Take the Traci Challenge: Max Lasser

By Traci Nubalo

Exclusive to The Word

* This is the first in a series of articles highlighting RL (not SL) musicians that I find interesting on some level.*

Recently I’ve started using the music-sharing service Spotify as part of my home entertainment arsenal. I’ve been having a grand time passing quite a few relaxing hours plugging my favorite bands’ names in and being rewarded with much or all of their available catalog - now on my pc. One of the names I entered was Max Lasser - a blast from the past for me.

For those of you whose knowledge of Lasser is lesser, I’m going to fill you in. Max is a master-level guitarist from Zurich, Switzerland. He’s an uber-slide player, and one of the most inventive, precise, and original guitarists to ever touch the strings.

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Into the Rainbow

first met Max Lasser at a major recording studio on the East Coast USA, back in the day. I was at the studio doing some business for a client when Max was brought in, presumably to do the same. He had recently completed a long stretch of recording and touring with the amazing Andreas Vollenweider & Friends, the Grammy-winning New Agers. Max’s guitar work had contributed immensely to the Swiss harpist’s gold record for “Down To The Moon” and to a legendary first North American tour by the group.

Down to the Moon
Down To The Moon

Lasser’s own debut album “Max Lasser’s Ark: Earthwalk” had been released on CBS Masterworks and was moving steadily up the charts. Max’s stock as a gunslinger was riding pretty high worldwide.


We were all introduced around and I happened to blurt out that maybe Max would like to meet Nils. I knew that the mighty Nils Lofgren of E Street fame (on hiatus from his day gig playing guitar for Bruce Springsteen) was recording in one of the larger studios on site. Max’s eyes got as big as Zildian cymbals at my mention of this name. “Nils? Nils Lofgren? He‘s here?” So we walked Max down the hall and I popped my head into Nils’ booth. He was sitting on a road case reading a paperback while his engineer engineered something. He looked up from the page.

“Sorry to bother you Nils”, I said half-jokingly. “We have a guest who would like to say hello - Max Lasser.”

“Max Lasser - is HERE?”

They embraced with a respect reserved for old friends and great guitarists. Turns out they were actually huge mutual fans. We left to give them some space. That way they could discuss whatever it is that major music figures talk about when they get together.

That was my personal introduction to Max Lasser and it was enough to pique my interest in him and his work. I became a huge fan in the process.

He would go on to do well with two CBS Masterworks releases, then one for Narada. Recent years have had him continually creating good music, including a stint collaborating and recording with South African trance guitarist Madala Kunene.

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Finding this treasure trove of the “missing Max” recordings was enough to bring a big old smile to my face. Headphones cranked I let ‘er rip.

As fate would have it, my first click was on a track from his 1997 release Between called “Shuffle Dance”. Delightfully playful; almost an acoustic ZZ Top boogie. And check out the clear, sweet sound of real brushes on real skins after the first turnaround. Max’s slide work was, is, and will always be masters class material for anyone interested in clean, precise, nastyass slide.

A mega-tasty vibes solo pushes the guitar to the front, flat-picked on the left and slide on the right. In clear homage to Ry Cooder he fast-licks away with the steel, while churning out an irresistible rhythm with the fingers. As if simply being a world-class guitarist is not enough, Lasser is also a great writer and an excellent producer, especially with his own material. In a Max mix, every instrument is well-defined and “visible” along the stereo spread, right down to the crystal-clear guitar harmonics which close "Shuffle Dance."


The title track (“Between”) displays the mighty Max tossing away the slide to set the acoustic ablaze with bare hands; sharp, tasty, jazz-inflected straight ahead attack with sparse-but-driving bass and drums and some keyboard voices pushing him onward.

The final Lasser side that I want to point you toward is from that same project and it’s called “Jumpy”. From Note One it’s a straightforward, happy toe-tapper with excellent band backing. Again the vibes play counter to his crisp, intelligent slide on the acoustic. Damn this boy can play! “Jumpy” is 4:03 of pure heaven. Go ahead, listen to it once. I dare you! I challenge you!

This is New Age/World music so elegantly imagined and created that I can promise that unless you take a listen, you will not comprehend my words. But if you do, I bet that you jump on the Max Lasser fan list at first hearing.

The question might arise: “Traci (yes, THAT Traci!) what does The Max Lasser Challenge have to do with me, a Second Life music fan?”

I’m glad you asked! You see, I happen to believe that there are true artistic gems lying hidden everywhere around us. Finding them enriches our lives and brings us happiness. Sharing my musical loves with you implies the promise of a great mutual exchange of information, art, and friendship. Good enough?

Enjoy Max.

Watch this space for our next exclusive "challenge": Brecker Brothers

© Copyright 2012 Traci Nubalo. All rights reserved.

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