STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
French-Algerian guitarist/composer Pierre Bensusan has been bringing the world beautiful music for more than 40 years now.
His various sounds include new age, jazz and folk. And you’d probably never be able to tell just by listening to his music, but Bensusan’s first experience as a professional touring musician was with a bluegrass band, while he was in his teens. He cut his first album at 17.
In a phone interview, Bensusan joked that he feels old when fans tell him “I’ve been listening to you for decades.”
To get ready for his Sept. 29 concert at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live, spend some time with his 2014 live triple CD set “Encore,” which includes selections performed at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem. “Godfrey Daniels is part of my life. I’ve been there 10 times,” Bensusan said of the Lehigh Valley listening room. “It was amazing listening to those recordings.”
Although he’s not sure what’s coming next for him musically, Bensusan is not one to look back for very long. “To put a record like (‘Encore’) out is to close a chapter of the past and open a new one.”
However, when asked about the late Michael Hedges, who recorded an instrumental titled “Bensusan” in 1984, the song’s namesake shared that they met in the early ’80s, toured together, and that the innovative Hedges “introduced a lot of people to my work.” After Hedges died in a car crash in 1997, Bensusan composed “So Long Michael.” “He was very spiritual, and funny too. I miss him,” Bensusan said.
Because improvisation is an important part of his craft, Bensusan prefers playing live over recording in a studio because he plays more expressively, calling his live performances “a concentrated elixir of my ideas.” “I realized a lot of people wanted to go home with something live,” he said of compiling “Encore.” “It’s different from the studio. It’s a completely different energy.”
Bensusan is also a storyteller. When asked about the Pierre Bensusan signature model guitar by the Irish company Lowden, he told a tour tale from this summer. In Hong Kong, Bensusan’s Chinese promoter was forced to pay for an extra seat on a bus just for the guitar. He explained that he uses a soft carrying case, and wanted to have his instrument by his side. “(The promoter and the bus driver) went into an argument in a very respectful way,” Bensusan said with a chuckle.
What can you look forward to at a concert with Pierre Bensusan? “Adventure, good stories, beautiful sounds … expression, emotion … just to forget the time gone,” he said.
IF YOU GO
What: Pierre Bensusan in concert.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 29.
Where: Upstairs at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia.
Tickets: $22 in advance, $25 at the door.
Info.: Call (215) 222-1400 or visit www.worldcafelive.com.