music is my heart beating, it is the smile on your face and the light in your eyes after I have played. It is the vibrato of the note absorbing and extending me. It is all these images and all these moments which have fed my inner world coming to you in a hope of sharing.”

My real intention is to reach the emotional world of the people listening to my music - both on stage and with my recordings. It seems to work, so I am a happy man!

Favorite Guitars

For a very long time I have played only acoustic guitars. I own two fantastic guitars. My 6-string was built by Kathy Wingert, a Californian luthier. For me, Kathy is one of the best of the modern luthiers. Her instruments have a lot of personality and great qualities. Each one of her instruments is “one of a kind.” This guitar inspires me a lot, it’s a treasure.

The second one is a harp guitar built by Swiss luthier Luke Brunner. It’s also a great instrument and it’s totally innovative as it’s the first-ever travel harp guitar! The two necks can be removed or assembled in a minute or two without losing the tuning! It’s incredible and it works perfectly. Also, and the best part, it sounds and plays really great. I love it!

On my 6-string I have a K and K pure mini and on the harp guitar two LR Baggs ribbon passive pickups. For the preamps I haven’t found anything better than the LR Baggs para acoustic DI. When I use a personal reverb, it’s a TC electronic. For strings I use Elixirs exclusively for the main necks and a mix of D’Addario and John Pearse for the sub-basses.

Musical Influences

I told you about John Renbourn (his two mains albums for me are The Black Balloon and The Hermit) and Pierre Bensusan (all albums) who have been very important. I have listened to many guitarists, such as John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Paco de Lucia, Frank Zappa, Michael Hedges (I dedicated a tune to him on my 1st album) and also... , well, the list would be too long!!! I love the music of all these fantastic guitarists but what I always come back to is classical music, and more especially, romantic composers. In fact, I don’t listen a lot to guitar music. I think that it’s a way for me to keep free from guitarist’s influences and deliver something very personal fed from piano or orchestral music influences.

Upcoming Plans

Of course I am still in the promotional period for my latest album and there are many press releases. I think that I will have enough material to go back into the studio next year but I am not sure if there is enough time and money to do it. I compose a lot. It’s very natural for me. Actually, I have some private concerts. I really enjoy them very much because of the close and easy communication with the audience.

I have an idea for harp guitar promotion in Europe. It’s the very beginning, but for sure something is moving and the interest around this instrument is increasing. I am acting on that. I will be coming to the USA this autumn, where I will participate in the next Harp Guitar Gathering.

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