By Suzy Williams
Have you ever read a review of something in the arts and just wish they could come right out and write whether the artist was great or not? Well, I’d like to try that tack, which is to state the fact that our own Venice-based classical guitarist is a phenomenon – a master, a virtuoso, an exquisite performer. Michael Jost (pronounced like “Yo,” man!) – who has lived on Ocean Front Walk for twenty years, is a respected star in Europe. However, you know the old story: sometimes people take for granted high-end talents like Jost in the States. A prophet without honor and all that.
Perhaps you’ve seen him playing in the background at local parties, unamplified. You know – the guy with the Jim Morrison good looks (a beautiful face, lovely head of hair, brown-black fingernails and a yummy physique) (am I too shallow writing about mere appearances?) [NO! – ed.]; sitting in the corner barefoot, leaning over his guitar, lost in the music, and letting the party rage on around him, voices increasing in volume as the night progresses? Yeah, that’s him.
Well, I had the privilege to see Michael Jost in concert Thursday, April 17 at Beyond Baroque. What a difference with amplification and a captive audience! What a performance! He took on Spanish, Moorish and Turkish music, mixed it with hits by Mason Williams, J. S. Bach, and Led Zeppelin. He delivered it with magnificent classical virtuosity… and a profound humor. Dynamics? Check. Passion? Check. The thing is, he plays with a charisma that keeps you focused enough to actually grok what the man is doing with those beautiful instruments (three guitars, with occasional electronic augmentation).
Three-quarters of the way through his set, he brought up a melodica player. Hmm…what’s this all about? Turns out it was the excellent local saxophonist Matt Demerit, who with the help of a well-placed microphone, turned this toy-like, blow-into keyboard into Astor Piazolla on the bandoneon. Together, Jost and Demerit bumped the concept of “soulfulness” up a notch. I hear Michael is going to be at Beyond Baroque next month. Check their calendar.
It didn’t hurt that our own Venice singing legend Peter Demian, with son Haley, played a rousing set beforehand, revving up the audience for intense listening. Talk about SOUL! We got it here in Venice, folks. Yessirree!
Above: Matt Demerit and Michael Jost. Photo: Margaret Molloy