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Guitarist's Rendezvous

Meet Larry Tamanini, Jostein Gulbrandsen, Joe Finn, Jon Hemmersam


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Welcome back to Guitarists Rendezvous. This is the third installment in a series that introduces you to emerging or established guitarists who fly just under the radar of public recognition. Each fielded the same questions and recommended a video.

Larry Tamanini

Meet Larry Tamanini who hails from Philadelphia. He is a steady fixture on the Philadelphia jazz scene. His studies with Pat Martino and Dennis Sandole have paid off in a big way. His latest recording, produced by the Hazelrigg brothers, is Front and Center (Outer Markers, 2019)

All About Jazz: How long have you played the guitar?

Larry Tamanini: I started in the summer of 1994. Coming up on 26 years.

AAJ: Who are your major influences?

LT: Pat Martino, Grant Green, Pat Metheny, and Wes Montgomery are my top four. I was also heavily influenced by Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Kirkland and all of Joey DeFrancesco's organ, guitar trios/combos with Byron Landham. That was the music that really hooked me on wanting to pursue jazz guitar at the highest level.

AAJ: Why jazz?

LT: I think this is a great question and will no doubt be my favorite answer to read in your future columns. As I stated in my last answer it all has to do with live performance and seeing people like Joey DeFrancesco, Byron Landham along Pat Martino's organ groups had a serious impact on me when I started getting into jazz in the late '90s. There were a ton of great players around Philadelphia that you could see on any night and those experiences played a huge part in my exposure and desire to want to play jazz music.

AAJ: How do you feel about the use of electronic effects with guitar?

LT: Two words. Weak Sauce. Just kidding. There are several jazz guitarists with a more processed sound than I would roll with but I love listening to Kurt Rosenwinkel and Andrew Renfroe and obviously, Pat Metheny and John Scofield are awesome and I love anything they will ever do musically. I believe for most people it's a crutch and there isn't anything wrong with using pedals on original material because the tone is a big part of the deal for any guitarist but I don't want to see someone playing over a standard in a swing setting that has super washy reverb and an overdrive channel playing John Coltrane over "Bye Bye Blackbird."

AAJ: Where do you think jazz is headed?

LT: Another great question. I think jazz is heading in a great direction in many ways. There are a bunch of great artists that are young and old that continue to push the boundaries of what people call jazz and create new and interesting music.

Personally, my wish for the music is just to continue to be played and the songs keep going well into the next century so we will all have opportunities to keep performing. I also want to say thanks for including me in this rendezvous guitar chat. These are all great players and it is an honor to be featured in this boss quartet.

Big props to you Uncle Dom for being a great player and fearless improviser. I have always been a fan first and am glad to be able to connect with you online and become friends. I have always appreciated your kind comments and straight honesty when it comes to our common love of jazz guitar.

Jostein Gulbrandsen

Jostein Gulbrandsen is originally from the city of Namsos in Norway. Gulbrandsen has been based in New York since 2001. He finished his Master's Degree in Jazz Guitar from Manhattan School of Music in 2003.

Watching and listening to Jolstein and recognizing his talent is why he was picked for this short interview. His latest album is Looking Ahead (Leo Records, 2018).

AAJ: How long have you played guitar?

JG: Give or take around three decades.

AAJ: Who are your major influences?

JG: Pat Metheny, John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Jim Hall,, Jimmy Raney, Ralph Towner, Django Reinhardt, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.

AAJ: Why jazz?

JG: Why not? I think the only reason would be because I love the art form and I love to improvise. It is not really a decision I made based on financial gain or to gain popularity.

AAJ: How do you feel about the use of electronic effects with guitar?

JG: I am all for it, but personally I feel like the effects should enhance the sound of the guitar, not define it. I don't like to overuse reverb, delay, and sustain effects which a lot of people seem to do these days. I find it difficult to phrase well then. I also love the natural sound of a great guitar through a great amp. If I play with my own projects. I use some drive, vibrato, and a touch of reverb. Sometimes I use some delay for fusion. When playing duo jazz gigs and on most standards gigs, I don't use any effects at all. Most of the practice I do at home is straight into the amp or with no amp at all. I feel like everyone should be able to play well straight into the amp, even if they prefer using pedals and effects.

AAJ: Where do you think jazz is headed?

