Jun 25 2011

Jacques Stotzem: Playing Rory Gallagher Unplugged

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  Jacques Stotzem is an acoustic fingerstyle guitar player from Verviers, Belgium. He has recorded 3 vinyl albums and 11 CDs, and over the years has collaborated with such varied artists as harpist Thierry Crommen, guitarist Jacques Pirotton, and bassist Andre Klenes. In 2003 Avalon Guitars produced the “Jacques Stotzem Signature model” guitar and in 2006 Martin Guitars followed with the “OMC Jacques Stotzem Custom Edition.” Teja Gerken, of Acoustic Guitar Magazine calls him “A master at blending country blues-based technique with a neoclassical sense of melody and dynamics.” In the 2006 press release for the new “Jacques Stotzem Custom Martin Guitar, he is called a “stylistic chameleon” who transcends easy pigeonholing into the various genres of jazz, rock, blues, or folk:

Belgium guitarist Jacques Stotzem creates a fingerstyle landscape both intriguingly familiar and absolutely unique. A stylistic chameleon whose original compositions delve into blues, jazz, folk and even rock & roll, Stotzem transcends easy classification, but his polished and emotionally powerful playing has garnered fans in Europe, the United States and beyond. — Modern Guitars

On his latest CD, “Catch The Spirit” Jacques Stotzem turns to Rock ‘n Roll for inspiration and covers some of Rock’s classic tracks and transforms them into acoustical masterpieces. Using fingerpicks on the thumb and two fingers of the right hand, his ability to transform electric guitar classics such as U2’s “With or Without You,” Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” is down right amazing. And nowhere does he shine more than in his interpretation of Rory Gallagher’s “Moonchild”. Recently I had a chance to ask Jacques a few questions about his admiration for the late, great, Irish legend, Rory Gallagher:


Playing Rory Gallagher Unplugged

  • Shadowplays: How long have you been a Rory fan?
  • Jacques: I am Rory’s fan since I am 16. The first LP I bought was “Live In Europe”. I still remember the pleasure I had to discover the LP, I listened to it so many times. I bought it again recently on CD and what a joy to listen again to “Pistol Slapper Blues” or “Bullfrog Blues”!
  • Shadowplays: Did you ever meet Rory?
  • Jacques: No, unfortunately, I never met him and also I just saw him live once. I don’t remember exactly which year I saw him, but it should be around 77 or 78, it was in Liège (Hall Omnisport de Grivegnée). My dream was to meet him at least one time, but sadly, it never happened.
  • Shadowplays: What is it about his music that made you want to cover his songs?
  • Jacques: Even if I am an acoustic player, my favorite players are always electric players, so Rory and Jimi Hendrix are my two favorites. It’s for me always a challenge and a pleasure to try to find ways on the acoustic guitar to perform Rory’s music. To try to catch the original spirit and perform it on acoustic guitar. What I really love in Rory’s pieces is that his music was combining energy and melody.
  • Shadowplays: Have you done any of his acoustic numbers?
  • Jacques: No, not yet, at the moment I concentrate myself on his electric numbers like “Moonchild”, “Wayward Child”, “Shadow Play”, etc. I perform some pieces instrumentally, but I have also a duo project with a female singer (Géraldine Jonet), and we would like to make an acoustic tribute set to Rory. The singer is only 23, but she’s a big fan of Rory.


In 1989 MTV premiered their “MTV Unplugged” series. The show featured stripped-down acoustical performances by artist who were not usually known for such performances. Rory Gallagher would have been a fantastic artist for this series. Although his prowess as an acoustic player was well known — his live shows always had a few acoustic numbers thrown into the mix — to be able to hear Rory play his electric numbers on acoustic guitar would have been a feast for the ears. And on February 14, 1977, Rory did just that, at least briefly, on a show for Irish TV called “Me and My Music”. Rory played “Secret Agent” on his National acoustic guitar, and showed to the world that he didn’t need electricity to make his songs electrifying.

So I can hardly wait to listen to an acoustic tribute set of some of Rory’s best electric numbers by Jacques Stotzem and Géraldine Jonet. A couple of these songs have already made their way to youtube: Wayward Child and Keychain. What a welcome addition the duet of Jacques Stotzem and Géraldine Jonet would be to the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival held in Ballyshannon each year. Barry O’Neill are you listening?

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