Andy Summers
* December 31, 1942
United Kingdom
Solo Artist
Andy Summers was born Andrew James Summers on December 31, 1942 in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England. He is a musician and composer best known for his work in The Police. Summers's primary instrument is the six-string electric guitar. His playing is informed by years of jazz and classical music studies, as well as his work in new age, rock, and other musical genres.

Since 1986, when the Police left the stage as the biggest rock band in the world, Andy Summers has followed his own muse, cultivating the ambient and improvisatory streaks always evident in his distinctive soundprint. In fact, Andy's solo albums resonate with a spirit and invention only hinted at by his Police work. Embracing strains of jazz, classical and world music, his records reveal him as an enterprising artist, resolute in his aim to reconcile the accessibility of his pop past with the thrill of the unexpected.

On his eighth album and debut for RCA Victor, The Last Dance of Mr. X, Andy Summers delves into trio territory for the first time since his Police days -- although he's making a jazz noise here. It's not a neo-trad blowing gig or a power trio fusion thing or "smooth jazz" ear candy, it's electric, improvised music in a mixture of modes, with a set of original tunes and apt evergreens. Andy's past solo outings have always spotlighted his own inspired compositions and their characteristic conflation of the sublime and the absurd, the visceral and the cerebral -- and there are several instances of such handy work on the new disc. But Andy, bass guitarist Tony Levin and drummer Gregg Bissonette also recast such standards as Charles Mingus"'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and should-be classics like Wayne Shorter's "The Three Marias" with forward-minded flair.

In all, The Last Dance of Mr. X is a seductive affair, conceived and delivered with style and taste. But to all those who ask, "But is it jazz'?" Andy replies, "It's my own skewed view of jazz; I suppose. But more than anything' it's just contemporary music, or rather contemporaneous' music. My past albums have tended toward the conceptual, but lately I've rediscovered the joy of just playing the guitar in a stripped-down setting, improvising in pure space with an of the moment vibe. The Last Dance of Mr. X is the most 'jazz' of my records, but it's of a piece with the other things I've done in that I've always tried to work beyond assumptions and preconceived notions -- mine and those of others.

Past as prologue
In the Police, Andy's solo predilections were presaged not only by the shimmering guitarscapes and pointillistic solos evident to all, but by the odd album track and b-side he penned as foils to Sting's brand of pop genius. Most ardent Police fans know Andy as the band's voice of wry dementia, from the synthetic romance "Sally" on Outlandos d'Amour to the Oedipal wigout "Mother" on Synchronicity. But he also penned the apocalyptic power pop of "Omegaman" on Ghost in the Machine and the warped instrumental travelogue "Behind My Camel" on Zenyatta Mondatta. And he was responsible for the fitting flipsides to some divine singles, with "Invisible Sun" backed with this future-tense instrumental "Shambelle" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" paired with the plangent wit of "Someone To Talk To," complete with an affecting Andy vocal.

Continuing in the vein of "Someone To Talk To," Andy cut solo pop record in 1987, XYZ (Worth searching out In LP shops, just for the spooky sprechstimme of "The Only Road"). Prior to that vocal experiment, though, he recorded two idiosyncratic duet albums with King Crimson fretboard sage Robert Fripp -- I Advance Masked and Bewitched - that helped set the tone for his first solo effort, Mysterious Barricades, the initial entry in a series of searching ,albums, for Private Music. Evoking the epigrammatic ambience of French composer Erik Satie, Mysterious Barricades is string shadow play, with the evanescent shapes and colors revealing more than would be thought on first encounter subtle shifts and pastel keyboard accompaniment often got the album pegged as New Age, but it is too engaged emotionally and intellectually for that.

