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13

Steve Herberman, Hristo Vitchev, Rick Stone and Harvey Valdes

Dom Minasi By

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Welcome back to Guitarists Rendezvous, our third 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, California, and Washington DC.

Meet Steve Herberman

Steve hails from Washington DC. I met Steve about 15 years ago at a jazz conference in New York City. Just by talking to him I knew he was a great player. Checking out his website and video's confirmed it. What his website doesn't show is that Steve is nice guy who's has humility in abundance. Steve was born in 1966 in Bethesda, Maryland. He is a graduate of Berklee College Of Music. Later on in his career Steve switched to the seven-string guitar. He has performed at many venues throughout the US and the UK including the NAMM shows and has performed with some of the best musicians around including Keter Betts, Buster Williams, Gary Bartz, Ali Ryerson, Steve LaSpina, Jeff Hirshfield, John Pisano and many more. Steve has an active performance, recording and teaching career. His latest recording in 2015 co-released with fellow guitarist, Steve Abshire, is titled Between Friends on the Mainstay jazz label.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: 38 years

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: The following were (and still are) my heroes. I got into periods of listening a lot to each, roughly in this order beginning when I was around 14 years old: Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Kenny Burrell, Dexter Gordon, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Oscar Moore, Nat "King" Cole, and later Johnny Smith, Lenny Breau and George Van Eps. I've added many other players since these guys but this is where I began and I seem to always come back to them.

Q: Why jazz?

A: The spontaneity has always appealed to me. The rhythms in the music, the use of all of the colors of the harmonic rainbow, the interesting people whom made/make jazz. Mostly the impressive repertoire by jazz composers, and the Great American songbook and music from other parts of the world, like Brazil, Europe and Africa, etc. Jazz ideally includes all music and it's amazing to hear a good soloist spontaneously compose a solo of great beauty, depth and complexity (or simplicity).

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: I believe that jazz will continue to embrace the new music styles that come along and keep improvisation at its foundation. Jazz will also hopefully always pay homage to the great advancements of the past and continue to champion the originality of the musical artist.

Steve Herberman is a guitarist deserving of further recognition. Check Steve out, especially his teaching videos and the fluidity in which he performs, believe me you won't be disappointed.



Meet Rick Stone

I met Rick around 1986 and hadn't heard him play till about ten years later at the old uptown Birdland in NYC. I was impressed. Rick was playing a D'Aquisto, Fender Arch-top guitar and sounded great. Since those years Rick has made quite a reputation for himself in the New York area, but he is still slightly below the radar of national and international recognition.

Born in Cleveland in 1955, he began playing guitar when he was nine years old. His musical quest led him to Berklee College of Music and then on to New York where he found a fertile and stimulating environment in Barry Harris's Jazz Cultural Theatre. While studying with the legendary pianist, Rick honed his craft sitting in alongside veteran players like Tommy Flanagan, Lionel Hampton, Clarence C Sharpe, and Junior Cook. Then, under the tutelage of jazz masters Jimmy Heath, Ted Dunbar, Donald Byrd, Tony Purrone and Hal Galper, he earned his M.A. at Queens College. In the '90s Rick led a series of guitar duos at the Swing Street Café with guests including Peter Bernstein, Mark Elf, Roni Ben-Hur, Peter Leitch and Freddie Bryant. He toured South America with his trio, and played regularly at Sette MoMA, followed by a five-year stint with swing clarinetist Sol Yaged (2002-2007). Rick has worked with many of the jazz greats including Irene Reid, Ronny Whyte, Vince Giordano and Eric Person. He is a contributor to Just Jazz Guitar and has numerous books and videos on the web. Rick performs regularly in NYC, so if you're in the area, go to < a href="http://nyc.jazznearyou.com/">Jazz Near You to see where. You will truly enjoy this master player.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: I've been playing over 50 years. I started when I was 8 years old on an old Harmony Stella that my parents rented from the store. It had strings way high off the neck and was really hard to play. I remember my teachers telling me "you gotta practice and get callouses kid!" I had an agreement with my parents and teacher that if I practiced at least a half-hour a day for a year, they'd get me an electric guitar. So in 1964 they got me an Epiphone Granada. No amp though! But it was a thin-line hollow body so you could hear it fine without an amp.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: Early on I was into rock and blues so my influences then were Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter.

