Performance Friday, May 6, 2011 | 9:30 PM

James Taylor: Guitar Conversations

Zankel Hall
Don’t miss a night of conversation and performance devoted to popular music’s instrument of choice when James Taylor invites a few of his friends to join him.


  • Adam Gopnik, Host
  • James Taylor, Guitar
  • Jerry Douglas, Dobro and Lap Steel
  • Michael Landau, Electric Guitars


    James Taylor


  • Adam Gopnik

    A writer for The New Yorker since 1986, Adam Gopnik has come to be known as one of the preeminent, wittiest, and most charming interpreters of contemporary life writing today.

    Born in Philadelphia and largely raised in Montreal, Gopnik received his bachelor's in art history from McGill University before completing his graduate work at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

    After his tenure as The New Yorker's art critic from 1987 to 1995, Gopnik moved to Paris. His expanded collection of his essays, Paris to the Moon, was published in 2000 and became a New York Times bestseller. He also wrote an adventure novel entitled The King in the Window while he was in Paris, which was published in 2005. He still often writes from Paris for The New Yorker, has edited the anthology Americans in Paris for the Library of America, and has written introductions to new editions of works by Maupassant, Balzac, Proust, Hugo, and Alain-Fournier.

    Gopnik's 2006 book, Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York, collected and expanded his essays from the previous five years about life in New York and about raising two children in the shadow of various kinds of sadness. His most recent book, Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Lincoln, Darwin, and Modern Life, was another best-seller.

    In addition to his work as a writer, Gopnik is an active lecturer, appearing in almost every major city in the US. His more formal and extended lectures have included engagements at The New York Public Library, the 92nd Street Y, and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. In 2006, he also hosted and presented an hour-long film about New York, Lighting Up New York, for the BBC.

    Gopnik has won the National Magazine Award for Essays and for Criticism three times, as well as the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting and the Canadian National Magazine Award Gold Medal. He lives now in New York City with his wife, Martha Parker, and their two children, Luke Auden and Olivia Esme Claire.
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  • James Taylor

    In March 2011, James Taylor was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barak Obama in a ceremony at the White House. The medal is the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence recognizing "outstanding achievements and support of the arts."

    Taylor's music embodies the art of songwriting in its most fundamental form. He has been at it for decades, transforming introspective meditations into lyrics, melodies, and harmonies that comfort and reassure the listener with the sense that these sometimes painful, sometimes celebratory moments are a part of life shared by us all. In 1971, Taylor was featured on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as the harbinger of the singer-songwriter era. Today, this quintessential singer-songwriter has seen that era cross over into the 21st century.

    As a recording and touring artist, Taylor has set a precedent and blazed a path to which countless young musicians have aspired. His warm baritone is among the most recognized voices in popular music and his guitar-playing has established its own standard.

    Taylor has sold more than 50 million albums throughout his career, beginning in 1968 when he was signed to The Beatles' Apple Records.

    His songs have had a profound influence on both songwriters and music lovers of all generations and from all walks of life: "Fire and Rain," "Country Road," "Something in the Way She Moves," "Mexico," "Shower the People," "Your Smiling Face," "Carolina In My Mind," "Sweet Baby James," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "You Can Close Your Eyes," "Walking Man," "Never Die Young," "Shed a Little Light," "Copperline," "Caroline I See You," and many more.

    Throughout his long career, Taylor has earned 40 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards and five Grammy Awards for a catalog that runs from Sweet Baby James (1970) to Hourglass (1997) and October Road (2002). His first Greatest Hits album earned the Recording Industry Association of America's elite Diamond Award, given for sales in excess of 10 million units in the US. For his artistic accomplishments, Taylor was honored with the 1998 Century Award, Billboard magazine's highest accolade, bestowed for distinguished creative achievement.

    Taylor released Sweet Baby James in 1970. It went triple-platinum and spawned his first Top 10 hit, the intensely personal "Fire and Rain." The following year saw the release of another million-seller, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, with the No. 1 single "You've Got a Friend," written by his longtime friend Carole King. The recording won a Grammy Award in 1971 for Best Pop Male Vocal. In 1972, Taylor scored another gold album with One Man Dog, followed up in 1973 with Walking Man.

    The album Gorilla (1975) included two more major chart entries: "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Mexico." Following his final Warner Brothers recording, In the Pocket, Taylor moved on to Columbia Records and released a string of critically praised and commercially successful albums: JT, his 1977 double-platinum Columbia debut; Flag (1979); Dad Loves His Work (1981); That's Why I'm Here (1985); Never Die Young (1988); New Moon Shine (1991); the double-disc Live album (1993); Hourglass (1998), garnering Taylor his first Grammy Award for Best Pop Album; and October Road (2002)-all certified platinum.

