This weekend the guitar world reeled with the news of the passing of the great guitarist/composer/arranger Roland Dyens. Few have done as much for the instrument in the last 50 years as Dyens, and as some of you will know we were in the process of publishing some videos of a concert we held with Roland last year. Quite appropriately, the piece I was in the process of mixing and editing when I heard the news was Berimbau, his arrangement of the Baden Powell piece that Roland used to close his concerts. So here’s Roland Dyens, saying goodnight at the end of a fantastic concert.

David Collett, president of GSI, also wanted to share some thoughts about his recent experience hosting Roland last year the weekend of his concert:

“Absolutely shocking news about Roland. When he was at GSI last year, he spent 3 nights as my guest in my home and so I got to spend some great quality time with him – including having dinners, breakfasts, etc. He was a genuinely, deeply artistic person who was still very busy composing and arranging. While he was staying with me he was working on some Piazzola arrangements. There was one piece in particular (can’t remember exactly which one) that had him stumped and it was really eating away at him. About 15 minutes into breakfast one morning, he stopped mid-discussion with a blank look on his face, eyes glazed over and went silent. After a few seconds I had to say “Roland, Roland – are you OK????” (not sure what was going on!) and he looked at me and said “The notes! The notes! They’re coming!!!” Then he abandoned a half-eaten breakfast and hurried himself upstairs and said he had to write the notes down before they left him! I checked with him later and he said the piece finished itself. That’s the sign of greatness – grabbing inspiration when it comes! Anther story – after he left – Andrew Lee (from GSI) was driving him to LAX to catch a connecting flight (he was flying up to San Luis Obispo to perform a concert at “La Guitarra”) and I got a frantic phone call from him – he was missing his “magic pencil”! I asked what his magic pencil was and he told me it was the only pencil he ever had that wrote notes down on paper before he thought of them in his head. So given the seriousness of this pencil, I searched my home and my car – and I found it in a crack in the backseat of my car where his bags had gone when I dropped him off at the office. He was so happy. But then I had to call an Uber car to pick up the pencil and drive it across Los Angeles from Santa Monica to Kai Narezo’s house in Hollywood, and Kai left early the next morning by car for the festival. After this last-second stealth operation to rescue the magic pencil, I received a text from Roland telling me he had been re-united with it. Close call! One other small but fun detail: his favorite color was purple. He loved all things purple. So for the concert he gave here, he wore all purple – and I mean ALL purple including a purple leather belt with matching purple leather shoes. Purple shirt, socks, trousers, etc. Even the stiching in his belt and shoes was a matching darker purple. Really fun character.

I could go on with several other fond memories, my wife really liked him and I even introduced him to my parents. He had an inexhaustible amount of deep creativity, had a fun sense of humor – one night at dinner with just my wife and one of her close friends (just 4 of us) Roland came back from the bathroom and he was wearing a funny pair of clown glasses with spirals in the eyes, etc. It was really silly but very fun since he caught us all by surprise – he was really fun.

So I’m deeply saddened not just for the loss of a great guitar personality (which I haven’t even mentioned anything about) but also someone who I felt was my friend. I’m sure many others who knew him feel this way too.”

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

20 Responses to “In Memoriam: Roland Dyens”

  1. Bernard Edney says:

    I’ve never heard anyone play My Funny Valentine with the creativity and musicality that he brought to it. He’ll surely be missed. Thanks, Bernard

  2. Jack Treasure says:

    Thank you, David, for sharing your experience with Roland. It brought him to life for us even as he has gone to play guitar for the gods. Who needs harps?

  3. Michael says:

    As I watched the latest videos from Roland, it was apparent he was not himself and his playing was not as refined. Perhaps he was ill at the time.

    What a great loss. I enjoyed his playing and his sense of humor. His legacy will live on, in his work and videos for all to enjoy.

  4. A great maestro of the guitar has left our world. Roland, we will greatly miss you but you will always be with us in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives.Thanks Kai for the post.

