Lenny Breau (August 5, 1941ľAugust 12, 1984) was a brilliantly innovative American-born Canadian jazz guitarist who brought together country, classical, flamenco and jazz guitar techniques, then merged and developed them into a unique and influential personal style. His astonishing technical ability was matched by a wide musical knowledge and deep imagination; Breau's available recordings range from thoughtful, delicate and poetic extended improvisations to pyrotechnic explosions of shimmering notes. Largely unknown in popular music, even today he remains a musician's musician and one of the greatest jazz guitarists who ever lived.
Breau was born August 5, 1941, in Auburn, Maine. His francophone parents, Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody, were professional country and western musicians who performed and recorded from the end of the Second World War until the late 1950s. Their son began playing guitar at the age of seven, and by the age of twelve he was the lead guitarist for his parents' band, billed as "Lone Pine Junior", playing Merle Travis and Chet Atkins instrumentals and occasionally singing. Breau made his first professional recording in Maine at the age of 15, appropriately titled Boy Wonder.
The Breau family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1957, and their new band travelled and performed around the city and province as the CKY Caravan. Their shows were broadcast live on Winnipeg's CKY Radio on Saturday mornings from various remote locations. One of the regular listeners was a sixteen-year-old local guitar novice named Randy Bachman, who bicycled to a Caravan performance in his West Kildonan neigbourhood expecting to see an entire band of musicians playing the intricate guitar solos Bachman had heard on the radio. The boys soon became friends, and Breau informally began teaching Bachman, who has since described those lessons as "...the beginning of my life as a guitar player."
Around 1959 Lenny Breau left his parents' band and sought out local jazz musicians, performing at Winnipeg venues including "Rando Manor" and the "Stage Door". He met pianist Bob Erlandson, who began teaching him more of the foundations of jazz. In 1961 Breau left for Toronto and soon created the jazz group Three with singer/actor Don Francks and Ian Henstridge on acoustic bass.
Three performed in Toronto, Ottawa and New York City. Their music was featured in the 1962 National Film Board documentary Toronto Jazz, and they recorded a live album at a New York jazz club and appeared on US network television on the Jackie Gleason and Joey Bishop shows. Returning to Winnipeg, Breau became a regular session guitarist recording for CBC Radio and CBC Television, and contributed to CBC-TV's Teenbeat, Music Hop, and his own Lenny Breau Show. To many Canadians, the cool jazz of Breau's guitar is still an evocative memory of the sound of CBC in the sixties.
"The Sound of Silence is Intense" -- Lenny Breau