For all their charms, the above efforts were mere scene- setting for the 1989 album The Golden Wire, a gorgeous, Grammy-nominated alchemy of novel electric guitar textures and world music influences. The record features a host of sterling players, including Oregon reed virtuoso Paul McCandless and Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar as well as a set of moody, masterful compositions. But as the tide suggests, it is the guitar that is the focus: Within the ensemble penumbrae of "A Piece of Time" and "Earthly Pleasures," Andy's serpentine solos writhe like a muezzin's call, while. such guitar-only pieces as the rage-tinged "A Thousand Stones" and ghostly "Imagine You" are deep, dark evocations of some timeless, phantasmal otherworld. Akin to Nothing But the Sun... for Sting (where, by the way, Andy lent his guitar to "The Lazarus Heart" and "Be Still My Beating Heart"), The Golden Wire is the work through which Andy found his true solo voice.

Andy Summers followed up his artistic epiphany with two more albums for Private Music. From 1990, Charming Snakes is a warm-hearted jazz-rock blend with captivating tunes and an all star assemblage of players, including trumpeter Mark Isham, drummer Chad Wackerman and saxophonist Bill Evans (who solos with aplomb throughout). Sting puts in a cameo as well, lending his dubwise bass to the title track, and the peerless Herbie Hancock adds keyboards to several tracks and a Iyrical solo piano intro to the monolithic "Big Thing" It's an irresistibly grand and equally accessible to Police fans and admirers of such super-jazz bands as the Pat Metheny Group. Produced by vibist Mike Manieri, World Gone Strange is more of a rapprochement with the cool-toned world of contemporary jazz radio, although the disc's peaks represent some of Andy's most beautiful music. The title track and "Bacchante" are disarming duets with Brazilian pianist/vocalist Elliane Elias, while "But She" recalls the entrancing atmospheres of The Golden Wire.

Leaving the increasingly pastoral confines of Private Music, Andy paused for an acoustic interlude On the Mesa label: 1993's Invisible Threads, a duet disc with fellow British guitarist and longtime friend John Etheridge. Comprising extrovert originals and affectionate takes on Django Rheinhardt and Thelonius Monk, the album puts a charge back into the unplugged format. Next, Andy turned to the intrepid (and now defunct) German imprint CMP for 1995's Synaesthesia, his most ambitious work to date. The erudite yet earthy collection saw Andy ascribing to the spirit of such turn-of-the-century futurists as the painter Kandinsky and composer Scriabin, who strove for an ecstatic union of the senses in their work, a "synaesthesia." With the likes of former Cream drummer Ginger Baker in tow, Andy juxtaposed various allusions cut-and-paste style, with minimalism and the modes of India abutting Latin rhythms and grunge guitar. The whole is involved and involving, especially on such majestic numbers as "Meshes of the Afternoon," Cubano Rebop" and "Umbrellas Over Java." The guitar playing itself is alternately lush and lapidary, and always uncommon.

To round out this resumé Along with Mark Isham and guitarist David Torn, Andy contributed to drummer Michael Shrieve's haunting post-fusion opus Stiletto, and his intermittent dealings with Hollywood yielded the acclaimed score to Down &c Out in Beverly Hills. Andy also found time to co-produce a Real World album by the African Pan Orchestra, as well as supervise the release of the double-disc Police live album. More recently, there was a tour of Europe with jazz picker Larry Coryell and percussionist Trilok Gurtu, as well as scores of gigs with Bissonette and bassist Jerry Watts at such jazz dens as the Baked Potato in Andy's adopted hometown of Los Angeles. And he played a multiple-night stand with Watts and Bissonette at the Knitting Factory in New York (where Sting dropped by to sing a smoking "Walking on the Moon"), with those shows serving as an extended preview of The Last Dance Of Mr. X.

Years ago, Andy Summers refined the art of backing a singer to its highest level, with his fistful of "plush chords" (as Sting would say) and finely sculpted eight bar solos leading him from CBGB to Shea Stadium. Since then, his venturesome spirit has compelled him to create gray-area music in a black-and-white world, which has in turn led him back to the clubs. (Andy will be touring the U.S. and Europe with his trio on behalf of The Last Dance of Mr. X.) I I've had an intense playing life over the past few years with different people, here and in Europe, Japan, South America," he says. "It's all been about trying to develop as a player, to develop a deeper, more unique voice with my instrument." And he grins as he adds, "Really, it's been very healthy. I've been striving more and more to play without that intense desire to be liked."
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