At age 75, Minnesota guitar hero Leo Kottke releases a new album with Phish bassist

By Jon Bream, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

A conversation with Kottke is a bit like one of his solo concerts. He shares fascinating stories about both famous and obscure people, goes off on humorous tangents that he sometimes comes back to, delivers quotable quotes and arcane factoids, and never fails to captivate and entertain.

Appetite for recording

Kottke acknowledges that "Noon" "woke up the recording appetite in me." He's now working on a record with Minneapolis percussionist Dave King, who plays with the Bad Plus and Happy Apple. Kottke and Gordon are also discussing another collaboration.

One of the reasons Kottke is excited to record again is because he has a new six-string acoustic guitar with a smaller body, crafted to his specifications by Kevin Muiderman, a Grand Forks, N.D., cosmetic surgeon who is a luthier in his spare time.

"This guitar makes music for you," Kottke said, his smile apparent over the phone.

Moreover, being off the road and not having to think about the next concert has expanded his musical palette. "I've got a couple things — two vocals and three instrumentals — that wouldn't have happened. They're palpably different."


Kottke is also writing a memoir. He was encouraged by award-winning author and Syracuse University creative writing professor George Saunders, who was struck by Kottke's e-mails and introduced him to an editor.

"I have license to do it," said Kottke, who has written prose for himself since sixth grade. "It doesn't take away from the guitar. It actually helps with it. I've got about 52,000 words. I'm just making myself happy with it."

Here's another number — 75. That's the age Kottke turned on Sept. 11.

"I'm in better health than I've ever been in my life. And I'm happier. I'm having a great time. But it is a time I couldn't have possibly imagined even 10 years ago," he said. "Certainly not the time we are told to expect at age 75.

"This is brand-new stuff. The littlest thing makes me smile. I wouldn't change any of this. There's more feeling, there's more cognition, there's more intellect, there's more emotion. There's more of everything and a lot less of me."

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