How did you get started in jazz? Did you train formally or learn on your own?
I first heard jazz when I was a child, and immediately wanted to study it, but my mom enrolled me in classical piano lessons, instead. However, that turned out to be an excellent foundation. I fell in love with Debussy and Brahms. Classical music taught me dynamics, how to "feel" music, melodic and thematic development, harmony, and most importantly of all, discipline.
How did you decide on the guitar?
I discovered the guitar when I was 13, and fell in love with it. The first song I learned was "Blackbird" by the Beatles. My older brother taught me the song when he was visiting home on one of his college breaks. I just loved the guitar's versatility. I transferred my musical knowledge from the piano to the guitar and started playing folk, blues, and rock songs. I got serious about jazz later in my career because I loved its harmonic and rhythmic complexity. In a lot of ways, I've come full circle playing jazz now and fulfilling my childhood dream.
How has jazz influenced your playing and original compositions?
Jazz has really transformed my playing, and especially my original compositions. It gave me the tools to write and arrange anything I wanted. It gave me an endless palette of colors to choose from, and allowed me to "problem solve" my own tunes.
Who is your greatest jazz influence?
Ella Fitzgerald was a huge influence on me when I first heard her as a kid. There is something so genuine and familiar about her. Django Reinhardt really opened up the door to a whole new world for me. I love the sound of an acoustic guitar playing jazz! I can listen to and watch Martin Taylor play all day long; he's so lyrical.
What kind of gear do you use? Where did you find your instrument?
For gypsy jazz, I'm currently playing a Lebreton Modele Evolution 2 guitar. It's a beautiful and dynamic instrument; I can drive it hard for fast and loud passages, or ease off to play a ballad and the notes resonate for a long time. For electric guitar, I play a Gibson ES-175, a year 2000 model. It's a really versatile guitar. I can use it for any musical genre from jazz and blues to folk and rock. I also have a Fender Telecaster '72 Custom Reissue. That was my first electric guitar, and I'm still in love with it! I'm a big fan of Strymon pedals and Vox amps, and I'm an endorsed artist of Krivo Pickups.
What are you doing presently and what do you have coming up?
I gig regularly in NYC with my own projects as well as other jazz and folk artists. I will be an Artist in Residence at The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2018. I have also been playing with the Cornelius Eady Trio; we will be releasing our second album in Spring 2018 on Kattywompus Press. Please join my mailing list if you'd like to keep up with what I'm doing!
What's your favorite food?
Noodles and dumplings of any kind. Dumplings preferably fried, but lately I have to go with boiled due to the wife. She's watching my cholesterol!