All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Take Five With...

Take Five With Skip Heller

Take Five With Skip Heller
By Published: April 19, 2012
Meet Skip Heller:
Grew up in Philly, enticed by all kinds of improvised music—jazz, bluegrass, blues, rockabilly. Played with Yma Sumac, Phil Alvin, Les Baxter, Wanda Jackson, DJ Bonbrake, Cannibal and the Headhunters, NRBQ, Karen Mantler... get the idea?

Instrument(s):
Guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?
Mose Allison
Mose Allison
Mose Allison
b.1927
composer/conductor
, Willie Nelson, Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, John Hartford
John Hartford
John Hartford
1937 - 2001
banjo
, Roger Miller, Bacharach/David, Doug Sahm, Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles

band/orchestra
, Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
, Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
1909 - 1976
composer/conductor
, Merle Haggard, War, Bob Wills, Jethro Burns, Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
1903 - 1977
vocalist
, Nick Lowe, Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
1905 - 1964
trombone
, Uri Caine
Uri Caine
Uri Caine
b.1956
piano
.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I saw John Hartford on The Smothers Brothers TV show.

Your sound and approach to music:
American roots music with its emphasis on both good songs and good improvising.

Your teaching approach:
Make things really, really clear. No problem is insurmountable when you can see things by their components. Teach process, not the end result.

Your dream band:
My dream band was NRBQ when Tom and Joey were the rhythm section. I got to be in the band for some shows in 2001. Dream accomplished.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Best: playing duos with Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
b.1923
piano
, recording with Roland White, recording with Stan Ridgway, playing in a trio with Terry Adams and Karen Mantler, interviewing Carla Bley
Carla Bley
Carla Bley
b.1938
piano
... My life is charmed.

Favorite venue:
The Flying Monkey in Huntsville, AL. Great sound, sightlines, amazing staff, great food nearby.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Foolish Me, because it reflects my tastes best, and because the recording has a nice lean, spontaneous feel. Or The Night's Not Yet Over, which is a duo recording with pianist Heath Allen, because we played to each other in such an enjoyable way. His warmth is incredible.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
, The Hawk Flies High.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Any musician who is expressing what he knows, who he is, and what he means—that's really good.

Did you know...
I love English trad jazz and skiffle.

CDs you are listening to now:
Various, This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel On 45 rpm 1957-82 (Tompkins Square);

Nick Lowe, The Old Magic (Yep Roc);

Uri Caine Trio, Siren (Winter and Winter);

Jack Teagarden, Think Well Of Me (Verve).

Desert Island picks:
Louis Amerstrong/Duke Ellington, The Great Summit (Roulette);

John Hartford, Aereo Plain (Warner Bros);

Bill Evans Trio, Explorations (Riverside);

Roger Miller, Golden Hits (Smash);

Merle Haggard, Same Train, Different Time (Capitol).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It's in flux, but it's always moving in new ways. Too much emphasis on free and electronic elements for me.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Musicians staying curious about the past while not being defined by it.

What is in the near future?
More gigs, more recording.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
steamboat pilot.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Skip Heller
Skip Heller
Skip Heller
b.1965
guitar, electric


comments powered by Disqus