Now Hear This: Crazy Aces

September 5, 2013


Jeff Senn (left) and Kiwamu Stewart.
into a ’50s exploitation flick about rock music turning genteel darlings into demented punks, Crazy Aces founder Jeff Senn was first exposed to instrumental guitar music in tawdry billiard halls.

“When I was a small boy, my dad taught me to hustle pool to the music of the Ventures, Duane Eddy, Link Wray, and Bill Doggett,” says Senn. “That music continues to resonate within me, as I’ve always liked its basic elements of reverb, tremolo, and attitude.”

Senn powers the Crazy Aces’ “Spy-a- Go-Go” blend of surf-twang-fuzz-Japanese Eleki music with a self-built “Jazzguar,” an Eastwood Sidejack, and a collection of vintage Teiscos. Amps include a ’73 Fender Princeton, a ’66 Fender Super Reverb, and a ’59 Supro 1624T. Co-guitarist Kiwamu Stewart plugs a ’07 Airline Map guitar and a ’66 Teisco K-2 into a ’66 Fender Princeton or a ’66 Fender Super Reverb. Both use D’Addario strings and Planet Waves picks.

“The biggest challenge with instrumental guitar music is to create something unique that can be enjoyed by non-guitar players,” counsels Senn. “You need songs with catchy hooks, and you want to make people move, laugh, bob their heads, and tap their feet. I’m not the biggest fan of guitar music for the guitar’s sake—that ‘shredding with something to prove’ approach.

“I listen to everyone from Segovia to Johnny Ramone for ideas, but my main influences are Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin for the power of simplicity in melodic phrasing, Jeff Beck for expression, Link Wray for the beauty of reckless abandon, and Chet Atkins for the importance of mastering the instrument. It’s funny how I’m still chasing those guys after all these years.”

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