About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Classical and Jazz Guitar

Two months from today, I'm playing a wedding gig. For the cocktail hour, I'm performing jazz standards with Godfrey and Guy. For the pre-ceremony gathering music, the client wants some classical guitar. I have from now until then to work up 30 minutes of classical guitar music. The bride understands that I'm a jazz player, and that she's not getting Segovia. I'm going for easy material. My job is to play relaxing music before the ceremony. There's no need for technical wizardry. The hardest thing I'm playing is Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, which is a challenge for me, but is child's play for your average classical player.

Although I'm mainly a jazz guitarist, I find that I enjoy working on these classical pieces. My approach to learning this music is quite a contrast from my jazz guitar practice. In practicing jazz guitar, I never feel "done." Jazz is an improvisatory art. I spend a lot of time learning to navigate my way through chord changes while coming up with interesting melodies. The melodies I create are ephemeral. Sometimes they are sublime, sometimes they are iffy, and most of the time they are somewhere in between. My improvisations change depending on what licks I've been practicing, my mood, who I'm playing with, the feel of the room, which guitar I'm playing, and even the lighting.

While jazz guitar often feels like a moving target, classical guitar feels more stationary. You can always play more cleanly or with a difference nuance, but you at least know which notes you supposed to play. In general, there's little, if any, improvisation with classical guitar. If jazz guitar is like a free flowing conversation, then classical guitar is like the script of a play.

I've heard jazz guitarists disparage classical guitar, saying that it feels like paint by numbers, but that's not what it feels like to me. Even the limited selection of classical music that I'm able to tackle is gorgeous, and it fits in quite well with my mellow style of playing. I'm glad for this gig, because it has rekindled my love of classical guitar. I'll never be mistaken for a real classical guitarist, but I think I'll keep this music in my repertoire after the gig is over.

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