Peter Frampton Les Paul

From his early days as a guitar-slinging teen idol in the Herd, to his twin-guitar assault with Steve Marriott in Humble Pie, to his solo ascent to the pinnacle of rock stardom, Peter Frampton has consistently been hailed as a technically advanced and musically inventive player. At age 56, Frampton isn’t content to rest on his laurels, impressive as they are (lest we forget, his 1976 Frampton Comes Alive! is the best-selling live album of all time). On his new instrumental disc, Fingerprints, Frampton explores a variety of styles, including Django Reinhardt-inspired Gypsy jazz, smoky uptown blues, funky fusion, and film-noir themes. And the guest list is impressive: Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Rolling tones, Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron and Mike McCready, Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule, pedal-steel wizard Paul Franklin, jazz manouche expert John Jorgenson, Hank Marvin of the Shadows, and tenor sax phenom Courtney Pine are among those who push the guitarist into new and different sonic spaces.

“This album is about taking a trip through my influences,” says Frampton. “But I wasn’t trying to emulate the sounds of these different eras. Instead, I wanted to revisit the emotions they trigger in me. Playing with these musicians in so many different styles pushed me to raise my personal bar higher and higher.”

Recording “My Cup of Tea” with Hank Marvin held special significance for Frampton. “Hank was the reason I first thought about picking up the guitar,” he recalls. “When I was ten, I was in band that played instrumentals, and the Shadows were a huge influence. For me, it’s like meeting my maker, a very important moment. We recorded that tune in England, at Mark Knopfler’s studio, British Grove. Before the session, I sent Hank some ideas for the tune, and he and [Shadows drummer] Brian Bennett worked out the intro. I wanted Hank’s stamp all over it, and I believe that’s what we achieved. He varied the melody in the choruses by adding little trills, and also played the bridge his way. Then at the end, we join up in harmony. It’s a true 50-50 blend—me playing me, and Hank playing Hank.

“Ninety-five percent of the recording was done in my basement,” Frampton continues, “including all the band tracks and overdubbing, and most of the solos. On ‘Boot It Up,’ Courtney Pine did his sax lines in London and sent it to me.

“For ‘Blooze,’ which is a duet Warren Haynes, I went to New York to record the solos with him. After I’d laid down the backing tracks and sent him an mp3, Warren invited me to New York to cut the solos. He said, ‘Come a day early and play with the Allman Brothers. So that’s what I did; I sat in with them for a show at the Beacon Theater. It was an amazing experience. I knew how good Warren is, but—oh, my God—Derek Trucks is phenomenal. Here I am, stuck between those two on stage. It was scary, to say the least, but also such a thrill. And now I’m an honorary Brother. The road manager said, ‘If we’re playing in your city and you don’t turn up to jam, we send two bikers to get you.’ I played my black Les Paul, the Peter Frampton model. There’s something special about that one, just like there was about the original, which was destroyed years ago in a plane crash.”

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