Neil Jacobs is truly a masterful performer on the 12 string acoustic guitar. With his own captivating style of playing that the St. Louis Riverfront Times describes as "mesmerizing" and the Austin Chronicle describes as "the rockin'est since early Leo Kottke". Neil covers the world vibe with music diverse as Gypsy, World, Balkan Folk, Jazz, Classical and Modern Fingerstyle, while transforming his 12-string acoustic guitar into his own personal orchestra. Neil draws inspiration from his world travels and experiences, and shares his fascinating stories with his audience.
Neil Jacobs has had a colorful and unconventional musical career. In his early years, he had the fortunate opportunity to tour with some of the great jazz fusion artists of the time performing with his eclectic ensemble, "Cold Fish". During this time, he got to learn from great performers such as Jeff Lorber, Spiro Gyra, Herbie Mann, Flora Purim & Airto, Pat Metheny, Alan Holdsworth, and Weather Report.
His international performing began in 1985 when Neil began soundtrack work with the film “American Rebel: The Dean Reed Story,” for Academy Award winning filmmaker and producer Will Roberts. While in the Soviet Union with Roberts to attend the Moscow Film Festival, Neil was invited to perform for the legendary Russian composer, Tikhon Krennikov. As a result of that performance, Neil was invited to extend his stay in Moscow for appearances at Moscow University, Mosfilm Studios and Gorky Park, and was selected to represent the U.S. as a member of the Cultural Delegation to the World Youth Festival in Moscow.
In Moscow, Neil befriended the highly controversial, international musical superstar, Dean Reed, the subject of Robert’s film. Their travels in Eastern Europe provided Neil with a fascinating introduction to the Gypsy and folk musics of Eastern Europe. In 1986, Dean invited Neil join Phil Everly to Berlin to perform on his major television special, “Mann Aus Colorado.”
After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Neil’s growing fascination with Eastern European folk music drew him back to Europe. Based out of Zagreb, Croatia during the early stages of the bloody Balkan war, Neil traveled by train with a backpack and two 12-string guitars to performances in Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, Switzerland and Italy. In Northern Poland he performed for school children in small and often isolated villages and at Polish Army bases.
In 1991, Neil was commissioned by the highly respected, American Balkan music and dance ensemble, “Zivili,” to compose and arrange Gypsy compositions, and continued performing with the group to study the rich musical heritage of the Southern Slavic nations. During this time, Neil became proficient at various authentic folk instruments including prim, sargia, brac, mandocello, and bugaria, while adapting rare Gypsy music to the 12-string guitar. In 1993, after attending one of Neil’s concerts, the Secretary to the President of Hungary invited Neil to Budapest to perform. Neil found Budapest inspiring, and remained there to compose much of his “World Blue” CD.
In 1994-95, Neil was selected as a cultural representative to Spain, giving him both the opportunity to perform throughout Spain, and the unique opportunity to study the Gypsy music of Seville. During this time Neil spent his nights, escorted by his Gypsy guide, experiencing the back-alley clubs and the Gypsy culture. In 1996, Neil returned to the war-ravaged Balkans on an extended bus tour performing for refugee camps and orphanages throughout Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, culminating in an emotional concert with “Zivili” in central Sarajevo.
Upon completion of “American Gypsy,” Neil began a whirlwind schedule of tours and performances, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Capitol Steps in Washington D.C., tours of Italy and the Czech Republic, and more performances with “Zivili,” this time for UNESCO’s Balkan Youth Reconciliation Seminar in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. His most memorable performance was at the Gypsy camp at Plovdiv, a Gypsy community of over 30,000.
In recent years, Neil has released critically acclaimed CDs such as, "Secret Places", "12-String Guitar", and "The Peasant Sabbatical". "The Peasant Sabbatical" serves as a special homage to world music learned through his travels and adventures abroad. Neil continues to perform solo both nationally and internationally. He recently headlined the esteemed Edersee Guitar Festival in Germany. Neil also continues to perform with his Gypsy ensemble, "American Gypsy", as well as with the Celtic/World group, "Lone Raven".