Paris opens with the massive figure of guitarist Shawn Lane seated on a stool. He is dressed in all black. He is further hidden behind a beard, a beret and sunglasses. A cigarette hangs from his mouth. Its ashes have dropped away and gathered about in little clumps on his shirt. Below him and to his right is a phalanx of pedals, buttons and machines. His guitar appears quite small pressed up against his huge body. It is his mistress. The equipment is his life. The cigarettes are one of his vices. It is an image that is both inspiring and haunting. It inspires because one can see the total dedication to the music. It haunts because, in a very real way, it foreshadows Lane’s early death.
This outstandingly produced Bardo DVD stands as a true testament to Lane’s legendary but under known guitar prowess. But, he is not alone in making this music live and breathe. Filmed in Paris in 2001, this DVD also features Lane’s compatriot in recent years, bassist Jonas Hellborg, and Indian superstar percussionist Selvaganesh and his two brothers, Umashankar, also a percussionist, and Umamahesh, an outstandingly gifted vocalist. The quintet produces some jaw-dropping Indo-jazz fusion moments for a small appreciative crowd crammed into Paris’ New Morning music club.
While, for the obvious sad reasons, the listener’s eyes are drawn to Lane, the joy with which the brothers and Hellborg perform is also a sight to see and hear. Hellborg supports the event on acoustic bass and provides nimble-fingered runs when called for. Sitting cross-legged in the middle of it all, he seems to be having the most fun. Jonas, who is known to be an intense guy, seems as cool as a cucumber. He is at home with these players. The Vinayakram brothers surely provide a spectacle worth seeing if they were only appearing as a trio. One can imagine the shows they put on for family and friends, especially their legendary father Vikku, back in India. That must have been some noisy household.
I think not one of these gifted musicians would deny that this DVD belongs to Lane. The circumstances have created that reality. Lane’s electric arsenal dominates because it is no longer heard on this earth. At times he is a bluesman running the scales faster than humanly possible. At other times, he is Jan Hammer from his Oh, Yeah days. Touches of Jeff Beck appear then disappear. Swathes of effects and emotions paint the sonic canvas. While influences show, as they must, Lane’s own style was quite unique and displayed knowledge of this music only his fellow musicians will fully understand. This performance documents a moment in time the musicians wish they could live again. This DVD is a poor substitute for real life. But memories are the next best thing. They are to be treasured.