Sunday 1 July 2007 19.04 EDT
Rod Poole, who has died aged 45 after being stabbed in the car park of a Hollywood diner, was an experimental guitarist committed to just intonation – a tuning system that traced its lineage back to Pythagoras. His own guitar, a 1972 Martin Acoustic, had been rebuilt with a new fretboard to accommodate a 23-note octave of his own design.
Rod was born in Taplow, Shropshire, and his teenage years were spent hitchhiking around the festival scene. He took a series of jobs, but one of the longest was behind the counter of Garon Records, in Oxford’s covered market, where he was a knowledgeable and erudite guide to customers.
He was an early mainstay of the improvised music business in Oxford, but became disillusioned with many aspects of the British scene, particularly its factional politics, and what he perceived as a tendency to elevate novelty over quality. He moved to the US in 1989 with little more than the clothes on his back. He began studying tuning systems with Ervin Wilson in Los Angeles, and rapidly established himself as a respected figure in the city’s experimental music scene. Later, he played concerts on both coasts. His musical heroes included John Coltrane and Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, Davy Graham and Iranian classical musicians. Ambivalent about his new home – he loathed mainstream US politics – he had a nostalgia for wet weather, Dr Who and sitcoms. He was, however, passionate about the cultural legacy of Los Angeles in literature, film and music.
Self-taught in most subjects, Rod pursued these interests with a thoroughness that could leave someone bruised if they chose to argue with him about them. He had hobby horses about the superiority of vinyl over digital recordings, and latterly developed a commitment to mono recording. He had learned much from the recording engineer Michael Gerzon, and his CDs would come complete with details of the equipment used in their production. His fine ear could distinguish a minute discrepancy in tuning or a mis- identified sideman on an obscure jazz record.
At the time of his death, Rod was making plans to relaunch his music. He had circulated review copies of an LP, For Derek/For Bag, which contained tributes to his friend and mentor Derek Bailey, and his cat, Bag, and was planning a series of concerts on the east coast later this year. He is survived by his beloved wife Lisa.