  5. That is such sad news. He was one of the finest artists, let alone guitarists, of any generation, and undoubtedly an inspiration to any who heard him play and played his music. How fortunate for GSI to have been able to capture his performances with your usual high quality.

  6. Bill Schulz says:

    Thanks for sharing, and for helping us all remember a great and soulful guitarist!

  7. andre g says:

    Roland Dyens was one of those guys you watch improvise that gave you the impression that he REALLY knew the guitar, like inside and out and then when you dug into his pieces you could see all of his influences and his own style coming through, and of course he was totally at home on stage and could really work the crowd. His legacy is going to live on in his compositions and recordings, and i’m confident that guitar students, amateurs and the pros (he wrote something for them all) are going to continue using his works as tools for further musical exploration. He was a true original, and we were lucky to have him. Hopefully his work will inspire future composers to continue to write for the guitar.

  8. Rudolf Wastl-Mayrhofer says:

    31-Mar-2009, 12h précises: Audition annuelle de la Classe de guitare de Roland Dyens au Conservatoire de Paris (oeuvres de Bach, D’Angelo, Bogdanovic, Dyens, Tarrega, Tansman, Turina).
    J’étais là, dans le monde de la guitare de Roland Dyens, une rencontre inoubliable. Nous avons parlé de son concert à Munich, de sa musique et de Daniel Friederich, à qui j’ai rendu visite après. Il y a deux semaines, à la fin d’une conférence du festival de musique en Bavière “AMMERSEErenade”, j’ai joué le “Tango en skai” sur ma Friederich, que j’avais commandée en avril 2009. Mon épouse avait expliqué que c’était une pièce d’un compositeur vivant, traditionnelle et moderne en même temps, comme notre festival de musique classique.
    La mort de Roland Dyens me touche alors profondément. Je suis triste et je ne vais jamais oublier mon séjour à Paris …
    Rudolf Wastl-Mayrhofer, Munich

  9. Colin Tommis says:

    That is a sweet tribute to the man and the musician. Thank you. I share the communal shock.

  10. jose Ademir says:

    Que Deus o reserve um lugar entre os gênios.Sua passagem foi muito importante para os novos aprendizes que o seguiram e o seguem ainda,mesmo em sua ausência.

  11. Edwardio says:

    That is Terrible News ! What a great loss, a great sadness comes over me.

  12. Lawrence says:

    OMG, Roland Dynes was an amazing fun guy to be around but sadly I never have a chance to meet this guy. But David , you had shared a funny stories around with us and shared his legacy of recording his music and live concert at GSI. We would like to watch the full concert when it is available here. Thank you and Roland was a legend of classical guitarist whom enrich our modern guitar repertoire and we continue to play his music and pass on to the future generation of guitarists.

  13. Daniel says:

    My deepest condolences to Roland Dyens family and his many friends. The world is impoverished with the passing of this wonderful human being, great artist and guitarist. His life enriched our world. I have always enjoyed his wonderful sense of humour and his openness and friendliness with his audience…, very natural and straight from the depth of his soul.
    Indeed he has contributed so much to the guitar and to everyone around him. My life was richer just knowing he was there…
    Bon Voyage Roland!

  14. Ernani says:

    A Poet, a Philosopher.
    Cry the guitars.

  15. Stephen Rekas says:

    I heard Roland Dyens play only twice- once at a GFA conference in California and then in St. Louis. In California, he performed on his birthday, so the audience broke into a spontaneous rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” when he stepped on stage. Without missing a beat, Dyens then opened his concert with a theme and variations improvisation on the tune. I’m sure this was no surprise to those who knew him well, but I was stunned.

    Thank you for the stories, David! Here’s hoping Roland’s magic pencil finds its way to another serious composer/guitarist.

    For Mel Bay Publications,
    Stephen Rekas

  16. Jackyd says:

    I just heard this news and I am so sad.
    He was maestro indeed, and we will remember him forever.

