Phil Keaggy & Mike Pachelli

Guitar Adventures
Phil Keaggy & Mike Pachelli
Phil Keaggy and Mike Pachelli: Paul Sallmen.

Listening to Adventure-us, one may think they’re hearing one guitarist, but it’s really two masters – Phil Keaggy and Mike Pachelli – weaving parts together almost telepathically. Keaggy is a renowned virtuoso, while Pachelli is a veteran ace. Here, they combine their efforts on acoustic guitar and the results are both beautiful and staggering.

You’ve known each other for more than 50 years.
Mike Pachelli: Our mothers knew each other first. At a 1967 school festival in our hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, our moms were chatting and Phil’s mom told me he was playing a teen dance the next day. I went to his gig and was mesmerized by his talent. He lived nearby, so when we’d get together, he’d show me what he was working on. It would take me weeks to do what he could easily play.

Phil Keaggy: Aw, shucks, Mike! I was 16 or 17 at the time, playing with a band called The New Hudson Exit. Over time, we became lasting friends. Before Mike and his family moved to France a couple of years ago, we did five concerts with [bassist] Tony Levin and [drummer] Jerry Marotta, playing songs from The Bucket List.

On “Friendship,” your guitars blend into an organic whole rather than, “You take a solo, then I’ll take a solo.”
MP: Thank you – that’s quite a compliment! I’ve repurposed a lot of Phil’s style because I love how he plays. To tell us apart, I’m on the left channel and Phil’s on the right. Our styles complement each other because having been friends for so long, we sorta read each other’s minds when playing.
PK: Yeah, I agree. In fact, as I listen to some of the jams on this project, I think to myself, “How did that happen?” Mike and I also have “bat ears,” as they say. As we recorded, we respected each other as musicians and had something like a decent conversation – when one spoke, the other truly listened.

Your cover of the Beatles’ “I Will” is perfectly charming.
MP: I recorded a version on my album, Beatles On Guitar. I asked Phil to play acoustic, and he played along with what I’d recorded. But I thought his accompaniment was too good to be just a background part. So I re-recorded my lead part along with his accompaniment, and made it a duet.

Mike, you studied guitar with jazz icons Joe Pass and Pat Martino?
MP: I got to be friends with Pat when I lived in New York City. We hung out at his Jane Street apartment and finished many bottles of cognac; he opened my mind to the possibilities on guitar. Pat also called Joe Pass and told him I was a worthwhile student. Joe was somethin’ else. First time we got together, he asked me to play for him, so I started to play one of his arrangements. He grabbed the neck of my guitar and shouted, “That’s me you’re playing – I want to hear you!” I almost peed my pants. Then he laughed and said, “I’m just messin’ with you kid!” His lessons were invaluable; the man was a jazz encyclopedia. I even roadied for Joe a few times.

You also played with blues giant Albert King.
MP: In the mid ’70s, I was on the road with [organist] Brother Jack McDuff. We were on the bill with Albert. His guitar player was quitting and I had a few weeks off with McDuff, so I went out with Albert. He still owes me money (laughs)!

“Matador’s Dream” is far more interesting than the usual faux-flamenco shredfest.
PK: I’m no flamenco player, or even classical, but I love all kinds of guitar music and have seriously listened to many artists over the years. You can tell Mike likes Django and I like Julian Bream – both masters. In fact, we both appreciate many of the same players. Because of all those years listening and playing, we’ve learned to tap into some of these styles.
MP: On “Matador’s Dream” we didn’t plan it out at all. One of us would start to play and maybe say what key they were in, then we let spontaneity take over. On that song, Phil played an Olson SJ and I’m playing a Garcia 1A nylon-string, given to me by Phil in 1970.

Which other guitars are on the album?
PK: Aside from my Olson steel-string, I also played my Del Langejans nylon classical, which has a lovely sound!
MP: Most of the record, I played a Charis SJ – another gift from Phil. There are a few electric-guitar sweetening overdubs on the worked-out pieces, where I used an ES-335.

This article originally appeared in VG’s January 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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