Lenny Breau Biography

Leonard Breau, 5 August, 1941, Auburn, Maine, USA, d. 12 August 1984, Los Angeles, California, USA. Before turning to jazz, guitarist Breau played in the same field as his country music-singing parents, Hal Lone Pine And Betty Cody. Playing from the age of seven, he worked in the family’s act, billed as ‘Lone Pine Jr. ? The Guitar Wizard’, throughout the northeastern states and in Canada. He had established himself in this field in a minor way when, under the guidance of pianist Bob Erlandson, he began to turn to jazz. In 1962, in Toronto, he formed the group, Three, with singer Don Francks and bass player Ian Henstridge. Later, he worked as a solo, appearing on television in his own show for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. When he was in his late twenties, he formed a jazz trio and made two widely acclaimed albums. This was in the late 60s and during the following decade he performed with many leading jazz artists. Breau’s reputation spread when it was perceived that he could comfortably hold his own when teamed with other guitarists of note, such as Chet Atkins, with whom he made Standard Brands, and George Benson.

During the 70s, Breau widened his range as he drew into his repertoire not only the styles and techniques of all aspects of jazz but also some ethnic musical forms, including those of India and Spain. Constantly seeking new ways of expressing his seemingly boundless ideas, in the early 80s he experimented with a seven-string guitar. In 1981, he appeared briefly on film in a documentary about Tal Farlow. Also in the early 80s he had a successful group that included then newcomer Dave Young. This band was recorded at Bourbon Street, a Toronto nightclub, but the set remained unreleased for almost 15 years (the Guitarchives label was set up after Breau’s death to release his private tapes). Breau also taught at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and was the author of a regular column in the magazine Guitar Player. He was found dead in a swimming pool and the subsequent Los Angeles coroner’s report decided that he had been strangled, a crime that remains unsolved. Breau’s great talent, allied as it was to exceptional technique and a thorough understanding of, and interest in, many diverse musical forms, made him one of the most interesting players of his day.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.