Dom Minasi's Guitar Hang
Welcome to Dom Minasi's Guitar Hang
For this month's choices we have five incredible guitarists, all special in their own way. Let me introduce you to: Dan Wilson, Tim Mirth, Cecil Alexander, Dave Askren and Larry Corban.
Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Dan Wilson spent the majority of his youth within the church community, where his musical path began. His musical identity has been shaped by everything from gospel and blues to traditional jazz, hip-hop, and horn players like Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson.
After graduating from Hiram College, Wilson made his recording debut with pianist Joe McBride and performed to worldwide acclaim with Joey DeFrancesco and Christian McBride’s Tip City, eventually recording his debut as a leader To Whom It May Concern. Wilson has been honored to share the stage with jazz greats including Eric Marienthal, Russell Malone, Les McCann, René Marie, Jeff Hamilton, David Sanborn, and Dave Stryker. He also teaches jazz guitar and music theory through private lessons.
Wilson’s career took him on an exploratory journey into foundations laid down by the guitar/organ tradition, eventually leading to an invitation to perform with jazz great Joey DeFrancesco’s trio quartet, with which Wilson went on to earn a GRAMMY® Award nomination for DeFrancesco’s Project Freedom album (Mack Avenue Records, 2017). This collaboration allowed the guitarist to insert his dialect into the musical prowess and respect that DeFrancesco had earned throughout his journey.
Wilson had been playing with DeFrancesco for a few years when he met bassist, composer, and arranger, Christian McBride. From there, Wilson went on to tour with McBride’s trio Tip City, eventually leading McBride to serve as a producer on "Vessels of Wood and Earth" and release the album on his newly formed imprint Brother Mister Productions through Mack Avenue Music Group.
To learn more about Dan, visit his website: https://www.danwilsonguitar.com/
DM: How long are you playing?
DM:: Why Jazz
DW:Jazz was a natural next step from the church
music that I was already playing. Many of the devotional songs were nearly
identical to a jazz blues. The standard blues form is 12 bars, but many of the
gospel devotional songs such as “Since I Laid My Burdens Down” are 16 bars.
When I heard Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith playing “Down By The Riverside,” I
remember thinking it was just church music with more chords. Ironically, I used
to get in trouble for playing Wes Montgomery stuff in church.
DM: Who are your major influences?
DW: I’d have start with some church guys you probably never heard of. Fred Dryer and Isaac Fontaine were playing like Grant Green in church the 50’s. That paved the way for Arthur Lee Gale, my first guitar hero. He revolutionized the way guitar was played in our church. I was obsessed with his playing. After Arthur Gale, there was a whole new generation of guitarist that came along in the 70s and 80s. Guys like Israel Sims, Tony Gray, and George Sims, Ray & Mark Green. The generation after that, brought along guys like Gary Waugh. I’ve never seen a more naturally gifted guitarist than Gary. It’s like the instrument was made for his brain. Martin Summers, James Davis, John Davenport, and many others. The influence of all of these guitarists helped me form an identity. Wes was my first jazz influence, but I really gravitated to Joe Pass when I was about 16-17. Charlie Christian was a big one, because many of my church heroes were into his playing. When I heard George Benson, that was a wrap. I had never heard guitar mastery quite like that, and I haven’t heard anything that has resonated with me like that since.
DM: How do you feel about the use of electronics in jazz?
DW: I love them. They’re just another tool for
musicians. If the musicality is there, I don’t care what tools are being used.
It’s going to sound good.
DM: Where do you think Jazz is Headed?
DW: Jazz has always had strong roots and
long branches, so I think the sky is the limit. I’m musicians from every corner
of the world bring their unique cultural and personal identities to the music,
and it’s very inspiring. I think it’s important to remember that was, is, and
always will be African-American music, but it’s for everyone.
