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Solo spot for stars' guitarist; ALAN NICHOL has the latest news on the roots music scene in the region.


WITH uncanny timing, the Customs House in South Shields presents a guest on Monday night who may well be seen by thousands, perhaps millions, of people later in the year.

The thing is, appearing in front of millions of adoring fans is nothing new to this performer! The frantic activity by countless people seeking tickets for Michael Jackson's forthcoming London shows would not normally be of interest in this column.

However, Jennifer Batten, Jackson's guitarist for his massively successful Bad, Dangerous and HIStory world tours, is indeed that Customs House guest!

Of course, Jackson could well choose an entirely new band for this year's shows, but Batten's CV is still lit up by those previous dates with Jacko.

She also spent three years with the man often quoted as the electric-guitarist's guitarist, Jeff Beck.

Back in the late 80s, Batten was teaching at Los Angeles Musician's Institute and playing club gigs at night. At one time, she was working in no less than six different bands, playing funk and jazz-rock mostly.

She remembers being told by one band - all blokes, of course - that they liked her playing but that they had "a problem with chicks".

Jackson obviously did not share that view because she was chosen from a list of 100 applicants for his band.

The 1989 Bad tour saw her, complete with wildly coiffured blonde hair, play in front of more than four million fans.

Batten, retelling the story of her selection, said that she would dye her hair purple (or any other colour, for that matter) to be in the band. She was called to the ranks again for subsequent tours in 1992 and 1997 and played the mammoth Superbowl XXVII date in between.

With Jackson largely off the road, Batten started a three-year stint with Jeff Beck in 1998 and also appeared on his Who Else and You Had It Coming studio albums.

Her debut solo album - Above, Below & Beyond - was produced by Stevie Wonder's guitarist, Michael Sembello. The follow-up release was called Momentum, with her own band, Tribal Range.

Batten's current release, Whatever, is really a world-music effort with sounds drawn from Africa, the Caribbean and Scottish bagpipes!

On top of all this Batten still manages to write a regular tutorial feature for Guitar Player magazine and also has a couple of books to her name.

Her Customs House show is a multimedia show with large-screen visuals to accompany her live guitar work. Ticket info from the box office on (0191) 454 1234.


TASTE FOR TOURING - Jennifer Batten played with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2009
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