Updated Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 03:53 PM
“My music is like entering a meadow,” says guitarist Andre Feriante, as he offers an impromptu recital, perched on a chair in his cozy Georgetown cottage. “It’s not super impressive right away, you have to let yourself slip into it.”
You can slip into that meadow Thursday for his “Words of Love” concert at Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall, Feriante’s 15th Valentine’s Day concert in as many years. The show also features popular jazz pianist Overton Berry, tenor vocalist Steve Thoreson and the singer-songwriter who goes by the name Whitton.
The theme is Beatles songs, from “Eleanor Rigby” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to “Norwegian Wood” and “Yellow Submarine.” Feriante will offer a new CD, “Beatles Masquerade,” at the show.
Feriante may well be the most familiar but underrecognized instrumentalist in town. Yes, he was that guy on the stool with the Spanish guitar slanted toward the ceiling playing soft strains of flamenco as you wooed your date, munching ravioli at Il Terrazzo Carmine, Al Boccalino or Le Pichet.
But Feriante also has taken a master class from Andres Segovia and played Carnegie Hall.
“As a working musician, you do all kinds of shows,” explains the gentle, soft-spoken musician, once picked for the MSN feature “12 Sexy Bald Men,” along with Andre Agassi, Seal and Vin Diesel.
Born in Italy to an Italian Baptist minister and an American woman from Yakima, Feriante was inspired to study guitar at age 13, after hearing a flamenco player at the Overseas School of Rome. Five years later, he gave his first concert in the Eternal City, then struck off for Bogotá, Colombia, where he studied with classical guitar master Henry Rivas.
Further study in Spokane with New York guitarist Leon Atkinson led to teaching at Spokane’s Whitworth University — and that master class with Segovia.
“We went to Madrid to Segovia’s personal studio,” recalls Feriante. “I was obviously very nervous. But once I started playing, I just slipped into this state of playing for God, or something.”
Segovia complimented Feriante on his tone, but counseled — in Italian — that his playing could use a little more “gusto.”
Feriante got off easy. Segovia, then 91, had once famously told a Greek “stage father” that his technically prodigious son “could read from the dictionary but didn’t know what he was saying.”
Feriante ultimately turned his back on a straight classical career in favor of a more eclectic approach that includes spontaneous improvisation and his own compositions. He even took up ukulele two years ago.
One of his biggest fans is philanthropist Harriet Bullitt, who has presented Feriante at her retreat at Icicle Creek outside Leavenworth.
“Andre is my favorite performer in the whole world! “ says Bullitt. “When I first heard him play, I could not believe what I was hearing and was immediately reminded of Segovia in his style and presentation.”
A poet and painter as well as a musician — one of his specialty numbers is a recitation of Federico García Lorca’s “The Guitar” over yearning flamenco — Feriante says there is “a kind of call to introspection” in all his work.
“When I was a classical player,” he says, “it was all about presenting a song in the way you were taught. Now it’s a more open way of thinking. It’s more like, ‘Here’s something that we can converse with.’ You have to come to the song.”
It seems to be working. Feriante’s Valentine’s Day show has sold out the 550-seat hall many times.
As one listens to his beautiful sound and romantic turns, it’s easy to hear why.
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Words of Love,’ with Andre Feriante (guitar), Steve Thoreson (vocals) and Overton Berry (piano)
8 p.m. Thursday at Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $40 (206-215-4747 or www.benaroyahall.org).
BETTINA HANSEN / The Seattle Times
Guitarist Andre Feriante’s show tonight at Benaroya Hall will be his 15th Valentine’s Day concert.