While it stands to reason that outfits such as Whitesnake and David Lee Roth's band would require the services of a guitar monster like Steve Vai, it might not be so obvious why, when he debuted in the late '70s, it was with the likes of Frank Zappa. What attraction did Zappa -- a monster player -- find in the tape sent him by the 19-year-old upstart from the Berklee College of Music?
Scary, speed-of-light chops were surely part of the draw, but the late Mr. Z may also have sensed the composer in Vai. Drawing upon his solid rock foundation and a flair -- not unlike his former patron's -- for challenging orchestration, Vai's sizable solo discography has placed his jaw-dropping axe work within a broad spectrum of contexts. Drawing upon fusion, Easter sounds, and beyond, Vai pushes the limits of his instruments in creating textural backgrounds for his solo pieces.
Vai's résumé, which includes numerous guest spots, is highlighted by work with Eric Johnson and one-time teacher Joe Satriani in the guitar supertroupe G3. His recently released Real Illusions: Reflections features his longtime backup band, the Breed, and is intended as the first of a four-disc epic.
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