Kaki King deftly uses her instrument in multimedia presentations. (Courtesy Jennifer Bannister)

Kaki King takes guitar performance to infinite levels

When cutting-edge guitarist Kaki King discusses the creative possibilities of her instrument — of which she has her own signature Ovation model — her enthusiasm reaches an almost mad scientist level. In 2009, she commissioned a dozen artists to translate her songs to the visual realm; her album and show “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body” use one of her Ovations to tell a creation myth on a projection screen. For 2017’s Hennessy VSOP Limited Edition, she teamed with data designer Giorgia Lupi and artist John Maeda to make a vector graphic of her music for the cognac label. Lupi recently helped King out again when her daughter Cooper contracted a rare autoimmune disease; they morphed all the data mom had been keeping into a song called “Bruises.” “It’s dark and it’s scary, but I am playing my child’s bruises — that’s basically what you hear,” says King.

You’re leaving no stone unturned in your search for avenues of guitar expression.

Yeah, that is my field of research, I must say. I think I’ve decided to make that my life’s devotion. It came early. I was fortunate enough to have knowledge of the guitar at a very young age, and I wasn’t pressured to play. I was only 12 years old, and this was just something I did. But the point is, I was ready to get better.

How did you do it?

There were three roads that I saw where one became a more proficient player — through jazz, through speed metal or through classical. And none of those three genres really spoke to me in a way like this fourth way did, this pioneering wave of simple fingerpicking that just got crazy. And that route had seemed the least traveled at that point. I really fell into that love of discovery, and the guitar revealing its own secrets to me. The guitar really took over, like, “I will show you. One day when I am ready, and you are ready. We will discover a new thing together.”

And the journey continues.

Over these past few years, I’ve taken the guitar into a whole new stratosphere. I have this multi-media show now where the guitar can control stuff, and it’s like a talk window to the soul of the world, via the guitar. Also, I’m in the process of creating an even newer multimedia experience that’s going one step further. But to summarize everything I’ve ever done, it’s all research into how far the guitar can be pushed. What makes it a guitar? How far can it be deconstructed? And how much music can I get out of it? I feel it’s an infinite amount, really.

Kaki King
Where: SFJazz, 201 Franklin St., S.F.
When: 7 and 8:30 p.m. March 15 (sold out)
Tickets: $30
Contact: (866) 920-5299, www.sfjazz.org

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