The Keep Tahoe Blue mission has been going for years, but music lovers in this neck of the woods enjoy keeping it Greene, too.
Los Angeles-based guitarist Alastair Greene has made the scene here in various forms for a couple of years. His trio will open for the Danielle Nicole Band on Friday, Jan. 10, in the Crystal Bay Casino Red Room.
“I really dig Alastair,” Danielle Nicole said. “He’s like an encyclopedia of guitar licks.”
His vocabulary also is impressive. He’s spent much of his career in the rock ‘n’ roll realm, touring the globe for seven years as an “English progressive classic art rock” guitarist in the Alan Parsons Project. In 2017, he traded the arenas for nightclubs and blues festivals.
“(Playing with Alan Parsons) 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,” Greene said at the time. “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.”
In 2018, he released a critically acclaimed 20-song concert album, “Live from the 805” and recently joined Tab Benoit’s label, Whiskey Bayou Records.
Locally, his band opened for Samantha Fish in August 2018 at the Crystal Bay Casino. He’s also been a sideman for Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays shows the last two summers – first with Debbie Davies and last August with Sugaray Rayford.
“I’d like to make it three for three and bring my band to Bluesdays next summer,” Greene said. “Devildog promotes both the Crystal Bay and Squaw Valley shows. I am keeping my fingers crossed.”
Greene’s versatility allows him to shine in myriad hues of blue. Davies is a traditional blues player who rose to prominence touring with Albert Collins in the late 1980s, opening shows and later joining the “Master of the Telecaster” for the main events. A 2020 Grammy nominee, Sugaray Rayford performs in various styles — blues, soul and rock.
“Alastair, first and foremost, is a guitar player,” Davies said. “His favorite genre is blues rock and, like me, he also was really into (Eric) Clapton and the guys I was into. As far as overall guitar, he plays rings around me. But that’s exciting. That’s really fun.”
Audiences expecting to hear blues can be a tough crowd – that’s why fans are sometimes called “blue-natics” and “blues Nazis.” It’s risky for a band to stray far from the traditional genre, as a rising young rock band learned at Bluesdays a few summers ago. But Rayford pulled it off, playing his usual mix. And an undeniable highlight was Greene’s solo on a Pink Floyd song, “Comfortably Numb.” Greene had recently lost a friend and the emotion of his solo sent chills through the audience.
“I’m not a fan of people who play a bunch of notes just for the sake of playing a bunch of notes,” Danielle Nicole said. “Alastair’s not one of those cats. He actually plays with meaning and feeling and that goes a long way for me.”
Greene mostly plays a Les Paul guitar when he is with his trio. But he has a Stratocaster for certain songs.
“The original reason I went with a Les Paul is I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into the Stevie Ray Vaughan thing,” Greene said. “In the 1990s, so many guys were playing Stratocasters and trying to jump on that Stevie Ray bandwagon I felt like, A – that’s just a fruitless endeavor as far as I’m concerned, and B — I just really wanted to find my own voice and I jumped on a Les Paul and I felt by that I was able to get away from trying to sound like a Stevie Ray.”
Greene’s longtime bass player, Jim Rankin, will play the Crystal Bay show, along with Chuck Hammel on drums. Expect a Hendrix or Cream cover, along with tunes Greene has for his upcoming record with Whiskey Bayou Records. Much of the recording is complete and a release could come in late spring or early summer.
Greene befriended Benoit at a Las Vegas Blues Bender.
“As it turns out, for a Louisiana swamp blues legend he’s into a lot of the crisp, clean production of bands like Steely Dan, Alan Parsons and Chicago. He’s a fan of that type of music. So we hit it off and had a chance to play together a little bit (in 2018).”
During a break from a busy year touring with Sugaray, Greene hit the studio with producer Benoit, who played drums, sang harmonies and co-wrote some music.
“I went in with enough songs to get it done, but opened it up for interpretation because I wanted to see what he brought to the table,” Greene said.
“He’s got a lot of great ideas. He’s a very prolific writer and it worked out great. He’s a fantastic drummer. Obviously, his guitar playing is legendary and he makes these top guitarist reader polls, and whatnot. But his drumming’s great, too. He can follow me on guitar in a very cool way. He kind of knows what I’m going to play before I’m playing it.”
— Tim Parsons
Alastair Greene Band
Headliner: Danielle Nicole Band
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room
Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 on the day of the show