Guitar duos and things….

I’ve been keeping a bit too busy with promotional efforts as of late. Connecting with venues, festivals and bookers is time-consuming beyond belief. It’s even more challenging owing to the fact that it’s one of my least-favorite things to do — however, it does come down to the simple fact that if I don’t do it no one else will. While so many of the current crop of musical self-promotion experts may insist that managing oneself is the wave of the future, they seem to forget that to stay on top of the ‘front office’ work you end up neglecting the very thing you’re promoting —the music. Putting the time in to do promotions ends up ultimately eating up practice time. In addition to keeping my playing up to snuff I have around a dozen musical ‘sketches’ that need work to become full-fledged pieces — they are sitting and waiting for me.

But…. enough about the frustrations. I’ve been having a great time of it with my jazz guitar duo. Except for an occasional pairing with guitarist Larry Coryell ( a friend, mentor and fellow Buddhist), I’ve never been part of an actual jazz guitar duo. I’ve partnered with guitarists before – Jim Goodin, Emiliano Pardo, Brent Shallcross – but they’ve been acoustic-oriented, genre-crossing twosomes in which jazz has been an element rather than the focus. My newest duo with Tony Hughes is the real deal. Two warm-toned electric guitars playing Real Book tunes without effects other than a bit of reverb. But don’t get the wrong idea — we do some real playing, not background music or cocktail lounge fare.

We’ve taken on intermittent dates at Philly’s Paris Wine Bar, which in and of itself is the finest intimate jazz room in the city. The owner (who handles the bookings) is dedicated to bringing serious music to the clients and they like it. We’ve had the opportunity to change people’s opinions about the definition of jazz on almost every night we’ve played. Some patrons come in expecting a pleasant backdrop of smooth sounds — what they get is two dedicated musical artists digging in and exploring each and every tune. One of my favorite comments is “Is this jazz? I thought jazz was, you know, laid back and kind of low-keyed. You guys really play.”

I’ve attempted to capture both audio and video of recent Saturday nights – sadly, as is usually the case with live recordings, the quality suffers with the noise of conversations, cash registers and general business dealings. We may need a more controlled environment (aka studio) to capture our collaboration at its best. Tony is a superb player, not just a masterful soloist, but a sensitive accompanist who listens and adds to the moment with exciting musical ideas. It’s a blast for me to be doing this and it’s having a positive impact on my playing, making me think more about my own role as an accompanist. Of course, it’s also sparked my desire to get a new archtop guitar to suit the setting. Granted, my ever-reliable mid-70s Hagstrom Viking is more than up to the role, being a thin hollow-bodied archtop, in fact, that gets a great sound. But a lovely Godin 5th Avenue Jazz would suit my needs so well (that’s the one I played during the Montreal Guitar Show, the photos of which are on FaceBook). No matter how old we get new toys are…. new toys.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post some video from one of the upcoming dates. I am investigating getting the duo out in front of an audience setting where we can concertize. Stay tuned.

Until next time, stay well.

Matt

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