Cleveland-based guitarist and composer Tim Mirth is an adventurous artist constantly seeking to create, explore, and bring energy into the world. With a seemingly limitless variety of output, it’s the deep love of jazz music and spirit that drives all his various projects. Studying classical and jazz in college and with great musicians such as Steve Adelson, Steve Aron, Jack Schantz, Rodney Jones, Peter Mazza, Bob Fraser, and Chris Crocco, Tim is constantly looking to refine his craft. It's the reaching and seeking from artists like Coltrane, Rosenwinkel, Mingus, and Dolphy that Tim constantly strives to reach, even learning other instruments from as viola to widen his perspectives.
Tim has performed through the Eastern US and Europe with a variety of groups such as Night Terrors, Stellar Regions, Red Side Visible, and the Tim Mirth trio. He’s been involved in releasing over 10 albums, including some recent recorded projects like Mirth Co-Liberation’s Wayne Shorter Tribute, Red Side Visible’s “A Break from Normality” adventurous odd-time jazz metal, and Night Terrors’ “Hear Again?” free jazz/through-composed madness. Next to release is a live record from modern jazz fusion band Stellar Region.
To learn more about Tim, visit his websitehttp://www.timmirth.com/index.html
Dave Askren has performed with a variety of jazz/Latin jazz/instrumental artists, including Bob Moses, Antonio Hart, Delfeayo Marsalis, Hendrik Muerkins, Stuart Hamm, Bruce Arnold, Bobby Shew, "Rhubumba", Sal Cracchiolo, Jimmy Branly, Joey DeLeon Jr, David King and Reid Anderson (The Bad Plus), Norman David, Ben Schacter, Gray Sargent, Kevin Eubanks, Gary Foster, Tony Rizzi's "Wire Choir" with Pete Christlieb; Mike Vax, as well as commercial recording artists including Marilyn McCoo, Latoya Jackson, Linda Hopkins, Little Anthony, The Coasters, The Platters, The Diamonds, The Drifters, The Marvelettes, Brenton Wood, Dato Shake, Kenny Hamber.
DM: How long are you playing?
DA: Well, I’m over 60, so we’ll use that for the historical baseline… When I was around 12ish, I was playing clarinet in school and private lessons, I got ahold of some old acoustic guitar w 2-3 strings on it. I just tuned it by ear and played stuff sliding up and down, fingered notes against open strings. I like to joke that I was playing like “The Edge” before he was!
By age 14-15 I was playing in rock/blues/R&B bands - on sax. But I wanted to ROCK like the guitar players, and I thought I could play as well as them, so I switched over. Pro gigs ensued - school dances, pool parties, etc - we even had an agent, and we had to have our MOMs drive us to gigs before age 16! Once we had our driver’s licenses, we worked even more.
Started listening to jazz (next section) so took some lessons. One guy showed me my first “chord solo” - a simple version of Misty. Then I got with great Dayton Ohio guitarist Jason Hollinger who had me work on my technique. After High School, it seemed like my gigs were only OK, mostly pop/rock/R&B, etc, but the musicians weren’t that serious - I needed to move on. My dad said “What’s that Berklee you’ve been talking about? If you’re actually going to take music seriously, you should go to COLLEGE!” But that was easier said than done. He couldn’t pay for the whole thing, so he made a deal - If I pay HALF (first year in advance), he’ll handle the rest. So I bucked down, saved my meager $$ from gigs, pumping gas, and working at restaurants, and at the age 20, I was off to Boston! Changed my whole life!
My butt was kicked immediately at Berklee. The old-school teachers didn’t mess around ."get your s*** together, or “call your mommy to come and get you!” This was the late 70’s. Anyway, I kept playing, studied with great teachers at Berklee, and also some non-Berklee Boston legends - Jerry Bergonzi, Charlie Banacos, Mick Goodrick (his pre-Berklee days), etc. Not long after leaving school, I was still around town gigging, and one of my great teachers (and friends) Al Defino, called me and said “call Leavitt asap Dave”. I had also studied with Bill my last year there, to get the inside track on the “Modern Method for Guitar” books - from the actual author! So I was hired to teach at Berklee. It was nice hanging with that great guitar faculty who had been my mentors earlier. But, being a short-sighted youngster that I still was, I started thinking: “Damn, I’m still young and haven’t done what I want to with my own career yet, and now I’m just stuck helping students with THEIR careers!”. So I quit and moved to LA w my girlfriend (a LA native) for gigs. I played all kinds of music, some touring, but in recent years got mostly back to my straight-ahead jazz roots and teaching gigs.
