One of the stars in 2010’s Experience Hendrix Tour, Steve Vai sets the standard for rock guitar virtuosity. From his days as a member of Frank Zappa’s band, to his influential solo works that have expanded the lexicon of rock guitar, Vai’s soulful artistry explores the spectrum of human emotion with superb six-string musicianship.
While many musicians fit easily into a single category, Steve Vai’s unique musical vision remains unclassifiable. After more than 20 years, Vai continues to use unbridled guitar virtuosity and soulful artistry to explore the spectrum of human emotion.
From his self-released solo debut “Flex-Able” (1984) to his most recent “Alive In An Ultra World” (2001, Epic), Vai creates a sound all his own by striking a balance between technical ability and poetic phrasing. “I make music to push my own buttons,” explains Vai. “I’ve always been driven by an addiction to create sounds that are unique – not better than what other people do, just different.”
That obsession with running down the voodoo in his head remains the guiding force behind Vai’s ongoing musical evolution and what he loves most about being a musician. “For me, the real gravy is when I hear a strange or beautiful sound in my head and then make it real in the world using the devices I have as a musician,” says Vai. “The things that have never been done before are what interest me most.”
His desire to break new ground led Vai to a special performance with the 100-piece Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra this summer in Japan. Together they performed a concerto for electric guitar called “Fire Strings” composed by distinguished Japanese composer and concert pianist Ichiro Nodaira. Learning the 20 minutes of raging, atonal electric guitar was the most demanding challenge of Vai’s career. “It’s almost impossible to play, and that’s why I did it,” says Vai. “I think a few other guitar players could play it, but I don’t know any who would because of the tremendous time and dedication the music required. It was certainly an honor to be a part of it.”