I have always subscribed to the theory that you can find out as much about someone through their record collection as you could ever want to know. I could start a dating service based on what is in the record collections of single men and women, and virtually guarantee success. Some people predict criminality through craniology, but I stake my reputation on too many Daniel Johnston records.
For the last “On The Record” column, I went to someone who is as quintessentially Charlottesville as you can get. He worked for a number of years at Charlottesville’s proto-health food restaurant, The Garden Gourmet, where he met Johnny Gilmore, his drummer of choice ever since. You can catch him out most nights of the week, playing all kinds of styles with all kinds of different players. He is currently recording and mixing his own first record. I give you Matthew Willner.
Spencer Lathrop: Guitarists?
Matthew Willner: I love Jeff Beck on Blow by Blow. So many tones, and he doesn’t use a pick. A huge influence on my playing. I loved Jimi Hendrix before I even played the guitar. All his albums are perfect. Jimmy Page, who is about vibe and not about perfection. Physical Graffiti is my favorite. I love James Brown’s guitarists, like “Cheese” Martin or Jimmy “Chank” Nolan. Taj Mahal is a huge influence on my playing. I like a lot of his stuff, but especially The Real Thing, that double live album with the four tubas. And Jerry Reed, especially, has been a huge influence on me. And early King Crim-son—Robert Fripp has been a big influence, like the album Red.
And Tim Reynolds. So versatile and so phenomenal, especially that stuff he was doing in the early ‘90s.
Billy Cobham Spectrum, hands down. One of the most incredible, ridiculous drummers of all time. Plus it has Tommy Bolan on it. That leads to Mahavishnu Orches-tra’s Birds of Fire. Jaco Pastorius’ two albums. The first one, but especially Word of Mouth. His composing and arrangements are transcendent. I have listened to it for 18 years, and I still hear new things. And Stanley Clarke’s School Days, which is about the bass playing.
Sam Cooke’s Night Beat with Billy Preston is just crushing. Anything by James Brown. I like my bootleg of him live in Paris in 1971. He left his band there the next day. Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. Early Temptations with David Ruffin. Aretha Franklin. They are all very good. Soul ’69 is great. But then Aretha Arrives is so good. And the funk band Mandrill is great. Omar Mesa is one of my favorite guitar players. And Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is amazing.
The new Stevie Wonder, A Time to Love, is amazing. And Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine is really good.