I've attended a lot of concerts in my day, danced at every club in the city, dined at all the great local restaurants, and written about artists, theater companies, and art exhibitions, but over the past few months, one name with which heretofore I never was familiar keeps popping up over and over again in connection with anything having to do with the production and performance of the great music -- Jim Gleason.
When my sister Karen and I were talking back in the Spring about AGL's presentation of Tommy: The Concert, she mentioned to me that she would be working with the Tommy band leader in the SummerFest production of Rent, which just closed last weekend and played to record crowds at the arboretum. My sis played piano, Jim played his magic guitar (which he can make sound like just about any instrument you can imagine) and the cast put on a spectacular show unlike anything Lexington has ever seen.
|Rent was hot - and fabulous!|
When I stopped in on rehearsal for Tommy back in May, I met Jim during one of the breaks, and right away I had to ask him about the guitar...because I could've sworn I'd just heard a banjo moments before come from its innards. He explained it is a "modeling" guitar, and proceeded to dazzle me with a number of its offerings. I'll be the first to admit, I know nothing about the guitar, but I was fascinated at the fact that it could take the place of so many instruments. More than that, I was impressed with what a nice guy Jim Gleason is, given all of his other attributes: married to local star of stage and television, The Bats' high flying Missy Johnston, holds a PhD in Mass Communication, teaches at Eastern Kentucky University, leader of the Johnson Brothers band, the premier cover band in our area ... it's a pleasant surprise to meet someone with so much going on who isn't all about himself. He's always about making the music the best it can be for the entire ensemble so they can perform at their best - and Who could ask for anything more?
|Jim Gleason with his marvelous modeling guitar!|
So, within just a few weeks I went from not knowing a blooming thing about Gleason, to meeting him at Actors Guild of Lexington's rehearsal for Tommy, find out my sister is about to embark on the musical Rent journey with him, he's playing at Thursday Night Live, he's playing at Natasha's - he's everywhere...whew! I get tired just thinking about all the gigs Jim Gleason has. Yet he's a pleasant, unassuming fellow with talent out the whazoo yet he's not arrogant and does not in any way feel the need to toot his own horn (although I bet that guitar of his can play one).
When I found out that Tommy: The Encore was going to be happening soon at the brand new MoonDance ampitheatre, I wanted to see what Jim had to say about Actors Guild's command performance, and if the entire Johnson Brothers band would be back to wow the crowd that will be packing Beaumont Centre on Sunday night. Of course, he's busier than a one armed guitar player, but he did get back to me and confirmed that he'll be back to perform the classic rock opera by The Who.
"Yes, the whole Johnson Brothers band will be back in full force, along with the original cast. We're pretty excited. I've visited MoonDance, and it's beautiful. The tech facilities are first-rate. I think it's likely to become a very popular performance venue for music and theater alike. It's a real asset for Lexington and its arts community, and The Haymaker Company deserves huge credit for making it happen."
What activities does this omnipresent whirling musical dervish have in his future? Typically, Gleason is quick to give a nod to someone other than himself. "No band projects, but Dave Hamon, our drummer/keyboard guy, just released his first CD of original music. Dave pretty much did all the writing and playing and singing. (Some of us play a small role here and there, but it's his baby.) It's called This Old Thing, and it's terrific. Check it out!"
That is so telling of Gleason's generous spirit - to put the spotlight on his fellow musician. With that sort of humble air, it's easy to see why he's in such demand - he's not just a fantastic performer, he's a musical genius without an overwhelming ego, which is refreshing, is it not?
Finally, does Jim Gleason have a secret talent? Not one that he'll brag about, of course, but tells me, "Well, I've been practicing hovering. Not flying through the air like Superman, just a millimeter or so off the ground. Most people don't notice, but it's really cut the wear and tear on my shoes!"
So, the mystery is solved - that's how he gets around. No wonder I never see him stuck in traffic...
Actors Guild of Lexington's presentation of Tommy: The Encore is one night only. Gates open at 6pm at the new Moondance ampitheatre in Beaumont Centre. If you love The Who, if you love Tommy, or if you just love incredible music, grab a blanket, grab some wine and food and/or the family, and get out to this gorgeous new venue to see this show. You'll be talking about it for weeks and years to come, I guarantee!
peace, love and rock n roll,