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Take Five with Q Morrow

Q Morrow By

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Meet Q Morrow

Based in New York City, Q is an eclectic modern guitarist. At home in many different styles of music such as jazz, R&B, Brazilian styles such as Samba, Forro, and Choro, Karnatic, and Afro Cuban music as well, Q is a true musical citizen of the world, deeply internalizing all of this music and making it his own, resulting in a very broad palette he draws from. These influences show particularly well in his compositions, on full display on his two albums of original music All Around Dude and the recently released There Are Stars in Brooklyn. Q maintains a busy schedule as a sideman and a band leader in NYC at clubs such as the 55 Bar, Cornelia St Cafe, Zinc Bar, and jazz festivals around the world.

Instrument(s):

Guitar. I mainly play nylon string acoustic (a Glenn Canin flamenco negra and a Cervantes Palo Escrito), a Victor Baker archtop, and a G&L Legacy strat. I started music studying violin for 3 years when I was 9 years old. I also played a lot of drums in my formative years.

Teachers and/or influences?

I studied with Christine Greene in Boise, ID for two years when I was 12. I was then self taught until I attended Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, CA. Some of my favorite teachers there were Ray Brown, Mickey McGushin, and Lou Harrison. I then attended the University of North Texas where I studied with Poovalur Srinivassan, Lynn Seaton, and a great classical guitar teacher whose name I can't recall...After UNT I spent a year studying Carnatic music in Bangalore, India with Veena maestro Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh.

Some major influences would include:

In no particular order:

Joe Pass, Charlie Parker, Seu Jorge, Tribe Called Quest, Djavan, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Paulinho da Viola, Joao Gilberto, Tomatito, Tony Rice, George Clinton & P-Funk, McCoy Tyner, Notorious B.I.G., Jacob do Bandolim, Hubert Sumlin, Stevie Wonder, Bill Evans, James Brown, Chico Buarque, Miles Davis, Pixinguinha, Wes Montgomery, S Balachander, Bach, Caetano Veloso, Chopin, 2Pac, Debussy, Jobim, Brahms, Elis Regina, A.K. Palanivel, Diego Del Morao, Howlin Wolf, Ganesh and Kumaresh, Veena Jayanthi Kumaresh, and many more!

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

My first band Fat James and the Three Fats got booed off the stage and had oranges thrown at us at a community event in Caldwell, ID when I was 14 over our inappropriate lyrics. That was my first public performance and it was exhilarating! I was instantly hooked when I saw what an impact music could have.

Your sound and approach to music.

I love the intimacy of acoustic instruments. I think that's the main reason I gravitate towards the nylon string guitar rather than the more popular electric guitar. I'm constantly learning about new styles and absorbing ideas into my style. Usually this happens because I'll have to learn music that I'm unfamiliar with for a gig. If it resonates with me, I'll dig deep into it long after I play the gig. I always try and immerse myself in the culture that different music styles comes from, playing with and learning from musicians from that area of the world. This is something I've done with Cuban, Carnatic, Brazilian styles, and jazz. After I've become competent in a style of music, I look for ways to incorporate it into the other styles I play. I'm always looking for the places where genres meet and things that they have in common. I love the mixing of cultures. It's beautiful and has always been a part of what jazz has been all about.

Road story:

Bringing my band back to my hometown of Boise, ID earlier this year to a sold out show of over 200 people at Cinder. Seeing the audience in Boise come out in such force and appreciate my complicated and exotic music was validating. At one point the crowd went wild over a drum solo in 7/8 with a fairly complex guitar montuno accompaniment!

Favorite venue

I love the jazz clubs in NYC like 55 Bar, Cornelia St. Cafe, Zinc Bar, and Mezzrow.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I try my best to write things that sound fresh but also resonate with audiences. I'm combining things in ways that haven't been done before in quite such an organic way. I'm constantly exploring new ideas in my compositions, however difficult they may be to pull off live!

The first jazz album I bought was:

Maybe the Modern Jazz Quartet The Complete Last Concert. This album still gives me goosebumps. It has everything: deep groove, interesting arrangements, an element of the blues, excellent solos, space, vision. Their version of "Confirmation" really grabbed me because the melody and harmony was so complex but their performance came off so catchy and accessible. Others I heard early on was a compilation album of Joe Pass that I loved, and I used to check out 78 and 45 vinyl records of Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Django Reinhardt from the 1930s and '40s from the public library in Caldwell, ID where I grew up. These old records on vinyl really blew me away as I used to imagine that I was there hearing it live and how incredible that must've been.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Jazz today has good and bad qualities. Sometimes it seems that jazz artists today are used to being put on a pedestal by other musicians and don't really try to make any kind of emotional connection with the audience, as if their competency or virtuosity on their instrument will suffice. For me jazz should go deeper than that. As a listener I want to feel the pain and suffering of the world washed away by the music. On the other hand, there are many, many competent musicians playing jazz today from all over the world, some of which have their own unique voice or something to add to the jazz tradition. The appreciation and enthusiasm shown for jazz worldwide is encouraging.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Community. Established players need to be out hanging and playing with younger players at sessions. We need to support and encourage our fellow musicians. This is certainly happening in NYC and it's probably why it's one of the best places on the planet to be a musician. Giants of jazz such as Roy Hargrove and Lou Donaldson are out hanging and sitting in at jam sessions. I've never lived anywhere else where established musicians did that so regularly. I also encourage players to both dig deep into the jazz tradition but also push it forward, much like many of the most important artists in jazz like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, really just about any musical artist in any genre did to make a lasting name for themselves. You have to give a piece of yourself to the music.

What is in the near future?

I'm currently booking dates for a US tour in support of my new album There Are Stars in Brooklyn for winter/spring 2019, and Europe in summer 2019. Other albums I plan to record in the future are an album of solo guitar, an album of my arrangements of Brazilian music, an album collaborating with different singers. There isn't enough hours in the day to realize all of my dreams!

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

If I wasn't a musician, it would be hard to find my place in the world. I would probably be seeking adventure of some kind: sail or bicycle around the world or some other kind of perpetual travel. Other vocations I would be capable of would be cook, mechanic, sailor, or farmer. I'm sure I would go crazy if I wasn't playing and writing music though.
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