Compositionally, I love the beautiful richness of harmony, melody and bass found in Debussy's Nuage for orchestra, his solo piano piece Reflections On The Water and his Trio work for Flute, Viola & Harp.
I am also an avid fan of Toru Takimitsu who, in my opinion, is a modern day extension of Debussy, taking this type of sonic palette to the next level. I also love the minute compositional structures of Anton Webern, the string quartets in particular. I am also fond of Stravinsky, all time periods.
Improvisationally, my heroes are: Imrat Khan, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, John Mclaughlin, Oliver Lake, Grant Green among others.
In the pop field I grew up in the bluegrass/folk revival music of the early 70's. I listened to a lot of James taylor, Bonnie Rait, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson.
I also loved the minimalist sounds of Phillip Glass, early works, and Laurie Anderson.
My fav arrangers for Big Band are: Duke Ellington, all arrangers for Count Basie, Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer and Gil Evens.
Outside of music, I would say it is the things which get me involved with helping others and being in the presence of beauty. a sunset, the moon, a huge tree.
Meditation influences on all levels. I would say my practice time becomes a form of prayer and meditation also.
Hiking, swimming, yoga, skiing are all activities which require a certain level of focus and are great for placing it outside the music.
In college and for years after a minimum of four hours per day. When I began my studies with Imrat Khan he got rid of all the inefficiencies in my technique and started me a path of refined skill and accuracy. I would practice up to eight hours a day. The rest of the time was filled with performance, teaching and /or dance class accompaniment.
Classical Indian musicians are the finest on the planet and he gave me the philosophies and technical exercises which had been handed down for thousands of years. This was the most efficient way of developing my muscles I had ever encountered.
I would have to say Tom Jackson in Nashville was a huge influence. He is a live music producer and I have worked with his crew thru the years to help put together some pretty amazing concerts.
We really work to take a listener on a memorable, musical journey from beginning to end. Each turn of the performance is filled with twists and turns which engage the audience at all levels.
Revision...revision...revision. I hone until it is just right. At first composing was a real struggle and I found the more I did it the quicker it came. After a few hundred short form ABA, or ABCAD type formats it got to where I could think it in a thought.
Longer forms with complex orchestrations and arrangements tok a little longer. My first string quartet was a little over a year in the making. It can still use some revision.
I also keep an open ear to everything; all musical styles, sounds and new music potentially on the horizon.
A balance of emotion, non emotion, color and spirit also direct the music in phrases or one note at a time.
My technical skills were a result of continuos study thru college, mentorship and hours of clock time and years of compositional calendar time.
Yes. This was a requirement at Berklee. By the time I left, I could transpose on sight, read upside down and backwards.
Can I do this now? No. Since my college days my path took me more towards developing improvisational and performance skills and composition so my sight reading has lagged a bit. I can still read any chord chart and many single line charts as well.
Very. I am a top flight guitarist with the technique, knowledge, ear and skill set to be placed in any situation and meet or exceed audience expectation at any time I am called into musical service.
I am also a seeker and learner. I have spent a life time honing my craft as a composer, guitarist and educator from as many sources as possible and always looking for ways to better myself as a musician and human.
I grew up in the folk and bluegrass revival era of the 70’s. The sound of acoustic guitar was pretty present on the radio as well as the traditional bluegrass sounds of mandolin, guitar, dobro, acoustic bass/washtub bass and banjo.
I believe the physical landscape into which you are born can have a profound influence on the material and type of music to which you can access and the way in which it comes out. Just as a painter will choose the immediate surrounding environment as a way to garner subject matter, the same is true of a composer.
Most of my lifetime has been lived in Missouri and the Rocky Mountains with the exception of my college days in Utah and Boston.
In high school I hung out with a person whose mother was at one time intimately involved with the famous record producer Norman Grants. She exposed me to all of his classic jazz recordings. I would go over and listen to Billy Holiday, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Joe Pass and she would tell me stories of the times they had together. So that was in there.
When I went to college I was exposed to Hermeto and Brazilian music, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wane Shorter, live concerts by Phillip Glass with is early ensemble, further classical studies took me to studying the scores of Bach, Mozart, Beethovan, Brhams, Mahler, Webern, Debussy, Ives, Stravinsky, Steve Reich.
John Mclaughlin became a major influence in his fusion of eastern/western music. His technical proficiency inspired me to study with Ustadt Imrat Khan. This all helped my compositional growth and growth as a guitarist.
Many of my extended works are available for sale complete with score and parts along with a sample recording of the piece which is great for a small symphony program and I do have some small band jazz arrangements and big band arrangements available also which works really well for college jazz ensembles. Some of these arrangements were picked up by Berklee College of Music Jazz Arranging department for use in their performance ensembles.
If it is a jazz short form lead sheet type tune, I will usually write chords and melody pretty fast and as one continuos thought. The idea generally stems from something I am practicing or a tune I am working on and then decide, “I want to develop this aspect of the tune for any number of reasons and break it out or study purposes.” which in turn becomes food for a new tune. This was not always the case, it took writing hundreds or even thousands of these type lead sheet tunes to get a feel for form, structure, chords and melody.
Much of my incentive for composition comes from a willingness to write some new for an upcoming concert performance. Sometimes I am also commissioned to write music to accompany a film or video and this can also become a source which sometimes translates over to a concert piece. Unless I am arranging it, rarely do I spend much time in the development phase.
On the other hand, my chamber music compositions can take years to develop and complete. For instance, the Celestial Music I concert was in the works for two years before it finally hit a time of completion. This body of work entailed six variations for string quartet and four works for a seven-nine piece new music ensemble. I was working on other projects at the time also but by and large this took up about 60% of my composition time with the other 40% filled in with other smaller composition projects and concerts.
Off and on, probably since I was 5-6. It started with hearing the sounds of the wind up musical toys and went from there.
My formal study did not begin until first year college. From there I studied and tried to master my instrument and composition. It was always very hard and difficult and give me major migrains to try and work a phrase or compositional problem. It took a lot of mentorship and help to get me thru the musical humps.
My great grandmother had a baby grand player piano in her house and I was always drawn to that, especially the way the keys went down as I followed the sounds as the notched paper music went around the scroll. She was also bringing over harmonicas and musical instruments for me to play at Christmas time which was always a musical delight and treat.
I also developed an early awareness of the popular musicals of the day shown on TV of which I watched many. The high school I attended had no music program so I was left to my own devices for better or worse. I also made a conscious switch from creative drawing to music at this time because I felt the music held more of an emotive outlet for my creativity and I needed the tie to develop this aspect.
My first formal music training finally came at age 18 when I entered Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. This was a small college with an amazing jazz music program started by a Dr. Fowler. The city at that time was also rife with talent. I began performing in the jazz ensembles and was hooked. I quickly gained a knowledge of the current artists as well as previous through the knowledgeable staff at the school. After my first year all my favorite teachers were leaving to pursue opportunities at the Grove Music School in Los Angeles at which time I made the decision to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. to study composition and arranging.
From the musical platform which the Berklee laid in front of me, I was able to continue studies in jazz arranging and composition as well as make a real start to acquiring the technique needed on my instrument to perform my works as well as survive as a working musician. I was exposed to numerous live performances of the finest jazz artists of the day; Joe Pass, Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Pat Martino, Weather Report. There was an amazing supply of local artists playing out at that time also including Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, Oliver Lake, Jeri Bergonzi, Jackie Byard, Sun Ra and Michael Gregory Jackson.
After a six year hiatus from 1982-1988 in the music industry I went back to a full time career and have not stopped since. My education and learning continues to grow from teachers, mentors, students and most importantly the people I perform with and write for.