  17. Russ De Angelo says:

    I was Roland’s North American & U.K. Manager for 13 years.

    Roland Dyens passed away on Saturday, October 29. The news spread around the globe like wildfire.
    Roland and I were friends, first and foremost, and business partners second.
    I’ll always cherish the time we spent together, and it was my honor to be associated with such a musical genius.

    Roland smoked cigarettes since he was a teenager and he died from lung cancer. He was in the hospital for a month and had his 61st birthday there on October 19. He died 10 days later.

    That Saturday was a long day for me, indeed. You wouldn’t believe all the major guitar people who have contacted me from all around the world with heart-felt condolences – hundreds and hundreds.

    I lost my dear friend, but I am more saddened that one of our instrument’s unique musical voices has been silenced, much too early. Roland was a special ambassador for the guitar, a tremendously creative composer and a very kind human being.

    A musical genius like a “Roland Dyens” comes around once in a lifetime.
    He will be missed, but his music will live on.

    Russ De Angelo
    Ps…If you smoke, QUIT!

  18. The passing of this wonderful guitarist surprised everyone. Well, death is always a surprise: I remember the Mario Benedetti short story collection whose title was “La muerte y otras sorpresas” (Death end other surprises). Too bad Roland Dyens did not meet with Yamandu Costa, one of Brazil great guitarist. They would have enriched the music of the guitar tremendously.

  19. This is sad.

    I came to know Roland as a pretty spectacular individual. At the end of his yearly US tours he would visit my high school guitar program for a masterclass. When his manager first proposed the idea I figured that the name recognition would be a unique feature, so I had him in. I came to find he was a spectacular teacher. Beyond creating a rapport with students, important, but empty in and of itself, he got the job done whatever the level.

    The years we would work together, or see each other once in a while here or there, were during the development of some of my core teaching ideas. I was pleasantly surprised that year after year he could recognize specific progressions we were making. He was one of a kind.

    During his first visit I offered the visiting dignitary and his manager dinner anywhere in Los Angeles they would like. I suggested Ruth’s Chris, or Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills, or something like that – on us. Roland wanted In-N-Out burgers – a Double-Double Meal. If you are not familiar with In-N-Out, well just trust me it is worth it.

    This became a tradition. We’d pre-order like 50 Double-Double Meals, the parents would pick them up and we’d end a pretty intense three-hour masterclass with a feast. We began referring to them as the Double-Double Masterclasses. Our times driving here and there, and talking over burgers about teaching and guitar was wonderful and instructive..

    He was a phenomenal teacher, and, as he once referred to me, “My yearly friend.” I will miss him.

  20. SPPS says:

    A Great Personality and a Creative Genius – Master of Improvisation

    I attended his masterclass in 2006 (passive participant), at the Acadia University, Wolfville Nova Scotia. I saw his performance in the Chapel. The following day, were the classes. One of the active participants played Deep Purple’s Smoke On the Water intro chords [Did someone say purple was Dyen’s favorite color…no coincidences there!]. The audience were visibly confused. But RD listened for a while and then improvised the intro for the Classical Guitar…Genius!

    I later met RD while he was on a quiet walk up the hill within the campus. I introduced myself and shook hands, I told him I was from India. He said ” Yes, I can see that” with a smile!. He then expressed his admiration for Indian Classical Music, especially that of Pandit Ravishankar [ The Sitar Maestro, who introduced the Beatles to Indian Classical Music].

    He wanted to discuss more, but I white lied to him about having to catch a bus back to Halifax and bid him farewell. Sorry Dyen’s. There were two reasons, one.. I was already overwhelmed having met the maestro and two, my knowledge of either music, i.e. Western and Indian classical music was minimal.!!

    10 years have passed. I now actively practice the classical guitar.

    RIP Roland Dyens – Your music will remind me of abstract paintings of Parisian Sidewalk Cafes in a summer evening under the mellow golden sun rays.


Change language: