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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.
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 itas 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.
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.
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.
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.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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