I ARRIVED when they were playing one of my favourite Led Zeppelin songs – When the Levee Breaks. It was like being in, no, it was guitar heaven, and it was only a rehearsal.
Not that Albert Frost and Dan Patlansky needed much rehearsing. The top two blues guitarists in the country know their guitars well.
Now they are set to play at The Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown as a collaborative act. What a beautiful idea. Unfortunately, because I follow the music and the sun to the Durban July season, I won’t be able to experience this miracle of music. So, the likeable guitarists agreed to let me be a fly on the wall while they rehearsed at Music Connection on Jan Smuts Avenue in Jozi.
The first thing I noticed was how much fun they were having. The chemistry between the two was tangible. Frost had his guitar low-slung, while Patlansky preferred his higher. They were not doing the whole song. No one can do an entire Zeppelin song with vocals like Robert Plant’s.
Patlansky was singing and the rendition of the song was his, taken from his latest album.
Frost effortlessly took the first lead break and Patlansky, with equal ease, the second. They were on fire, in the zone. It was one of those moments when everything in the world was perfect.
They stopped for a coffee break and a chat, on an adrenalin high from playing together.
“This show will not be what you are going to expect,” explained Patlansky. “It’s song-oriented and it’s not gonna be a guitar-only jol.”
The conversation moved to the fact that people say they are fiercely competitive. Not so, they said. “People believe we are mortal enemies,” laughed Patlansky. “It’s about the music. We just wanna make cool music.”
The two have jammed together at various venues around the country, but this is the first time they will play together as an official show. After Grahamstown, they plan to play at Oppikoppi.
They agreed that one of their best gigs was at Oppiaarde.
“I have played with so many people and sometimes it doesn’t gel,” Frost said. “It’s probably our twisted sense of humour.”
It could also have been because during my time with them, there was a lot of laughter. But they gel because they’re just so good.
They both explored the blues as teenagers and the blues is not a genre that attracts youngsters any more.
“I heard about Albert as a kid and thought, ‘oh, there’s another one’,” Patlansky smiled. “I was an isolated musician at the time.”
“I realised he was great when I saw him at the Blues Room,” Frost recalled.
“I was also super-threatened until we started playing together and then I thought, ‘thank goodness someone else is playing guitar’.
“Do you know how hard it is to do what we do?” he asked.
They said in the early days they would sometimes play back-to-back at festivals, and confessed they were both nervous. But they agreed it spurred them on to become better musicians.
I left them to continue with their magnificent rehearsal. They are certainly going to be a highlight in Grahamstown and at Oppikoppi.