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Take Five With Skip Heller

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Skip: Born and bred in Philly, played bar mitzvahs, weddings, top 40, country and whatever else. Came up in the wake of giants like Uri Caine, Bootsie Barnes, Shirley Scott, and others. Very traditional on some levels, but a full-on cultural expeditionary on any number of levels.

Instrument: electric guitar.

Teachers and/or influences? Grant Green, Heath Allen, Satchmo, Johnny Hodges, Cannonball, Marc Ribot, Link Wray, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Dave Alvin, Eddie Lang.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I saw John Hartford on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Your sound and approach to music. Try and take everything you hear, know, and love, then let it all meet and mingle.

Your dream band: To be the guitarist in the Blasters or The Band. To play with Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, or Ani DiFranco. To write big band arrangements for James Moody.

Favorite venue: DBA in New Orleans—the room has a great feel, great sight-lines, attentive but lively crowd, and good sound. Satori in Mobile. Same reasons.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Mean Things Happening in This Land, because it reflects my tastes most directly. The next one coming out, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control because it most blurs the different categories I work in.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I don't think I'm all that important.

Did you know... I'm knowledgeable about steamboats.

How you use the internet to help your career: Myspace, mailing lists, keeping new music, blog, and video on my website and generally making sure people always have something to tune in and catch up on.

CDs you are listening to now: XTC, Apple Venus (Idea); Sol Hoopi, Hawaiin Guitar Master Volume 1 (Yazoo); Various artists, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo); Linnzi Zaorski & Delta Royale (no label); Bob Dylan, Modern Times (Columbia).

Desert Island picks: Bill Evans, Explorations (Riverside); Cannonball Adderley, Them Dirty Blues (Capitol); Louis Armstrong, Plays WC Handy (Columbia); Rev Gary Davis, Pure Religion (Prestige); John Hartford, Aereo-Plain (Warner Bros.).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? In flux, but it always is.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Good new tunes, players who aren't afraid to sound like themselves.

What is in the near future? Tour, tour, tour.

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