Take Five With Vic Dillahay

Vic Dillahay By

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Meet Vic Dillahay:

Vic Dillahay is a Colorado-based guitarist, fretless guitarist, and mandolinist. He currently plays swing-era jazz with vibraphonist Pete Ehrmann in The Pete & Vic Duo, modern jazz with saxophonist Doug Carmichael (3ology), and acoustic hip-hop with One Member Shy of a Good band.


Guitar and fretless guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?

It all started with Wes Montgomery. As a kid I took lessons from Tim Baldwin, a local guitarist who constantly tried to hip me to the greats. He did his best to find stuff I might dig, but it took hearing a cut from Smokin' at the Half Note on KUVO (Denver's local station) for me to really get why I should play jazz.

I spent the next few years studying with various artists and at CU Denver trying to get a handle on the music. A few lessons that I took with Jimmy Bruno and his book on picking really helped get my chops together. However, my biggest teacher has been the bandstand and the musicians I've worked with. They are the reason for anything that sounds good coming from my playing.

As for influences, Jim Hall is huge. His perfect note choices, complex harmonic sense, and constant search for new textures are all part incredibly wise musical approach that I attempt to emulate. Bill Frisell's sound and his way with melody is another source of inspiration along with Ben Monder's total command of the instrument.

Your sound and approach to music:

Try to play something that makes the music better or be silent. Being silent is the hard part.

Your teaching approach:

I teach all ages and abilities so I tend to focus on the fundamentals like ear-training and sight-reading. Philosophically it's this: make music- whatever the style, that's the important thing.

To that end, I always focus on the song with students. Whether we're sight-reading, soloing on John Coltrane changes, or just working on power chords for an AC/DC tune, the focus is always on playing music.

It's also important to play for an audience—music is communication, not merely transmission. I make sure students have the opportunity to play on stage at least a few times per year so they can use what they've learned.

Favorite venue:

I love 55 Bar for its no-frills vibe. In Colorado, it's Sun Rose cafe in Longmont. The owner Steve is a huge supporter of the arts and has created a really wonderful space for acoustic music.

CDs you are listening to now:

Chris Potter, The Sirens (ECM);

David Binney, Aliso (Criss Cross);

Alex Machacek, Fat (Abstract Logix);

Charlie Christian, The Genius of Jazz Guitar (Capitol);

Blind Blake, The Complete Recordings (JSP).

Desert Island picks:

John Coltrane, Coltrane's Sound (Atlantic);

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman(Impulse!);

Bill Evans and Jim Hall, Undercurrent (United Artists);

Sonny Sharrock, Ask the Ages (Axiom);

Wes Montgomery, Full House (Riverside).

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

To survive, the people who love jazz need to keep playing and listening.

For jazz to grow, we need to reach out to new listeners and make them feel welcome. Jazz is intense but subtle, so it takes time to understand and patience to teach its depth to someone raised on the immediacy of popular music. We lose our potential audience when we fail to communicate. When we are so focused on our own culture we become isolationists, belittling any music outside our ken.

What is in the near future?

I've been recording some of my own compositions for project that's due out next year and there's a Pete & Vic Duo album of standards waiting on a release date. I'm almost finished writing a book on applying pan-diatonic sets to jazz that should be published by Christmas.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"It's My Party" by Leslie Gore.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Vic Dillahay

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