Then I started listening to Miles Davis, Jimmy Smith, Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin. But what really turned me on to playing jazz was saxophonist Sonny Stitt. I didn't have much money, so I'd spend a lot of time at the library digging through whatever jazz books and records I could find and remember reading the book Chasin' the Trane which led to an obsession with John Coltrane. I was studying classical guitar but listening to a lot of jazz guitarists: Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Howard Roberts, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, etc. The three records that made the biggest impression on me were Jimmy Raney (the Roost material with Stan Getz), Jim Hall's album Concierto, and Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue. This was all before I went to Berklee.

When I went to Berklee I was exposed to so many players. I saw Lenny Breau give a clinic at Berklee circa 1979/80 and his solo style and use of harmonics really amazed me. I spent a long time working on those things and actually did do a lot of finger-style for quite a while in the '80s because of that.

I attended a clinic with Joe Pass, and later studied with Barry Harris, Pat Martino, Jimmy Heath, Ted Dunbar and Hal Galper all had an immense influence on me. The reality is that the list could go on and on. I feel really bad about all the names I've omitted because I had a lot of help and inspiration along the way and I'm so grateful for their music and knowledge that was freely given. The one thing I'll say about influences is that ever since the very beginning, even when transcribing and learning somebody's solo note-for-note, my ultimate goal was never to play what my heroes played, but rather to play "in the spirit" of their playing.

Q: Why jazz?

A: Wow, I'm not even sure how to answer that one. For me, being any other kind of musician isn't even conceivable at this point. I think it was a gradual thing, but the more I played this music, the more I wanted to. Then I'd go do another kind of gig and it was "just work" (a paycheck). When I'm playing jazz, it's a kind of euphoria. I simply don't feel the same level of joy in playing other styles of music. I'm not sure at what point this occurred because I did enjoy playing other styles when I was younger, but they don't really appeal to me any more. I don't know if that will change, but that's what it's been for the last 35 years.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: That's a tough one. Nowadays there's so much competition from social media, YouTube, etc. that it's difficult to get people to come out to concerts or purchase recordings in a number that can make these things sustainable. On the one hand we have instant access to so much music and information. But the flip side of that is that we don't have time to dive as deep into any of it. On the bright side; a week ago I attended the final concert of the Wes Montgomery Jazz Guitar Competition and the young guitarists performing were simply brilliant and certainly at a technical level much higher than anything I remember hearing from any of the guitarists their age (including myself) when I first came to New York. And of course, this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. But where are all these great players going to perform and who is going to be their audience? Here in New York you can hang at places like Smalls and Mezzrow, and see that there's still a vital scene of young musicians who want to play and listen to this. But for jazz to really survive and thrive the 21st Century, we need venues like this in every city.



Meet Hristo Vitchev

Some years ago when I had my own record label, Hristo's manager sent me an email about him in hopes that I would sign Hristo to a contract. Graciously explaining it was strictly a label for my wife's recordings and mine, I thought that would be it, but Hristov wanted me to hear him, so he sent me his CD. I was immediately impressed by his playing and command of the instrument and I wanted to know more about him. Through the years we have remained in touch and his output of work is impressive. Born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1980, this 35-year old jazzer now resides in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a graduate with a BA in improvised studies at San Jose State University. Not only is Hristo a great player he's an educator, author and composer. Receiving numerous awards and critical praise, Hristo Vitchev is jazz guitarist on the verge. Hopefully this little push will help.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: I have played guitar for about 23 years, ten of which, I've spent playing jazz. My first exposure to the instrument was in the rock, heavy metal, and progressive styles. Little by little my ears kept evolving and searching for new colors, textures, and sonic palettes.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: I have to say that some of my major influences are Pat Metheny, Ravel, Claude Debussy, Keith Jarrett, E.S.T, Tord Gustavsen, and Gary Burton.

