Shawn Lane: rock and world-fusion guitarist


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Shawn Lane
Guitarist and keyboardist
3/21/63 - 9/26/03

Guitarist Shawn Lane, who progressed from a teenaged hard-rock star to a master of world fusion music, has died after a drastic battle with lung disease. He was forty years old.

Lane began his musical interests very young, studying piano and cello from the age of four. He took up the guitar at eight, and it remained his principal instrument from then on. He quickly became a legend in Memphis' music scene as the feisty young kid began his professional playing and recording career when he was 12. At 14 he was hired into Black Oak Arkansas towards the end of the boogie-rock band's peak of fame. The teen wonder shocked and amazed audiences at stadium shows across the nation. He also performed with the band at Governor Bill Clinton's inauguration.

Four years later Lane quit performing entirely to concentrate on his family and studies. He returned to playing at the age of 20, in the house band of the Peabody Hotel. His growing resume included recordings and gigs with DDT, Joe Walsh, Alex Chilton, Sam & Dave, dc Talk, and country supergroup The Highwaymen. The last association led to his Warner Brothers recording contract and the release of Powers of Ten in 1992, along with opportunities for instructional videos and workshops. That year Guitar Player Magazine named Lane their Best New Talent; he also made second place in Keyboard Player Magazine's ranking of keyboard artists.

In 1994 Lane began working with Jonas Hellborg, a phenomenal Swedish bass guitarist who had taken part in the second edition of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. The two became fast friends and enduring partners, most notably working in trio sessions with various percussionists: Kofi Baker, son of Cream drummer Ginger Baker; Jeff Sipe (Apt. Q-258) from Aquarium Rescue Unit; and the Indian percussion-playing brothers Vinayakram Selvaganesh (Good People in Times of Evil, 2000, Bardo) and Vinayakram Umashankar. Temporal Analogues of Paradise (1996, DEM; reissued 2003, Bardo), recorded with Sipe, was a Miles Davis-like pastiche of live concert segments assembled into two mind-boggling half-hour tracks of improvisation.

In 1999 Lane released his second album as a leader, The Tri-Tone Fascination, on his own Eye Reckon label while keeping up a hectic schedule with Hellborg. His health problems began in 2001, at which time Lane backed off from performing and folded the label with several sessions unreleased. By the end of the year he was gigging with the local group Time Bandits, and in 2002 he rejoined Hellborg and Sipe for a world tour. His last recording was Icon (2003, Bardo) with Hellborg and the Vinayakrams. In early September 2003 Lane began suffering severe chest pain and underwent various medical tests while preparing for a new album with Hellborg and Ginger Baker. He was expected to remain on oxygen for the remainder of his life, but passed away within a few weeks.

- Todd S. Jenkins

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