Brian Keane has spent 40 years in the music industry. The Staples High School Class of 1971 grad has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and won a ton of Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. He’s earned fame scoring television documentaries (including Ric Burns’ “New York,” “The Donner Party” “Ansel Adams” and “Andy Warhol.”
But in 1980, all that lay ahead. He was playing guitar one week night at the Village Gate, backing up jazz legend Larry Coryell. John Scofield, John McLaughlin and George Benson were also there. Brian was excited, anticipating a “shootout” between so many great guitarists.
After his set, he went backstage. There, in the dressing room, was B.B. King. He was on tour in the area, had the night off, and Benson asked him to sit in.
“B.B. was very kind, welcoming, and sweet to me. I don’t know if he actually heard me play, but he was complimentary. I was a cocky 29-year-old kid, and still considered technique and harmonic sophistication as the true measures of musicianship. I was polite and respectful, but in my mind B.B. King was not what I considered a player of high awareness music at the time.
“After I played with Larry and met B.B., I listened in the wings as guitarist after guitarist took amazing solos, trying to outdo each other. I was at a stage in my musical development where I thought of music almost like a competition. Towards the end of the night they did a blues with all the name guitarists (not me), and brought B.B. King out as a special guest.
“I was astounded that B.B. King played a more effective solo using about 3 notes than all these other great guitarists played, using about 3000 per second!
“B.B. King taught me that night that the emotion a musician conveys in his music, even if simple, can be far more powerful than I had considered — and more profound. I never looked at guitar solos, or music, in quite the same way again.
“Thank you B.B.King for your music, and for being a messenger of love, compassion and empathy to so many, for so long.”