The long and varied career of Andy Summers includes 12 solo albums, collaborations with artists such as Robert Fripp and stints with bands like Eric Burdon and The Animals in addition to his heralded work with The Police. A very innovative guitarist, Summers’ work can be heard on Police tracks such as “Message In A Bottle,” “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Every Breath You Take.” His most recent solo album, Triboluminescence, was released in 2017.
Music is not Summers’ only artistic interest. He took up photography to stave off boredom during an early tour with The Police and has become quite an accomplished photographer. His work has been shown at galleries around the world and he has released seven books of his photography. The latest, titled A Certain Strangeness, was published earlier this year. Summers has combined his two loves with a live show, also titled A Certain Strangeness, in which he plays guitar as images from his photo library are projected onto a large screen.
A possible list of 10 albums. This could be an extremely long list! But the focus here is on what I listened to as a teenager and was formed by. Life changing is a very large term. It might be so, but I think in the early years it was more along the lines of what acted as a wakeup call. What took over your brain, what shaped and formed you as an aspiring musician, and eventually how do you tie all that information together and make something of your own from it? The list here is not a pop-music list but the reflection of what hit the ears of an English kid as he tried to figure out a lot of complicated stuff on the guitar.
10 ALBUMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: ANDY SUMMERS
Wes Montgomery, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
When this album came out and the amazing guitar playing of Wes Montgomery was revealed to the world, it seemed to change everything about guitar. Wes was maybe the greatest of all time. I was a crazed jazz fan as a teenager. I studied this album for thousands of hours, trying to play the solos and changes. By sixteen, I could play the whole solo on “West Coast Blues” and do it on stage. That time never leaves you. Thanks, Wes.
Sonny Rollins, The Bridge
Sonny Rollins was my favorite saxophone player in my teen years and The Bridge, which he made with American jazz guitarist Jim Hall, was another big influence on me. It was very hard to figure out what Jim Hall was doing behind the great tenor lines.
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
This was the supreme album of that period. Everyone had it, and it kind of ruled as Miles Davis brought in the idea of cool modal jazz. I remember figuring out “Milestones” on guitar.
Kenny Burrell, On View at the Five Spot Cafe
Kenny Burrell’s liquid bluesy playing was a big influence on me and was easier to get than the playing of Wes Montgomery. I spent a lot of time with this record, soaking it up and wishing I was Kenny Burrell playing in New York City.
Luiz Bonfá, Solo in Rio 1959
This is a marvelous guitar record with wonderful Brazilian guitar from Bonfá, who was the composer of the immortal “Manhã de Carnaval.” That song was the theme to the film Black Orpheus, which probably was life changing for me. I saw the film when I was sixteen and felt literally swept up by the music. Although at the time, I had no idea about Brazil or its music. It was a wakeup call and eventually I did find out, and it was a big influence and shaping force for me. Happily, the yearning feeling for that culture and music has been fulfilled in actuality by playing so many times in Brazil and feeling that Rio is my second home.
Ravi Shankar, Music of India
It is an early Ravi record, and I was very influenced by the beautiful melodic phrasing on the first track.
The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Well, there is so much on this record that was influential. Everyone wanted to be The Beatles. And this record seemed to open up so many possibilities.
Julian Bream, 20th Century Guitar
Later along, this classical guitar album by the great Julian Bream seems to take guitar out to the outer edges and was wonderfully inspiring.
Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings
The original recordings of the great Robert Johnson are thrilling and chilling. They are a direct call and direct experience of African-American blues with no dilution. This the real thing, and its authenticity remains truly inspiring.
The Police, Regatta de Blanc
I'll put this one in because I think it was where we really found out feet musically. We were hot — the world was with us, it was life changing and we made it in ten days.