Published on February 22nd, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Laurence Juber On The Re-Release Of “Standard Time” & Working With Paul McCartney In Wings
GRAMMY-winning acoustic guitarist Laurence Juber has been an in-demand session player since the 1970s. His credits include projects as diverse as Seal, the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, and the Ken Burns documentary The Tenth Inning. Juber was part of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles band Wings, playing on the Back To The Egg full-length. Juber’s LJ Plays The Beatles album was voted one of the all-time Top 10 albums of Acoustic Guitar Magazine. His solo arrangement of “The Pink Panther Theme” earned Juber his second GRAMMY, while his DVD-Audio project Guitar Noir won a CES Demmy award for Best Audio. Simply put, Juber is considered one of the greats when it comes to acoustic guitar.
After parting ways with Wings, Juber released 1982’s Standard Time, which featured playing and overall support from McCartney. 2018 has brought the re-release of Standard Time, which had gone out of print in recent years. I had the pleasure of speaking with Juber about his past, present and future, and all of which sound incredibly busy. More on Laurence Juber can be found online at www.laurencejuber.com.
What inspired you to re-release this album? Did the rights revert back to you recently?
Laurence Juber: I was able to obtain hi-rez transfers from the original analog master tapes for the bonus CD that came with the limited-edition of my photo book Guitar With Wings. Since then, we started our own label, which gave me the opportunity to make the tracks more widely available digitally.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Laurence Juber: It’s always hard to choose favorite tracks… “Maisie” for sure as it was my first fingerstyle composition and has Paul playing bass. “Stormy Weather” was recorded on electric guitar with a 40-piece orchestra and arranged by Richard Niles. That was an awesome session. “Four Brothers” has the most overdubs I’ve ever recorded, 17 guitars playing the whole Woody Herman big band arrangement.
The album spotlights your time with Wings. Is there another accomplishment beyond your time with Wings that you wish more people focused on?
Laurence Juber: Wings was great gig, a useful calling card and a great education. It’s like I earned my music degree from London University and my Masters from “McCartney University.”
Other than the circumstances of the album’s recording and the one Wings outtake, Standard Time draws more on my pre-Wings career as a studio musician. Paul Hart, who played bass when I was with the UK National Youth Jazz Orchestra did a very noir and impressionistic string sextet arrangement of “Autumn Leaves.” He also plays piano on a quasi-classical duet of “After You’ve Gone.” Add the groove-driven “There Will Be Another You,” it’s all quite representative of the eclectic musical milieu that I worked in. The project was recorded for audiophile standards and still sounds remarkably fresh.
Since 1990, I’ve released a couple of dozen acoustic guitar albums and established myself as a concert performer. By focusing on fingerstyle-guitar, which was an early inspiration, I’ve cultivated a fan base that is well-focused on my solo work, whether or not they are aware of my “Beatles-adjacent” background.
Having worked so closely with Paul McCartney, do you feel that there are any misconceptions about him?
Laurence Juber: I think it’s important to look at his body of work as that of an artist, not view it through the lens of “Paul McCartney, former Beatle.” A man of many great musical talents.
Is it true that Paul suggested most of the songs on Standard Time? Did he have anything to do with its sequencing or production?
Laurence Juber: The album was his suggestion and was conceived around songs owned by his publishing company. The hands-on production, song choice and sequencing was done by Richard Niles and myself.
Before your time with Wings you did very well as a session musician. Was it your plan to be a session player as a long-term career?
Laurence Juber: It was my ambition as a teenager to be a session player, so all the study and gig experience was oriented in that direction. I was doing well when I joined Wings, but I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. After the band folded in 1981, I re-established myself as a studio musician, first in New York and then in L.A. I’ve enjoyed over 30 years as a session player here, as well as being a composer and recording artist.
You are very acclaimed for your work as an acoustic guitarist. Do you do all of your writing on acoustic?
Laurence Juber: For acoustic guitar compositions, yes. It depends on the project, it may be electric guitar or keyboard-driven. If it’s orchestral, I’ll probably do a mock-up in Logic or go straight to Sibelius and notate it.
Aside from promoting Standard Time, what is coming up for you in your career?
Laurence Juber: I’m working on a set of arrangements of standards for solo guitar, which I’m almost ready to record. I’m talking to Hal Leonard about adding more transcription folios to the three currently in print. Still doing some session work — I played on Mike Love’s latest album, plus did some recording for the revamped Roseanne show. I’ve been doing research into the history of the guitar and have a slide show lecture/recital that has been well-received. Also, I’ve been advising the L.A. School District on guitar curriculum.
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Laurence Juber: Free time? I manage my own business, so that takes up a lot of time, as does travel when I’m on the road. Family is a priority and we have two grandchildren. Hope and I like to spend time in the mountains, for some fresh air and to get “above the fray.” We do a lot of creative work together — the line between creative work and recreation is not always clear-cut.
Finally, Laurence, any last words for the kids?
Laurence Juber: The guitar is the only fully portable instrument capable of making a complete musical statement involving rhythm, harmony, bass and melody, all the musical “food groups.” It’s simple enough to be fun for amateurs, yet challenging and versatile for professional music-making. It’s a great instrument for learning music and has given many players a career. Play guitar!