Jan Akkerman will be releasing ‘Close Beauty’, his first studio album in 8 years and his first on Music Theories Recordings / Mascot Label Group on 25th October 2019.
At 72 years old, the supremely gifted guitarist is equalled by very few and his legendary ability makes him impossible to pigeon hole. His position as Dutch royalty has been cemented, he received the Golden Harp Award in early 2005, Holland’s most prestigious music prize and in 2012 he was appointed Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau, a royal honour that acknowledged his contribution to Dutch music and his influence on musicians around the world.
Akkerman was a founding member of Focus from 1969 to 1976 where he recorded a number of breakout albums including, ‘Focus II/Moving Waves’ (1971). The album spawned the mega-hit ‘Hocus Pocus’ which reached #9 on the US Billboard Chart, #12 in The Netherlands and #20 in the UK singles chart and the song has gone on to appear on numerous TV shows such as; Top Gear, Skins, Supernatural, Vinyl, My Name is Earl and Shameless as well we the 2007 film Hot Fuzz, 2014 remake of Robocop and 2017s Baby Driver. The song has been covered by a number of other artists including Iron Maiden, Marillion, Helloween, Gary Hoey, The Vandals and Vanessa-Mae. ‘Focus 3’ (1972) featured another hit single in ‘Sylvia’which reached #4 in the UK singles chart and led to an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops.. That year Melody Maker declared him the ‘Best guitarist of the world’, above Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
‘Close Beauty’ is the return of the distinctive ‘Akkerman-sound’, which runs like a thread through twelve compositions; acoustic, electric, solo performing and accompanied by his own band, Marijn van den Berg (drums), David de Marez Oyens (bass) and Coen Molenaar (keyboards). Molenaar also produced the album, which was recorded at Marten Haak’s Studio.
From the panoramic sound of ‘Beyond The Horizon’, ‘Tommy’s Anniversary’ and ‘Meanwhile In St. Tropez’, the melancholy of ‘Passagaglia’ and ‘Reunion’ to the fun of playing in ‘Good Body Every Evening’ and the sophisticated opening track ‘Spiritual Privacy’, ‘Close Beauty’ is hard to categorize, in the best Akkerman tradition. Talking about the new album, Jan says: ‘I’ve always been able to tell that none of my albums sound the same. Exploring new things is something that I’d always wanted to do. Harmonica player Toots Thielemans once told me: ‘your timing, that’s your signature, your autogram’. I consider ‘Close Beauty’ exactly like that. If you stand very close to a cow, you can’t tell it’s a cow, after all.’
He has collaborated with a number of musicians including Alan Price (The Animals), Jack Bruce and Ice T and counts fans in Brian May who said Akkerman was “totally a hero of mine, there are some people in life that no matter how old you are, you feel nervous if you meet someone, he’s one of those, he’s a real role model”. B.B. King has also talked highly of him saying, “How can you forget a guy like Jan, usually with people that are as great as he is, you know of them, but you don’t always get to know them or their music, but you know their reputation. The nights that we played together was great, I wish I could play the things that he did.” Whilst Yes guitarist Peter Banks has also lauded him calling him “an almost perfectly formed musician, his classical playing was tremendous and his improvising was second to none.”
For generations, he has impressed and inspired large numbers of guitarists with his timing, harmonics, virtuosity and his ability to perform with a wide range of musicians from various musical backgrounds.
‘Close Beauty’ can be considered as one of Jan’s most varied works, while this record is his first album in almost 30 years that also gets a vinyl release. The album took well over a year to complete and talking about it Akkerman says, “The title was inspired from a simple notion, that when you are too close to an object you cannot see the real value. The same applies to music.” “My aim is to create beauty in my music,” he continues. “I like diversity and freedom.”