Alastair Greene goes back to the blues

Tahoe Onstage
Buddy Emmer, left, and Alastair Greene jam guitars on Saturday at the Carson Valley Inn. They will be back onstage on Tuesday at Lake Tahoe.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Fresh off a seven-year run with the Alan Parsons Project, Alastair Greene will be featured at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Tuesday Night Blues with the Buddy Emmer Blues Band.

A versatile musician, Greene is moving back into the blues-rock realm that he fell for when he started playing guitar as a teenager. “It’s time for me to spread my wings and do my thing,” Greene told Tahoe Onstage by phone from his home in Southern California.

The Carson Valley Inn’s 33rd anniversary on Saturday was the first time Greene and the Buddy Emmer Blues Band have shared the stage. Greene sent Emmer of few of his original songs to learn, but aims to keep things loose.

“I like to err on the side of just making everyone feel comfortable,” Greene said before the show. “It’s more fun playing blues with people as if it is a language. If you’ve got good players that know the language, you know then it’s just it’s going to be great. Everyone’s going to be relaxed and it’s going to be familiar stuff and whoever that bandleader person is gets to do their thing kind of on top of that.”

Emmer’s band has used the same format at its 3½-year Tuesday night residency at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. He’s rotated a growing network of about 25 artists to jam with his band for free shows on the casino floor. Austin’s Mighty Mike Shermer and San Jose’s Daniel Castro put Greene in touch with Emmer.

“Everybody’s wanting to get in on it,” Emmer said. “I’m just hoping it keeps flying.”

Greene’s grandfather was trumpeter Alfred “Chico” Alvarez, who played in the Stan Kenton Orchestra. The big jazz band often supported well-known singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. As a youngster, Greene started on saxophone, then piano, then, inspired by Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, the bass guitar. When he was a junior in high school, Greene was given an electric guitar.

“It was the early ‘80s and Van Halen was out there along with all these other great bands and I was like, ‘Man, that looks cool,’ ” said Greene, who credits a great instructor, who interestingly started with classical lessons and then to classic rock.

“He gave me a cassette tape — I know that’s a foreign term now — and on that cassette tape were like a few Cream songs, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, and surf tunes by The Ventures. I was trying to learn the hard rock stuff but he said, ‘You know, you really should start here.’ ”

Greene said he immediately started playing in bands and as he studied, he learned rock music came from the blues.

“I saw where Zeppelin had gotten their stuff and how it influenced some of these bands,” he said. “Everything just kind of came into focus.”

Greene released an excellent blues-rock album in 2014, “Trouble at the Door.” But he mostly went in a totally different direction that took him all across the globe.

“I always described the Alan Parsons Project as English progressive classic art rock,” Greene said. “It has a lot of the longer, epic song structures. The music is kind of dreamy and a little bit poppy, but definitely with a Beatles and Pink Floyd influence because he worked with those bands.”

“That was satisfying my inner 16 year old who wanted to play guitar on big stages with a light show and all that sort of stuff. I got to do what you dream about when you’re a kid and I’m just really grateful I had the opportunity to do so. But it’s time for me to get my blues rock on now.”

Greene plans to release his next album, “Dream Train,” in late October. It includes support from some of the most respected people in the business: producer David Z, guitarists Walter Trout, Debbie Davies, Mike Zito, keyboardist Mike Finnigan and harmonica player Dennis Gruenling.

He will play for the second year in a row with Jimmy Carpenter’s Bender Brass Band at the Sept. 7-10 Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas, backing at-large artists.

“Last year, we supported Bobby Rush, Mike Zito, Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of great players there and I am going to play with as many of them as I can because it’s so much fun to have a musical conversation with all these guys.

“Music is going constantly. It starts on some of the stages at 11 a.m. and it goes pretty late because there’s also a jam stage and it goes to like 3 in the morning, if you’re so inclined. It’s a blues cruise on land.

“Their tagline is, ‘Everything is an elevator ride away.’ And it’s totally true. You can look at the schedule and say, ‘Let’s go check out a little Tab Benoit and then go get in the elevator and check out some Walter Trout or Eric Gales. I am hoping to catch some of these guys in addition to the playing I am going to do.

-Tim Parsons

Related story: Maxx Cabello Jr. goes from a guitar case to TJ’s Corral.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


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