PBS documentary puts singer-songwriter Ned Evett and his fretless glass guitar on national stage

PBS Television will air Â?Driven to Play,Â? a documentary film chronicling fretless-guitar pioneer Ned EvettÂ?s victory at the 2003 North American Rock Guitar Competition, nationwide June 20 at 10:30 p.m. EDT/PDT and 9:30 p.m. CDT/MDT. Check your listings Â? local airdates and times may vary. Visit http://www.nedevett.com for more information.

Idaho-based singer-songwriter and fretless-guitar pioneer Ned Evett is getting a huge break this Sunday when PBS Television stations nationwide air “Driven to Play,” a documentary film chronicling his victory at the 2003 North American Rock Guitar Competition, June 20 at 10:30 p.m. EDT/PDT and 9:30 p.m. CDT/MDT. (Check your listings — local airdates and times may vary.)

The half-hour feature takes a behind-the-scenes look at Evett and the four other finalists in last summer’s North American Rock Guitar Competition, the crown jewel of the annual WNED Buffalo Niagara Guitar Festival. The Buffalo, N.Y., PBS affiliate’s cameras trailed the competitors in the days and hours leading up the event and were backstage when they finished performing.

What transpired during filming even surprised producer Paul Lamont. “It’s not like ‘American Idol,’ ‘Survivor,’ or anything like that,” explains Lamont. “The combination of competition and creativity made it a very enriching experience for me. They were all supporting and cheering each other on. It just shows what level ‘the musician’ lives on — it’s a very strong community.”

“Driven to Play” also features compelling interviews with the event’s organizers, competitors’ family members, and the panel of judges that included Canadian guitar legend Rik Emmett and Sid McGinnis, lead guitarist from “The Late Show with David Letterman.” The end result is a unique look at what motivates someone to pursue their dreams, as well as the havoc they can wreak when they bring an esoteric instrument like the fretless guitar to a rock guitar competition.

Fretless guitars derive their unique sound from the musician’s fingers engaging the strings against a fingerboard without interposing frets — the series of metal ridges set across a traditional guitar’s fingerboard. A close relative of the slide guitar, the fretless guitar is a melodically liberating instrument, giving the player direct control over every aspect of a note’s pitch.

Evett pushes the fretless guitar further by outfitting his instruments with custom mirrored-glass fretless fingerboards. The tonal qualities of the glass affect the sound, plus light seems to dance from the guitar’s neck as Evett performs onstage.

The net effect, as “Driven to Play” documents, stunned judges and the 1,000 guitar enthusiasts in the audience of the sold-out show. “Ned’s command of the fretless guitar is astonishing,” exclaims Guitar One magazine editor-in-chief Troy Nelson, also a finals judge in the 2003 competition. McGinnis elaborates: “I was really impressed with Ned’s performance — it was beautiful. He has taken the slide-guitar concept and flipped it over to where it’s as if he has glass slides on all of his fingers.”

Emmett, a founding member of the rock band Triumph, was equally floored. “Ned is a highly entertaining yet artistically advanced musician with interesting compositions,” he says. “His approach is inspired and inspiring — very unique and original on a heavily modified instrument that produces a wonderful range of tones from his very personalized and adapted techniques and equipment.”

Acclaim for Evett’s music, however, extends far beyond his winning performance in Buffalo. Guitar heroes as disparate as Joe Satriani and Built To Spill frontman Doug Martsch sing his praises, with the former artist even taking Evett on tour with him to open 30 U.K. and U.S. concerts in 2003 and 2003. In addition, Fingerstyle Guitar magazine contends, “Ned Evett will make you rethink the plucked-string instrument,” and CreativeMusicWorks.org says his music is “like listening to a waterfall on fire.”

Just in time for the national broadcast, Evett will release his third solo record, the vocal pop/rock “iStole,” on Empty Beach Records, an indie label based in Sun Valley, Idaho. Available June 15 nationwide via Burnside Distribution Corp., one of the nation’s leading distributors of independent music, “iStole” fuses catchy pop songwriting with the skillful fretless-guitar that earned Evett the gold at the rock guitar competition.

Visit http://www.nedevett.com or http://www.guitarfestival.org for more information. Evett endorses Ashdown amplifiers, Fernandes Guitars, and Line 6 effects.


Posted On: BOISE, ID June 17, 2004

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