Phil's approach to the guitar sounds like John Coltrane meets Mel Brooks at a party for Salvador Dali. It's uncanny the way he has conjured up such an unorthodox way to attend to virtuosity. -- Steve Vai
What the hell is a GUITARP? The guitarp is a marriage between 7-string guitar (high A) and 10 short strings tuned in the upper register of a harp. Philip deGruy commissioned Jimmy Foster of New Orleans to build the first guitarp in 1983. In 1997, West Coast luthier Ralph Novak redesigned and built deGruy's present guitarp employing Novak's remarkable fanned-fret system.
This guitarp is featured with all its seratonal warmth on deGruy's latest solo CD, Hello Dali (Otter Print Records). From Steely Dan to Gershwin, from the Beatles to originals, Hello Dali contains harmonic passages that, if Congress heard them, just might be banned. "Phil's approach to the guitar sounds like John Coltrane meets Mel Brooks at a party for Salvador Dali," guitar whiz Steve Vai said of the CD.
Like Hello Dali, deGruy's first solo CD, Innuendo Out the Other (NYC Records) portrays the essence of his tender, sinister madness. While delivering a constant stream of alliterative puns and improvised parodies, Philip transports us through a solo "guitarp" journey. Grafting bossa nova to the Mardi Gras spirit and leaping from Delta blues to Debussy, he summons everything from bebop reharmonization to Eastern koto sounds with amazing technique, sensitivity and, at times, humor.
After falling under the spell of Chet Atkins, deGruy, a native New Orleanian, began his tenure with jazz great Lenny Breau in 1976. By the early '80s deGruy began plucking an electric guitar behind its bridge and was compelled to incorporate that sounds into his music. Hank Mackie, Phil's extraordinary teacher, suggested fashioning the harp strings to sit on the guitarp's body where the pick guard would be located, thereby extending chord voicings in one motion and evoking the illusion of a "limitless" guitar, turning a sad chord into a tragedy, a happy chord into bliss, and thereby enabling the juxtaposed variations of both.
Characterized most accurately by Matt Resnicoff in Innuendo's liner notes, "Philip deGruy is the Victor Borge of the electric guitar, but only if Victor were as good as Art Tatum and as hilarious as, say, Lenny Bruce." Philip's delightful fusing of creative energy, radical genius and impeccable craft has yielded much acclaim from contemporaries. Upon hearing Philip, Danny Gatton opined, "I have never been more impressed with anybody's playing, ever!" And Larry Coryell has described him as the "most original solo guitarist of the '90s."
deGruy's next project features a plethora of duets with such guitarists as Larry Coryell, Mike Stern, Reeves Gabrels and Charlie Hunter, who said, "Phil has changed the face of the guitar without using a lot of Spandex."
The guitarp can be heard and CDs can be purchased from guitarp.com.