Interview with a High School Student for Homework - Feb 2008

 

First, what age did you really start into jazz, or did you just start right off the bat?

It was a gradual thing. Started out studying classical guitar for many years, discovered rock 'n roll in the mid 70's and really got into jazz a few years after that.

Also why did you start in jazz?

Just a constant fascination with the instrument and wanting to know more. Rock 'n roll is limited harmonically so the natural place to evolve to was jazz and I really liked the harmonic sophistication.

In concerts do you ever get nervous?

No, haven't for many years, although recently I was one of 14 (famous) jazz artists featured on the Dave Koz Caribbean Cruise and I got a little nervous when I had to follow these highly established artists. But generally no. Sometimes nerves can be a good thing though, as long as you can control them and they don't control you.

If so how do you deal with this?

Well, I welcome them now because I know they won't get the better of me. When I was studying I remember getting nervous and it messed up my whole performance, I remember I even stopped once and had to start again. I hated that! But the only way to get passed that situation is to practice so you know your instrument, and song, and perform in front of people as much as you can, so that if the situation arises, over time, you can transcend the problem.

How many times a day do you spend praticing guitar?

Not as much as I should now. The business side of things has literally taken over, but it seems if I didn't spend so much time on the business end, there would be nowhere to play anyway. In a perfect world it is a fine balance. I go through periods of practice. Usually before an important show I will make sure I am at the top of my game but sitting down and practicing new things has become somewhat of a luxury now. Just to be playing live all the time is quite enough as long as I stretch out on those occasions and don't just stick to what I know musically.

What do you practice?

New harmonic vocabulary is what interests me, when I do get the time to practice, and of course learning my own material takes some time especially when it is new.

How long did it take you to become successful in jazz?

Define success?? I'm still pounding the pavement age 47! But if you mean how long did it take to make a living playing music? That was around 20 years ago that it all started. Then my recording artist career took a foothold and that has been a long and steady climb. Every album I put out elevates my stature just that little bit more.

Did you go to college for jazz or any other music?

I went to the London College Of Music for 3 years and studied for 3 performing classical guitar diplomas, ending up with a Fellowship (F.L.C.M). By the way I would encourage studying classical guitar too, there is something about how classical guitarists are taught to 'project' an acoustic sound that jazz guitarists in my opinion need to adopt. Too many jazz guitar players are insular, introspective, timid sounding. The great classical guys are bold. They play strong and they understand the importance of lyricism in music. On the flip side, they don't understand harmony, they have no need to. But that's OK, you are studying jazz for that.

And last what would a younger jazz student need to do to become succesful?

Live and breathe the music and know (research) exactly what area of the music business he or she would like to exist in, and know that as soon as possible. The jazz world is impossibly competetive where it seems only a few manage to become professional artists. The rest teach and do small local gigs, something that is perfectly valid, but know that there are limitations to all facets of the business. I have found a keen business sense (and fascination) has helped me stay ahead of the pack.