Saturday 19th October 1991, the last of Expo 92 Festival "Guitar
Legends" concerts took place. On stage with Joe Satriani,
the evening's musical director, Brian May announced "The
genius - the master of the space age guitar - Mr. Steve Vai".
Playing unison harmony parts, Vai and May launched into "Liberty"
from Vai's second solo album "Passion and Warfare".
It was the first time Vai had performed any of the material from
this seminal album. "Passion And Warfare" is an uncompromising
guitarist's album that, during 1990, was a surprising chart success
in both the USA and the UK. Steve Vai has been a frequent winner
of polls in musicians' magazines, most spectacularly in 1991 when
he won Guitar Player magazine's annual readers' polls in no less
then four different categories. Steve Vai is an interesting man,
to say the least. He has gone from the extremes of playing guitar
with Frank Zappa to David Lee Roth. He follows Zappa's hard working
didactic approach to composition and performance yet embraces
the theatrics and dress fashion of heavy rock. His music is powerful,
fast, and dynamic. Yet Vai also has a humanistic approach to his
music and his way of life. Steve Vai was born on 6th June 1960.
He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, taking up the guitar at the
age of fourteen. As a teenager he would write endlessly, keeping
diaries, documenting dreams, and studying music and orchestration.
He seems to have studied just about every important group and
guitarist in rock, including John Lee Hooker, Led Zeppelin, The
Jimi Hendrix Experience, Roy Buchanan and Carlos Santana. He was
a student at Berklee School of Music and also studied with guitar
teacher / performer Joe Satriani, fondly recalling long jam sessions
with Satriani as among his most enjoyable experiences. Vai played
second guitar to Frank Zappa during the 1970s when Zappa would
introduce him as the band's "little Italian virtuoso".
He went on to work with Alcatrazz, replacing Yngwie Malmsteem,
moving on to ex-Van Halen vocalist Dave Lee Roth's band, playing
on the "Eat 'em And Smile" and "Skyscraper"
albums. He then recorded "Flex-able", his first solo
album, before briefly joining Whitesnake. His first two solo albums
may be a little inaccessible to those neither into heavy metal
/ rock or the guitar, but if you're into both, you owe it to yourself
to check out Steve Vai's music. Transcriptions of both albums
are available in book form. Not a collector of vintage instruments,
Vai uses Ibanez six-string Jem and seven-string Universe guitars,
designed and endorsed by the man himself. He prefers the sound
of Marshall amplifiers though in the early 1990s for touring he
used Soldano equipment, finding it more reliable. He uses various
sound processing effects, including an Eventide H3000 harmonizer.
- The Guitar Handbook Ralph Denyer.