Home » Jazz Articles » Guitarist's Rendezvous » Mark Kleinhaut, Nat Janoff, Guillermo Bazzola, and Shan Arsenault


Mark Kleinhaut, Nat Janoff, Guillermo Bazzola, and Shan Arsenault


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Welcome back to Guitarists Rendezvous, our second installment in a series that introduces readers to emerging or established guitarists who fly just under the radar of public recognition. Each will field the same four questions and we've included audio and video so you can sample their music.

This installment includes a diverse group of musicians from New York, New Jersey, Spain, and Canada.

Meet Mark Kleinhaut

Mark was born in the Bronx, New York in April 1957. His family moved around for a while by time Mark was six years old they settled in Livingston, New Jersey. Mark taught himself to play and did not formerly study until he attended Rutgers University and studied with the great Ted Dunbar. He now resides in in Albany, New York. I met Mark in a Google guitar forum in 2001. Mark posted regularly and I could tell just by what he said he was good guitarist. Soon after he started posting MP3's and my opinion of his playing changed immediately. He was not a good guitarist but a great one.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: I first picked up the guitar 45 years ago when I was a kid. I liked how you could play softly at all hours of the night (still do) and it was just a fixture while I was coming of age.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: I really love all music, but especially the kind that's based on improvisation, so even before I got into jazz, I was attracted to groups like the Allman Brothers Band and stuff the bands like Yes we're doing, which had improvisations amid the highly arranged sections. World music, jam bands, you name it—as long as it's free it's cool. Western classical, and Indian classical music are incredible too, but I guess I relate more to the composers than the performers as the inventors of those sounds. To behold what classical technicians can execute on their instruments is humbling, to put it mildly!

Q: Why jazz?

A: When I first really heard jazz, it took improvising to a level I hadn't imagined possible, and I was instantly hooked. The gateways for me were from Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter and the "fusion" cats. It was inevitable that they'd all be traced back to Miles Davis and in turn Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, then everybody. I could hear the technical virtuosity, but it was the sense of freedom and the risks that they took that made everything so exciting. I knew I wanted to do that too! Now, years later, I think the real freedom in playing is the eternal youth in our hearts and minds when we play. Growing up just isn't required. Playing guitar, for me, has also become my meditation and connection to the spiritual side of things, but that's something that's best just practiced rather than talked about.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: I think jazz is heading in many directions simultaneously and evolving in ways that will suit the approaches and needs of its thousands upon thousands of practitioners. Some may not want to even call it jazz anymore or get stressed over things like respecting traditions, but like Duke Ellington said, "there's only two kinds of music, good and bad." For myself, I hope to add good music to the atmosphere and avoid the politics.

If you see Mark's name and he performing, run, don't walk to see him play, he is an amazing guitarist.

Meet Nat Janoff

Nat is a 46-year-old guitarist who looks like he's 26 and hails from Verona, New Jersey. He has studied with some heavyweights such as, Rich Molina, Vic Juris, Mike Stern, and Bruce Eisenbeil. He also studies on his own and plays with the best players he can. I didn't know Nat until a few years ago when I saw him on YouTube and was thoroughly impressed. He's my kind of player. He has great technique, which he doesn't over use. He's has great time. His playing is creative and extremely musical.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: 30 years.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: Eddie Van Halen, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, George Benson, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, David Binney, and Rudresh Mahanthappa. I can enjoy all styles of music including country, rock, funk, rhythm and blues and Latin music. Anyone who has something to say I can enjoy! I just love improvisation! The more I got deeper into music the more it became natural choice.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: Jazz is always moving forward. There are just so many kinds of jazz. Some styles may stay in a certain place, but I feel it will grow and change mainly by fusing with other music. I also feel jazz needs to find an authentic way to expand its audience. It's such a rich and amazing music with such transformational power! So many more people could enjoy it.

Nat performs regularly at the 55 Bar in NYC. If you're ready to be impressed check him out!