DM: Why Jazz
A: Coming out of HighSchool in the late ’70s, the "fusion” era, that was easy. Playing rock/blues /R&B, but hearing Miles (Jack Johnson etc), Chick (Hymn of the 7th Galaxy, then Light as a feather), Mahavishnu, etc - It was a done deal. But my fusion phase was short-lived. (although I would revisit it for a minute in late 80's Boston and early 90's LA). I also heard and saw live George Benson and Pat Martino in the late 70s. I was especially drawn to that sound/style. And I have to give credit to my DRUMMER friends exposing me to jazz. It makes sense. If you play rock drums and hear Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, etc., it’s the exact same SOUNDING instrument, just some guys kicking A** more than the rockers! In contrast with guitar players who may be used to a Hendrix etc, rock SOUND, the old-school texture of guys like Burrell, Wes, etc, is just so different that it takes time to appreciate. Pretty soon I heard "Four and More" under the right circumstances, end of the story. Anyway, by the time I was 20, and heading to Berklee, I was all in!
DM: Who are your major influences?
DA: For guitar - Benson, Martino, Wes, Hall, Burrell, Bickert, Pass, Breau (he totally messed me up for a while!), Scofield, Frisell, Goodrick (although Hendrix, Carlton, McLaughlin, etc, and blues players are still in there)
But for jazz in general,I'm ALL ABOUT Miles. His personal playing, and most of the guys that played with him (and Bird too) - especially the great 50's-60's quintets, (all THREE of them!) but also 80's for a minute. (I was at the '81 KIX concert and that "We Want Miles" group was amazing)
The piano players, were Evans, Herbie, Wynton, and Red Garland. Saxes, Trane, Wayne, Cannonball, Dexter, George, Hank Mobley. Trumpets, Miles, Freddie, Clifford.
And the great basses and drummers from the above groups - paid a lot of attention to them as well.
I'm not just naming big names. Everyone I mentioned (and more) has been a big influence, and I have transcribed and/or studied their playing deeply, for years.
I also should mention that in my young adult formative years, being in Boston, the great musicians in that scene also had a lifelong influence on me: Garzone, Bergonzi, drummers Bob Gullotti and Bob Moses, etc.
DM: How do you feel about the use of electronics in jazz?
DA: Of course, we do play "electric" guitars! But regarding “effects”, I'm fine with it. I was way into Frisell. Saw him many times in Boston in his early days, when he was so innovative. EVERYBODY wanted him in their bands! So I was doing that effects vibe for a while. During the late ‘80s, and early 90's I played a lot of gigs that way and even did some recording. Unfortunately,y those records are not commercially available. Dave King and Reid Anderson, (pre "Bad Plus”). I used plenty of effects playing pop and fusion music. It seems like a lot of "jazz" guitarists, even great players, who made their careers back in that era, still use the same electronic textures and, it sounds dated to me. Even Frisell and Scofield (and late Abercrombie) got tired of that "swirly, wet stuff”,( their own words...) and they use way fewer effect sounds in recent years.
Nowadays, it seems like every young guitar player, playing straight-ahead jazz, must have a pedal-board! Ha-Ha! In recent years the electronics that I have spent a lot of time working on, (seriously) are my amps/speakers, guitars/pickups!
Question: Where do you think Jazz is Headed?
DA: Well, that probably would bring up the topic "What is the definition of jazz?" - but let's avoid that can of worms!
Like it or not, "jazz", a century after it's early development, has become an established "art form” that will continue to exist in various forms. Different players will present it as it was played in various eras - Dixieland, Swing, Be-bop, Post-bop, avant-garde/free, fusion, etc. and I'm fine with that. Some other players will like to "push the envelope”, like the original innovators did, trying to experiment by playing in new ways, combining the old styles with different world music, pop, etc. and I'm good with that too. I think it can all exist together and some form of "jazz" will live on.