Geniuses often come in the form of eccentric musicians, and guitarist Michael Gulezian is no exception.
Gulezian, an established self-taught musician and one of the best guitarists of our time, played a free outdoor concert in Minden Village on Saturday as part of the Comma Concerts series, produced by Doug Reynolds. Gulezian has been playing since he was 6 years old. He has played with the likes of John Fahey and Leo Kottke and has been an influence to many other well-known guitarists, including Michael Hedges. He lives in Nashville, Tenn., and travels all over the country for his performances.
Having never heard Gulezian's music prior to the concert, I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I arrived at Minden Village at 7:15 p.m. Saturday night. People set up their lawn chairs and filtered in and out of 88 Cups, coffee and pastries in hand. The sun was still up and the clouds drifted overhead, waiting patiently for the show to begin.
Reynolds gave an introduction, informing the public about Comma Concerts, as well as a brief introduction about Gulezian, who's other concert at Comma Coffee in Carson City had been canceled and he was playing here for free out of personal choice.
Gulezian took the stage and introduced himself. I was surprised to hear such a soft, kind voice from such a talented artist. When he began to play, it felt like the audience was holding its breath. I don't think anyone else knew what to expect, but whatever the expectations, they were blown away. His fingers flew up and down his guitar so quickly and skillfully that I wondered how he was producing such beautiful music.
He finished his first song and put his hand to his heart.
"I feel like I'm playing in heaven," he said, looking upward. "Look at the sky."
The people followed suit and everyone stared in wonder at the setting sun, the clouds all different shades, the sky a rare, perfect shade of blue.
Gulezian played a powerful set. With each new song the sky turned a different color, and to those who were listening, it felt like he was in control of the elements. The sway of the rhythm matched the movement of the wind. Listening to his music is like picturing scenery; soaring skies, sinking canyons, lush marsh. The melodies go from soft and soothing to daring and mysterious, and every song is as unpredictable as the weather.
He stopped periodically and commented on the sun setting in the sky.
"The real art in the street tonight is unfolding above us," he said.
Aside from being a gifted guitarist, Gulezian is a master storyteller with many interesting stories to tell. He charmed the audience with stories of his Armenian-heritage family and his life. He even played a love song for his wife, who was in another state working on an art show for her paintings.
"I went to a Catholic, prep boarding school, church on Sundays, college prep," he told the audience, speaking about his childhood. "And look what I turned into, a couple of business degrees later."
Throughout his set, which ran for almost three hours, Gulezian played a mix of serious songs and some meant for humor's sake. He played a rendition of "Singing in the Rain," mixing the words with those of another song, and explained the meaning of his songs titled "'I'm No Seismologist' Chortled the Metro Gnome" and "Jello Moves."
"I'm just easily amused by lime green Jello. It's really percussive," he explained to a laughing audience. "You just have to imagine the Jello. It's my imagination gone haywire."
The set finished at around 10:30 p.m., and there were still many people who stuck around for the second half of his set. Reynolds' daughter Jessica helped with selling CDs and cassette tapes, and there were many people who stuck around hoping for a chance to talk to Gulezian.
Gulezian told the audience that he loved Minden, and in return he was encouraged to come back soon to play again.
In the meantime, go to Gulezian's Web site, www.michaelgulezian.com, to listen to his music and read his biography. Also, go to www.carsontahoemusic.com to keep posted about upcoming music events in Carson Valley.
n Ashley Noel Hennefer is a staff writer at The Record-Courier. To reach her, call 782-5121.