The Musical Soul of Guitarist Michael Anthony
By Jim LaDiana
"What is music and what do I want to say?" This is a question many players neglect to ask themselves. Consequently, there are many "musical poltergeists" about. So much talent and technique, but vacant of a goal, a home.
Guitarist Michael Anthony continually asks himself that question. As a result, a total dedication, eternal union with his inner voice, and the answer continue to propel him through various stages of development. His talent, amiable nature, enthusiasm, and personal philosophy are clearly evident in his words and music.
Anthony was an in-demand L.A. studio musician from the late '60's until 1980. His acute reading skills and adaptability afforded him sessions at all of the major recording studios such as MGM, Fox, Capitol, Disney, and Warner Brothers to name a few. His playing can be heard on many movies, TV productions and albums. His life in the recording studios put him in contact with some of the giants of the music and entertainment industry.
He is a true disciple of the guitar and having honed his chops from a jazz foundation, his prowess on the instrument is one to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, as is the case with practically all studio musicians, he and his peers are known only by their face-less voice via home stereos, radios, television, etc., and the occasional live performance.
There have been several exceptions, however. Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton, two young studio denizens of the '70's, have created successful careers as independent commercial artists. Therefore, like any other John Q. Public, I knew Michael auditorily as a portion of a popular TV show or movie.
I first met Michael Anthony at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Northridge, California on November 15, 1997. Along with 30 other guitarists, we were to be part of the special music arranged for the memorial service in honor of studio great Tommy Tedesco. Needless to say, it was a monumental day in my life.
Later, I became acquainted with some of his original recordings and immediately realized the scope of his facility. Firstly, he is not a timid player. When Michael Anthony breaks out of the gate, he plays to win. His solo acoustic pieces convey a very live presence. A robust, full tone and attack sing while capturing nuances and dynamics. His playing breathes. Just as the chameleon changes color to blend in with its surroundings, on the electric, Michael makes intelligent use of its advantages, applying many textures and tonal colors. His incredible technique on both instruments allows him to play blistering lines and subtle passages that are both beautiful sounding and musically appropriate.
His music covers a variety of styles in both, solo and group contexts; Sambas and Spanish flavors incorporating time changes and modal harmonies. Some pieces are inspired by Mozart, Beethoven, and DeBussey. Others include jazz phrases and harmonies such as "Horizon," which is dedicated to his main mentor, Howard Roberts. Some have a new age, modern, pop rock flavor while tunes "Ultra Violet" and "Silent Fury," influenced by Bill Evans and Chick Corea, possess modulations and uncommon progressions. The B flat blues "To Wes," is a tribute to Wes Montgomery, who has been a strong influence on Michael's phrasing and contains octaves and concepts typical to Wes' style.
Born Michael Anthony Hernandez on February 23, 1941, it wasnt until his family moved to California at age 14, that he discovered his true musical destiny.
This excerpt is from "Just Jazz Guitar" November 1999