It's pretty tough to make it these days as a guitar player, unless you're willing to do any kind of work you can get your hands on -- from commercial jingles to inane pop ditties, with perhaps the brief (no doubt frustrating) studio gig on some modern Nashville type's dime, where you're asked to play with utter conviction in the space of four bars, and then go on your merry way, union-scale pay in hand.
Conventional wisdom has it that the guitar is merely a support instrument in popular music, where it bolsters or comments upon the main monkey business, which is being conducted by some lead-singer type with a dubious fashion sense. If you want to really play your instrument, well, that's why God invented jazz.
Joe Satriani turned all of this wisdom on its ear when he became the first artist to crack the Top 40 album charts with an all-instrumental guitar album (the ubiquitous "Surfing With the Alien," which begat a long line of guitar-based albums in a short period of time, many of them quite good). Satch, as his fans know him, always had a knack for penning hooks, whether he happened to be playing them on his guitar or, later, singing them. His ear for memorable melodies has never betrayed him, and some 20 years on from the success of "Surfing" -- with stints in Deep Purple (where he replaced icon Ritchie Blackmore for a Japanese tour) and alongside the likes of Alice Cooper and Mick Jagger filling the days between -- Satriani is still commanding a sizable following and, more importantly, releasing commanding music.
Satriani, along with his guests Mountain -- featuring founders Leslie West and Corky Laing -- will perform inside the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts on Sunday evening, beginning at 7 p.m. Fans will want to know that Satriani's band on this current tour includes another legend, fleet-fingered bassist Stu Hamm. Tickets are being handled by Ticketmaster. For more information, visit www.ubcfa.org or call 645-ARTS.
-- Jeff Miers