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Take Five With Nat Janoff

Take Five With Nat Janoff
AAJ Staff By

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Meet Nat Janoff:

Guitarist, composer and teacher Nat Janoff is a graduate of William Paterson University, with a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance. His debut recording, Looking Through, featuring the rhythm section of world renowned electric bassist, Matthew Garrison, and drummer Gene Lake, put Nat on the map as both a player and a composer. Two more albums soon followed—a live acoustic recording with fellow William Paterson alumnus Jake Schwartz, simply titled Live, and a collaborative project with Rave Tesar (of Annie Haslam's Renaissance on keys and left-hand bass) and Ray LeVier entitled, Berkana.

In 2010, Nat was honored with the opportunity to contribute to ESC Records latest tribute album, Mahavishnu Redefined II, recording the track, "Are You the One?" with bassist Ray Riendeau and drummer Martin Diamond. Janoff also played guitar on three tracks on Ray Riendau's latest CD, Atmospheres.

Nat was also honored to be a part of the book, The New Face of Jazz, by author and occasional All About Jazz contributor, Cicily Janus. Most recently, Nat released his latest recording, Come Together Move Apart, with the great talents of pianist Francois Moutin and drummer Chris Carroll. This album was officially released on September 28, 2010.

Instrument(s):

Guitar.

Teachers and/or influences? I graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in Jazz Performance. While studying at William Paterson, I had the opportunity to study with Vic Juris and Paul Meyers, and was fortunate to be a featured soloist performing with jazz legends Kenny Burrell and Michael Brecker. I also took a few lessons with Mike Stern, a guitarist who was very influential on my early jazz playing. I really got into listening to John McLaughlin while in college. McLaughlin has been a huge source of inspiration and musical influence for me. I like how he plays in all of these different groups, from his acoustic groups with Trilok Gurtu to his organ group with Joey DeFrancesco and Dennis Chambers and and his Heart of Things group with Matt Garrison, Gary Thomas, Jim Beard, and Dennis Chambers.

Post-college, I started listening to a lot of saxophonists and trumpeters—John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter. To me, these artists have a very dynamic and exciting way of playing and they have a kind of freedom in their playing that is special. Modern jazz musicians I enjoy listening to are David Binney, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, and Rudresh Mahanthappa.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I saw a video of Eddie Van Halen playing a live performance of "So This is Love?" and his solo just blew me away. That solo made something click in my mind that made me say, "I have to do that." It's ironic that it was his guitar solo, because as I got into rock, I loved to solo, the improvising part of the song, and that is what led me to jazz.

Your sound and approach to music: The sound I have lends itself to playing in the most dynamic way possible. I want to be able to play as intensely as possible, so I may want to use distortion, yet I want it to be as fluid as possible. This is probably the influence of listening to so many horn players—I want to play like a horn on a guitar.

My approach to playing is to not have any preconceived notions about what it should sound like. I strive to be in the moment and let it be organic. True, I have my own style of playing, but when playing live, the input of the other musicians on the gig can spin the music in a multitude of different ways. I try to be as open as possible and listen to them and let it flow.

My approach to writing is also to wait and be open. That sounds so nice when really it can be a very ugly struggle. I can sit down wanting to write something great and I'll get nothing or crap. Then other times I'll be teaching a student and I'll play an idea out of the blue and that becomes the basis for a song. Even when I think I have a good idea for a song, developing that idea can be an arduous task of its own. What starts as a good idea can become forced and overworked. Trying to be open and not attached to outcomes is the best frame of mind for me to be in to create a composition that I am ultimately happy with.

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