Jack Rose

Fare Forward, Voyager: RIP Jack Rose

Whatever it is we call “our culture” has suffered a notable loss with the sad and sudden departure  of Jack Rose, the “American primitive” guitarist and composer who died 12/5/2009 at at the much too early age of 38 in Philadelphia.

I was privileged to have seen Jack perform on two occasions, both times in the company of my good friend Josh Rosenthal: on 3/11/2004 at a concert at Washington Square Church in NYC (Matt Valentine also played) and at an artists’ loft show in Philly perhaps a year or two later (with Harris Newman on the bill].

I spoke briefly with Jack after these gigs, but Josh got to know him much better over time and offers his personal tribute to Jack on the Tompkins Square site. Friends and fans at ARTHUR Magazine have posted two MP3s and multiple video clips here.

Jack Rose will be interred at Merion Memorial Park in Philadelphia — also the final resting place of country-blues legend Nehemiah “Skip” James (1902-1969), who just had to be one of Jack’s musical heroes and inspirations.

From the New York Times (12.9.2009):


By Peter Keepnews

Jack Rose, whose complex improvisations on 6-string, 12-string and lap steel guitar earned him a devoted cult following, died Saturday in Philadelphia. He was 38.

His death, apparently of a heart attack, was announced by Three Lobed Recordings, which released Mr. Rose’s album The Black Dirt Sessions this year.

Mr. Rose began his career in the early 1990s with Pelt, a rock band whose sound was loud and cacophonous and whose repertory consisted largely of long, dronelike improvisations. But he was best known for his solo acoustic work, which was quieter, more delicate and informed by the aesthetic of an earlier era.

In a 2007 interview that appeared on the Web site Foxy Digitalis (digitalisindustries.com/foxyd), Mr. Rose said much of his inspiration came from music of the pre-World War II era — “anything that’s pre-1942: Cajun, country, blues, jazz, all that stuff.” But, he added, he was also influenced by Minimalist composers like Terry Riley and La Monte Young.

In using the finger-picking techniques of an earlier time to create ethereal improvisations that belonged to no particular style or era, Mr. Rose also acknowledged his debt to John Fahey and other experimental guitarists who came to prominence in the 1960s.

Mr. Rose released close to a dozen albums on various labels, many of them in limited pressings. He had recently signed with the prominent independent rock label Thrill Jockey.

Survivors include his wife, Laurie.

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