Meet Guillermo Bazzola

This 53-year-old guitarist was originally from Santos Lugares, a small town near Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. He now lives in Spain. I met Guillermo on Facebook a few years back. Last year when he was in New York City, fellow guitarist Joe Giglio brought Guillermo over to my place and we had a great time jamming. He is mainly a self-taught musician but had some great teachers. When he was very young he studied with César Silva, who is an accomplished session, rock and fusion player and a great recording engineer. Later he studied with Ricardo Lew, a guitarist from Buenos Aires. He also studied music theory and harmony with Pedro Aguilar. He took some lessons with John Abercrombie and had seminars with Peter Sprague, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny and Jim Hall. Guillermo is mostly a self-taught musician, He learned by listening to records, going to concerts, hanging out with musicians, reading books and magazines and living a musician's life. In November 2001, he traveled to Spain to play some gigs, in Barcelona and Madrid then in Berlin. At that time his country was immersed in a deep crisis. He decided to live in Spain. In the beginning he had hard time but he finally got some work playing, teaching and writing articles. Thirteen years later, he's still there.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: 40 years more or less. I got my first electric guitar in June 1978 but before that I played a little bit.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: On guitar, Jim Hall and John Abercrombie, but I learned things from other players like John McLaughlin, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Ralph Towner, Bill Frisell, Cornell Dupree, Joe Diorio, Ed Bickert, Larry Coryell, John Scofield, Terje Rypdal and many others. On other instruments I always paid attention to the works of people like John John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Steve Swallow, Stan Getz, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, Mal Waldron and Eric Dolphy among others. Also, I've been always interested in jazz composition. By composition, I mean not only writing tunes or arrangements but working on the sonic possibilities of a jazz group. I've been always interested in the music of Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Lennie Tristano, Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, George Russell, Charles Mingus, Andrew Hill, Ornette Coleman, Kenny Wheeler, just to name a few.

From a wider point of view I consider an influence from anything that helps me to develop an artistic idea, whether it's jazz, classical music, folk, rock, philosophy, literature, cinema, etc.

Q: Why jazz?

A: Jazz has always been natural to me. One of my uncles had some big band and bossa nova records. He listened to the music and I liked it. Argentina has a pretty strong jazz tradition. Lalo Schifrin, Gato Barbieri and the great guitarist Oscar Aleman, whom I listened in concert when I was 11 or 12 years old, and from Argentina, Astor Piazzolla although not a jazz musician, he made an album with Gerry Mulligan in 1974, so it was not unusual to see Astor and Gerry on TV.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: Artistically, the idea of "jazz" as a process, more than just a style, was determined a long time ago that so many different kinds of music might be labeled as "jazz," so I think it will keep on being the same. Paradoxically this lead to some genuine jazz players to reject the word "jazz" and to have some "jazz" (music, artists, festivals) that has no relation to with jazz. In my opinion, culture (especially art and the humanities) are suffering a deep crisis and, as part of it. Jazz has no longer the relevance it used to have a few decades ago. Even so, I think that there are many very good jazz musicians around the world, working and creating great and diverse music. I don't know what's going to happen in terms of exposure or financial success. I'm a little pessimistic about that, but I think jazz will survive. We still have much great music to discover.

Unfortunately great players like Guillermo don't have a chance to be seen in the USA very often, but fortunately this website and articles are seen all over the world. So when in Spain, check him out!

Meet Shan Arsenault

Like many others, I met Shan on Facebook. His sense of phrasing combined with a great technique and a music sensibility make Shan a unique guitarist who stands out among the thousands of guitarist around the world.

Shan was born in Prince Edward Island and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Inspired by his mother's playing, he took up the guitar at age seven. Mostly self-taught, Shan has spent many years cultivating his sound.

Over his long career, Shan has performed as a sideman with countless musicians earning the reputation of a first-call player. He has performed in many of Canada's Jazz Festivals and has received a Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia (MIANS) award for Best Jazz/Blues Recording Artist for his recording The Jazz Beat Sessions.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: I started playing when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I am in my 50's now. However, I did go through a few periods in my life where I quit playing. I didn't even own a guitar. But I realized that was due to frustration with the business side of music, not music itself. I enjoy playing and working on music more now than I ever have.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: I continue to be influenced by various things I hear. If it speaks to me I usually try to find out why; which results in some type of rubbing off effect. But the earliest influences are the most enduring I guess so I would have to go with the usual suspects: Charlie Parker, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Sonny Rollins and Jimi Hendrix, are among some of my influences, but I could name 100 more.

Q: Why jazz?

A: Two main reasons I guess. Firstly, when I heard Charlie Parker for the first time I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. I think I was about 15 or 16. Secondly, I liked to practice but as a rock player I didn't really know what to practice because I felt like I could already do it. But trying to play Bird's solos put me on a path of endless musical searching. And that's why Charlie Parker will always be closest to my heart.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: There will always be players who want to improvise and have the desire to speak the truth with their instruments. Much of the harmonic and rhythmic aspects of jazz are much different now than even twenty years ago. And jazz has always been about change. Even though it's a lot harder to make a buck playing jazz these days, I think the music itself is in great shape.

If you are a guitar aficionado put Shan on your list.

In fact add all four of these wonderful guitarist to your list. Take the time and listen to them on YouTube or Soundcloud.

The few minutes it takes to get to get to know these great musicians will only enhance your musical pallet.

Till next time...

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