The seven strings of Lenny Breau

He calls it, “The Lenny Moment.”

“I found myself frozen as music played the way I’ve never heard it before,” says Pierre Brault, a veteran Canadian playwright and actor who has performed in operas and Shakespearean and contemporary plays.

He is speaking of the first time he “experienced” the music of Lenny Breau. His taste in jazz had been developing and, so, he picked up the CD just because the name on it was so similar to his own.

“I felt myself literally tearing,” says Brault, returning to his Lenny Moment. “I hadn’t even sat down, I was standing in my living room … Who was this guy?”

He learned, first, of the rumours of his suicide in 1984. But these all proved false as it was clearly a murder, by strangulation, that left him floating in the swimming pool at his apartment complex.

It was a tragic ending of a musician who had finally been clean of drugs for several years. A musician who was born to two French-Canadian professional guitar players and became their lead guitarist by the time he was 14.

Amazingly, he was a studio musician at 15 and recorded his first album.

Lenny Breau played the seven-string guitar with such skill that he would accompany his own melody on the low strings.

“I’ll always be a student,” he said once, “because I think of music as never ending.”

Lenny Breau taught a young Randy Bachman to play the guitar and, by the time of his death, he influenced generations of guitar players who were drawn to his blended styles of jazz, country, classical and flamenco.

He recorded nine albums, yet 14 more were released after his death as more and more people had their “Lenny Moments.”

Approaching the Great Canadian Theatre Company to pitch a play about Lenny Breau, the producer’s eyes “lit up.”

“She said, ‘Oh my God!’ and within 60 seconds she commissioned the play.”

She, too, had her own Lenny Moment.

That first song Pierre Brault had heard, that day in his living room, was “Five O’Clock Bells.”

“It is one of Lenny’s most moving songs and one of the rare ones that he sings. It started me on a journey that takes me to Whitehorse.”

The play, appropriately called, Five O’Clock Bells, was completed in 2008 and shows at the Yukon Arts Centre Thursday and Friday, Feb. 4 and 5.

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