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February 21, 2005

Music Department guitarist has solo track on Grammy-winning CD

By Scott Rappaport

Last year, UCSC Music Department lecturer William Coulter recorded a solo guitar track for a CD titled Henry Mancini: Pink Guitar. On February 13, the disc won a 2005 Grammy Award for “Best Pop Instrumental Album” from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.

Released on the Solid Air Records label, the CD features a number of top acoustic fingerstyle guitarists performing a collection of tunes by Henry Mancini--the great composer/conductor/arranger who passed away in 1994. An icon of film and television music, Mancini was nominated for 72 Grammys, 18 Academy Awards, and won four Oscars for such tunes as the “Pink Panther Theme,” “Moon River,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “Peter Gunn.”

Photo: William Coulter

William Coulter will celebrate the release of his latest CD with a March 19 concert at Kuumbwa Jazz Center.
Photo courtesy of Gourd Music

“I’m excited, flattered, and honored to be on it,” said Coulter by phone from a Music Department studio where he also works as the campus recording technician. "What’s odd is that it was music that I don’t normally play; I mostly play classical and traditional folk music, so doing a pop song was new for me. But I enjoyed the challenge.”

“I never thought it would win,” Coulter added. “It was up against a tribute album to Luther Vandross.”

Coulter was contacted for the project by Solid Air Records, a label he had recorded for in the past. They sent him a list of Mancini songs to choose from, but it turned out that his first choice, “Moon River,” was already taken. The label’s producer suggested instead “Baby Elephant Walk,” a tune from the 1962 Howard Hawks adventure/comedy film Hatari starring John Wayne.

“I had never actually heard the tune before,” said Coulter. “So I got a couple of versions to listen to and came up with an arrangement that fit. I enjoyed doing it; it took maybe a week.”

Coulter added that Solid Air also released a DVD and book containing the music for all the tunes on the CD, plus a five-minute mini-lesson from the artists about their particular song.

“I recorded the whole thing—both the tune and the lesson—in my backyard studio,” Coulter said. I also wound up using different parts of the tune in my teaching.”

Coulter began teaching on campus in 1995 after earning a master’s degree from UCSC in ethnomusicology with an emphasis on traditional Irish music, language, and song. He will celebrate the release of his latest CD, The Road Home, at a March 19 concert to be held at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. The event, presented by his record label, Gourd Music, will feature Coulter on guitar plus Barry Phillips (cello, tabla), Shelley Phillips (harp, winds), Lars Johannesson (flute), Neal Hellman (dulcimer), and Deby Benton Grosjean (fiddle).

Coulter’s new CD includes pieces from Ireland, Brittany, Norway, Portugal, and the United States, as well as a number of original compositions, and a solo arrangement of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” The recording concludes with the title cut, “The Road Home,” a track composed on the Irish whistle by McHenry Library reference specialist Laura McClanathan, and named by Coulter’s son, Evan.

The Road Home and tickets to the March 19 Kuumbwa show are both available at Gourd Music: www.gourd.com or by calling (831) 425-4939. The Grammy Award-winning CD, Henry Mancini—Pink Guitar, can be found at www.acousticmusicresource.com.


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