    The year 2000 saw Taylor's induction into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences selected him as its MusiCares Person of the Year in 2006, and his One Man Band (2007) was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special in 2008. Taylor's 2008 release, Covers, was nominated for two Grammy Awards and lead to the aptly titled follow-up, Other Covers.

    In May 2010, Taylor released the Live at the Troubadour CD/DVD of his November 2007 live performance with Carole King at the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles. Their subsequent Troubadour Reunion tour was one of the most successful concert tours of the decade. Most recently, Morgan Neville's acclaimed documentary, Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter was nominated for the Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was recently broadcast on PBS as part of its prestigious American Masters series.

    Taylor has received honorary doctorates of music from Williams College and the Berklee School of Music. Raised in North Carolina, he now lives in western Massachusetts with his wife Caroline and their sons Henry and Rufus.
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  • Jerry Douglas

    In addition to being widely known as the foremost master of the Dobro, Jerry Douglas is a freewheeling, forward-thinking recording artist whose output incorporates elements of bluegrass, country, rock, jazz, blues, and Celtic into his distinctive musical vision.

    As a 12-time Grammy winner, Douglas is one of the most innovative recording artists in music, both as a solo artist and as member of such groundbreaking bands as J. D. Crowe & the New South, The Country Gentlemen, Boone Creek, and Strength in Numbers. Douglas's distinctive sound graces more than 1,500 albums, including discs released by Garth Brooks, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Earl Scruggs, and Ray Charles, among many others. Since 1998, he has been a member of Alison Krauss and Union Station, with whom he tours extensively and co-produces and performs on a series of platinum albums. Douglas is currently working with award-winning producer Russ Titelman on his next solo album.
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  • Michael Landau

    Michael Landau grew up with the music of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and The Band. In his early teens, his interests shifted to jazz and the music of Weather Report, Pat Martino, and Jaco Pastorius. By age 16, Landau was performing in LA clubs, before joining Boz Scaggs for a world tour three years later. By the age of 20, he began focusing on session work, including collaborations with Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, B. B. King, James Taylor, Ray Charles, and Rod Stewart.

    In 1989, Landau released his first solo album, Tales from the Bulge, an instrumental record that included performances with Wayne Shorter, Steve Tavaglione, Vinnie Colaiuta, Carlos Vega, Steve Lukather, and Jimmy Johnson. Two years later, Landau formed the band Burning Water with his brother Teddy, David Frazee, and Carlos Vega. They released four discs of original material, in addition to touring Japan and the US. It was also around this time that he started to record and tour with James Taylor.

    In 1993, Landau won the Reader's Poll for Best Studio Guitarist in Guitar Player magazine. The following year, he formed The Raging Honkies with his brother Teddy and Abe Laboriel Jr. They released two discs and toured Europe and the US. His recent solo releases have included Live 2000, the studio album The Star Spangled Banner, and The Michael Landau Group Live.

    Landau currently tours and performs with his own group and a new band that he formed with Robben Ford, Jimmy Haslip, and Gary Novak called Renegade Creation. He can also be seen live with Hazey Jane, Kirk Fletcher, The Jazz Ministry, Stolen Fish, Michelle Branch, and James Taylor.
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"Carolina in My Mind"
James Taylor
Hear Music

Perspectives: James Taylor

I was hugely flattered to be asked to host a Perspectives series and to create a celebration of Carnegie Hall’s 120th birthday. We have been working up to this for the last two years. Carnegie Hall offered and we jumped right in.

Carnegie Hall is the top theater in the top town. It is an icon for performing artists, its very name means success. The first time I played here, in 1970, was the first time I was ever in the Hall I had been hearing about since I was a child. From the moment I walked in the door, it lived up to my expectations and to my imagination.

As part of this Perspectives, we are planning a series of four different concerts, starting with an all-star Gala on April 12. We continue with a Roots evening on April 20, focusing on the music I listened to growing up. In Guitar Conversations on May 6, I talk about guitar playing in general and my own style in particular—and get to play with a couple of my favorite guitarists. On May 9, we wrap up our short season in the spotlight with a program modestly titled Quintessential James Taylor, in which my band and I play what we consider our very best songs and attempt to live up to the honor Carnegie Hall has bestowed on me by inviting me to organize this series.

Carnegie Hall is the sort of venue that focuses a performer’s attention. Everyone who plays here wants to be at his very best. The world recognizes this as one of the great venues for classical music, but it is important to remember that folk music got played here, too. Blues, swing, R&B, and jazz were performed here. Rock ‘n’ roll got played here. Strauss, Gershwin, Sinatra, and The Beatles have all stood on this stage.

No series of concerts can summarize all the great music that Carnegie Hall has seen in its first 12 decades. What we can do is take a few evenings to be grateful for all the wonderful performers who have passed through, and hope to add a couple of appropriate links to the ongoing chain.

—James Taylor

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Program Notes
James Taylor's Perspectives series is made possible, in part, by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.
This performance is part of Non-Subscription Events.

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