I have been looking for various subjects to write posts on, and Stephen (DJ in the UK at SoundArt Radio 102.5 FM) wrote to ask me some questions.

I thought they would make an excellent idea for a post so here goes…

3 Questions

Stephen’s Progressive Showcase

102.5 FM if you are in the Totnes area of Devon, UK
http://soundartradio.org.uk

Please List and Describe Your Musical Influences

There are so many and I know I will be leaving some out unintentionally.

My first response would be everything. From birds chirping, to the pattern of a train on the rail road tracks, a woodpecker, the rhythms of car tires running over a bridge etc.

Let’s say major musical influences: Blues, Jazz, Rock (classic, prog, hard, psychedellic), Latin, Soul (1960’s-70’s), R&B, 1960’s pop.

There is Jazz

Count Basie was an early influence. I liked his bluesy sound and boogie woogie jazz-blues feel. He had wonderful soloists and singers.

Ramsey Lewis piano player is another one. No for his playing. But for the feel. Again that bluesy funky jazzy thing

Cannonball Adderley say what you want about John Coltrane, Bird, and the other sax players. Cannonball is the man for me. Something about his playing. It is very inspiring. He plays with emotion, he plays sophisticated stuff when he solos, yet it is down to earth and easy to understand. It’s intense, but not overwhelming.

Earth Wind and Fire at their peak, they were phenomenal. They put on the very best concert I ever saw in my life. The music is positive, funky, fun, energetic. It makes you happy! They are great musicians. The harmonies are great, and the live show and movement is something that had to be seen.

Joe Zawinul Weather Report, and then on his own. It is his writing that fascinates me. In fact, his live albums Brown Street and 75th inspired the approach to my album Hot Shock. Though it probably is not be apparent 🙂

Mahavishnu Orchestra, and John McLaughlin; John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension. In fact anything John McLaughlin does. More on him in Guitar 🙂

Les Paul He was not only a great innovator, he was a tremendous jazz guitarist. and he always brought humor to his playing and stage persona

Santana — from 1973 – 1977

And numerous other artists.

Blues

BB King more on him in Guitar 🙂

Freddie King

Minor influences Albert Lee (10 Years After), Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters

And lots of other guitarists I have heard.

Latin

Arrow aka Alphonse Cassel — The king of Soca music!

Tito Puente

Arturo Sandoval

Irakere

And many more.

Rock

Bloodrock

Cream

Trapeze

Deep Purple

There are a lot of bands I listen to and love, but they are not really influences on me. For example John Hiseman’s bands Colosseum and Tempest; Gentle Giant; Beatles; YES; among the many

Funk, Soul R&B

Brothers Johnson

Marvin Gaye — his phrasing got me to think in terms of vocal phrasing in my guitar solos

James Brown

Maceo Parker

Tower of Power

Sly and the Family Stone

And many, many, more.

Guitar

My earliest guitar influence I would have to say was my first guitar teacher. Mr. John Reimer. He was a jazzer, and even though I was just starting out, he was teaching me very advanced jazz concepts, including chord building, chord substitutions, a variety of scales, altered chords, and more. Honestly, I probably never should have stopped taking lessons from him. Or at the very least continued taking lessons from him for another 3 or 4 years!

After John, my earliest guitar influence was BB King. When I wanted to learn how to play the blues, I bought a bunch of BB King records in the discount bins of record stores in Chicago (I was living the the suburbs of Chicago).

I would practice with those records 3 -4 hours a day. Not learning his licks. Ratherlearning his thought process… why he picked a note or phrase. Why he stopped there. Why he played the phrase going up or going down.

From there I went on to Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton (when he was in Cream).

A friend of mine totally blew my mind with the very first Mahavishnu Orchestra record Inner Mounting Flame, which had a profound influence on me. Even to this day. John McLaughlin to me is on a peak that no one can ever hope to reach.

Jeff Beck is also a major influence on my playing. I love the emotion, power, how he develops a guitar solo, and it’s fun experimenting and learning how to make all kinds of weird sounds on the guitar and use them melodically in a solo!

Carlos Santana from 1973 – 1976; and;

Some of the many minor influences (or should I make it musical and say “some of the Major minor influences 🙂 ” are: George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Alan Holdsworth, Howard Roberts, Herb Ellis, Joe Pass and many others.

I do not copy their licks. Rather, I try to understand their thought processes, why they pick the notes and phrases they do. Why they pause, when they do… I try to get into what I think are the inner workings of their minds. But I do not copy their licks.

I want to be me, not someone else.

I guess all in all my biggest influences as a musician in no particular order would be:

  • BB King, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, and Cannonball Adderley — as soloists
  • Count Basie; Joe Zawinul; Ramsey Lewis; Earth Wind & Fire; and Arrow — as composers, and for band feeling
  • And lots of funk, and lots of Latin

Please explain what made you choose your instruments in the first place?

I saw the Beatles on tv, and saw there were two guitar players and one bass player. Well, I wanted to stand out, so I wanted to learn bass. When I was first going to learn, my teacher (John Reimer) made a deal. I had to learn guitar first for six months. Then… if I still wanted to learn how to play bass, he would teach me.

When six months were up, he asked me if I wanted to switch. I said no. By that time I had fallen in love with playing guitar!

Please explain what made you choose your instrumentation for your band?

My current instrumentation is either a trio or quartet.

As a trio it is

  • Guitar
  • Bass
  • Drums

This is due to economics. Most club owners do not want to pay enough to have a quartet. When I do get enough I add a keyboard player. It fills in the sound, and takes a lot of burden off of me.

I have to adjust my playing so we are not tripping all over each other. And I get to play less than I would in a trio. This is great because I can really lay into the rhythm playing and add some fills.

My ideal instrumentation, and I will most likely have this on my upcoming album is:

  • Guitar
  • Bass
  • Keyboards
  • Drums
  • Percussion

I love having Latin percussion. A percussionist who can play congas, timbales, bongos, cajon, and all the toys. And plays it with a Latin feel, rather than the lame feel a lot of percussionists play with. A drummer and percussionist can really add a lot of drive to a band. Think of Weather Report, or the Latin bands.

I do have material written for a new album. Since so many people told me the Hot Shock album sounded very bluesy — I didn’t hear that at all in it with the exception of the song Blues Sparks which was more jazzrock-blues, I decided to make this album much more jazz blues orientated.

Think of the song Harlem Nocturne, or Work Song, and then modernize it with more of a jazzrock feel. Keeping that cool slick greasy feel. That’s what I’m reaching for on most of the new album. Of course there will be some Latin and Caribbean on it too. I’’m extremely eclectic.

I’ll be funding it with a kickstarter campaign with some really great rewards. You can get on the list to be contacted by joining it here.

What do you think?

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