JG: Hopefully in a direction where swing feel is important. Too many modern player seem to neglect that. It is possible to be modern and be able to swing at the same time. Using elements of blues, angular outside lines, melodic playing and swing can be a great combination if done well. John Coltrane had all of that and more.

Joe Finn

Joe Finn is a jazz guitarist in the mainstream tradition. He plays in a variety of settings from solo guitar to big band, and from organ trio to various combo settings. He is the administrator for the Jazz Almanac which lists all the birthdays of jazz guitarists. His latest album is As Luck Would Have It (Self Produced, 2021).

AAJ: How long have you played the guitar?

JF: I began playing the guitar when I was eight years old in 1961. That would be 60 years ago. I had some piano instruction before, but the popular music of that time was a guitar-oriented; so I gravitated in that direction.

AAJ: Who are your major influences?

JF: My dad was an amateur pianist and songwriter who had worked as a radio announcer spinning records. I grew up listening to his record collection in addition to his piano playing. He had all the Nat King Cole Trio records so I got to hear Oscar Moore, probably even before I was born. He also loved all the big bands that were popular in his youth. I got to hear all of that material. As the years went on I began to listen to all kinds of jazz combos and had periods of infatuation with a range of different players. As I think back on those formative years, the major influences were Wes Montgomery Joe Pass, Pat Martino and George Benson. I studied each of them closely and transcribed their solos. That had always been the level of playing I aspired to. Those guys are still the Mount Rushmore of jazz guitar for me.

AAJ: Why jazz?

JF: People of my generation grew up listening to a guitar-oriented popular music. There is no denying the influence that music had. As a teenager, it began to dawn on me that there was more to music than simple songs with three or four chords in them. The simplistic approach was just not stimulating enough for me. In fact, it was boring and redundant. I began to learn some more advanced chords from recordings by Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. I was intrigued by the harmonies and the way those guys played blues. The idea of playing a solo off the top of your head (which I later learned was called improvisation), really captured my imagination. I was hooked. Our local library had a subscription to Downbeat magazine and I spent a lot of time poring over the back issues and trying to decide what records to buy next.

JF: How do you feel about the use of electronic effects with guitar?

AAJ: Signal processing, to my ears, tends to obscure the sound of a guitar. It robs the player of a big chunk of his identity by muddying up his sound. The sound effects also seem to make everybody who uses them sound sort of the same.

AAJ: Where do you think jazz is headed?

JF: I continue to be an avid radio listener. There are a few shows that I hear on a regular basis that feature newly released jazz recordings. A big part of what you hear these days would be original compositions. Today's style seems to be moving away from the Great American Songbook, jazz standards, and to some extent away from swing and towards various straight eighth note styles. Jazz is also headed towards a more and more firmly established academic pursuit. Scholars became interested in jazz decades ago and the trend looks like it will be continuing for many years to come. Unfortunately, the days when you could play jazz seven nights a week are a thing of the past. And as great as the academic programs are, they don't really have that street element that previous styles of jazz were known for. On the other hand, the sheer numbers of great young players are really something to be optimistic about. As a jazz camp instructor, it just amazed me to see how proficient and enthusiastic the young students are every year. This always made me feel like jazz was headed in the right direction.

Jon Hemmersam

Jon Hemmersam, while visiting from Denmark, came to a recording session of the Michael Jefry Stevens / Dominic Duval quintet around 1984. Who knew that years later we would record a album together, The Jon Hemmersam-Dom Minasi Quartet (2007)? This recording shows what a great player Jon Hemmersam is. His latest recording is Open Barrier (Naxos World Records, 2021).

AAJ: How long have you played the guitar?

JH: I started on guitar when I was 14.

AAJ: Who are your major influences?

JH: Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Stravinsky, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Cecil Taylor, Michel Petrucciani, Wayne Shorter and Dave Liebman.

AAJ: Why jazz?

JH: Because it's based on improvisation.

AAJ: How do you feel about the use of electronic effects with guitar?

JH: I feel good about it. I have been using guitar-synthesizers and effects for many years, but at the moment I mainly use an acoustic guitar.

AAJ: Where do you think jazz is headed?

JH: I feel jazz is moving into a more world-music approach, mainly because of globalization, which allows easy access to different cultures and instant interaction and inspiration for all musicians and artists in general.

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