Q: Why jazz?

A: Jazz to me was one of the most inviting, liberating, exciting, and interesting styles of music. The liberty in communication, the depth, dimension, and musical dialogue that is possible within the jazz idiom and sensibility for me is the most attractive of all musical styles. It is a musical world that allows the complete, honest, and sincere discovery of yourself as an artist and person, and its ever-evolving personality and character are the driving force that fuels every artistic creation!

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: I think jazz is simply moving forward. For some people it may be a good or bad thing. Jazz is constantly evolving, progressing, assimilating with it new traditions, cultures, sounds, forms of expression and delivery, and most of all, truly reflecting the state, emotions, and feelings of the society we have created for ourselves. To me, jazz is a concept, an approach, and a way of thinking. It has surpassed the boundaries of a musical style.

At some point in the near future Hristo will become a household name. When he does, remember you heard it here first.



Meet Harvey Valdes

Harvey was born in April 1977. He grew up in Roselle, New Jersey and started coming to NYC at a very young age. He's lived in Brooklyn since 1999. Early on he studied with Chris Buono who turned him onto jazz. Chris recommended that Harvey study with Vic Juris. Harvey studied with Vic for five years. He attended the New School in 1999 and studied with some great teachers including Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille, Junior Mance, Jack Wilkins, David Fiuczynski, Simon Shaheen, Najib Shaheen, Phil Markowitz and Richard Boukas.

I had heard of Harvey a few years ago when he started playing with Blaise Siwula, whom I have recorded with and have been together as a duo since 1996. My first encounter with Harvey was at the Cadence Jazz Festival. I was there with my trio and Harvey was there with a Blaise's trio. I recognized right away that Harvey was different. A few years later, Harvey started posting videos. His subtle and tasteful sense of harmony and voicings are all his own, which can be heard on his self-produced CD, Roundabout. Don't get me wrong, he can dig in a play hard too, but Harvey knows where and when to do it.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: 27 years and it still feels like a brand new thing.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: I have very eclectic tastes that really run the gamut. But, regardless of genre there are unique individuals that have left a lasting impression on me. Musicians who continue to surprise and astound me include Cecil Taylor, Pat Martino, David Torn, Miles Davis, Olivier Messiaen, the band Candiria, Matthew Shipp, Joe Diorio, Umm Kulthum, Butch Morris, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, Riyad Al-Sunbati, Marc Ducret, Vic Juris, Bartok, and countless others.

Q: Why jazz?

A: I've always been fascinated by the intense interactions that happen between the players. Though there are many different styles within jazz, they all share an emphasis on a unified sound that is created by the spontaneous interaction of the players. That is the great challenge of jazz, to find a unified sound that is comprised of the spontaneous musical interaction of all the players. I find it really exciting to listen to the choices that players make in response to one another, the material itself, the audience, and their own internal musical spirit. The journey of learning and performing on my instrument with an emphasis on improvisation pushes me to discover new sounds, approaches to playing, and to listening.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: Musicians from all over the world are doing all kinds of things with improvisation and composition. Improvisation is strongly associated with jazz but it exists in so many other types of music around the world. One thing that is exciting is seeing musicians expand their own ideas of what improvisation can be as a result of exposure to other types of music. Another exciting angle that's been happening is moving beyond the "tune." Musicians are taking ideas from long form compositional styles and are really pushing the boundaries on what kind of material can serve as the composed section of a piece. It's not just about the head and the solos anymore. For some purists, this brings up the debate of what jazz is or should be. But, I'm not concerned with that at all. Music is much bigger than tradition or genre. The more we can leave our comfort zones and learn from one another, the more we can collectively move jazz forward.

I couldn't have said it better. Harvey is one of a kind.

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