I took up the guitar aged 13 and have been playing for 22 years. Soon after taking up the instrument I had formed my own band and have since played with many acts in various styles. Since taking up the guitar I have gone onto achieve grade 8 at distinction standard. I also hold the Level 4 Diploma in Teaching Music (distinction).
Although I can play a variety of styles my main interest is playing jazz and improving my ability to improvise. I have taught guitar since the age of 18 and like to think that I am patient with beginners and am able to get people beyond the frustration in the early stages of playing. Whether teaching someone who has just picked up the instrument or someone that has been playing for years, I will always strive to make sure students get what they want out of a lesson.
Since 2007 I have been playing lead guitar with Gloucestershire based Jazz band ‘Swing from Paris’. As an ensemble the band’s music has featured on BBC 1 and have performed at many Jazz festivals, including Cheltenham, Brecon, Django Reinhardt Festival at Samois sur Seine (France), The International Gypsy Guitar Festival, Pershore and the New Mexico DjangoFest (USA). From time to time I also appear with other acts and have performed at the Royal Albert Hall and Colston Hall. In September 2015 the band released a new album entitled ‘Webster’. You can hear it here: http://swingfromparis.bandcamp.com/ Further information about the band and gig listings can be found at www.swingfromparis.com
I also play with Bristol based band Moscow Drug Club. It’s hard to describe our music as it is so diverse, the best thing to say is come and see us, an absorbing evening of entertainment awaits!
Here are a selection of players that have influenced my playing:
Being introduced to Django completely changed my perspective on guitar playing. The virtuosity of his playing struck me immediately, and the knowledge that he only had two fretting fingers on his left-hand only furthered my intrigue. I started by listening to Django’s early Hot Club recordings and today own pretty much everything he recorded. It was only when I started to transcribe his solos that I really came to appreciate the full value of his phrasing and his ability to play each note with feel.
Today there is sizeable community across the globe all interested in playing Django’s music, this culminates each year in the annual Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois- sur -Seine.
An obvious choice for many guitarists, but Jimi’s playing really resonated with me when I was learning how to play lead guitar. An earthy blues feeling mixed with distortion and melodic solos made me learn how to play ‘Electric Ladyland’ note for note! There are many technically gifted guitarists around, there are also many guitar players that are technically better than Jimi, but Jimi’s playing stands out as he was able to pair his creative approach to the guitar with his flair for songwriting. This combination makes him not only a great player but also a fantastic artist.
It wasn’t long after hearing Django that someone lent me a CD of Bireli Lagrene. The CD was a Bireli album that he recorded when he was just twelve years old . Although not the closest in style to Django, his ability to improvise does rival Django. For me many of the modern gypsy jazz players are hard to differentiate between, put a Bireli CD on and you instantly know who you’re listening to. A monster improviser whose playing never fails to inspire me.
Having grown up listening to The Beatles, it was pretty hard for me to escape George’s playing. When I started to play all I wanted to do was to be able to play his solos and I pretty much went through the Beatles back catalogue, learning each solo in turn.George’s approach to a solo left an impression on me. I always felt that he really came up with something that was fitting for the song and that his solos always had a sense of direction. Rather than being a series of notes strung together, his solos usually had a clear beginning, middle and end. My favourite solo of George’s will always be ‘Something’, for me many songwriters will put in a guitar solo out of habit, this solo is as integral to the song as the first line.
Formally a session guitarist for bands like The Kinks and The Yardbirds, Page’s approach to the guitar makes him one of the all time greats. He is a master of riffs, blues tinged solos and a lose approach to phrasing. Learning Led Zeppelin II and IV should be rights of passage for any budding guitarist!
Eric Johnson is also a keen favourite of mine as far as fusion guitar players go. One of few to do something original with the instrument, I particularly like his approach to playing triads and odd groupings within his phrases. His tone is legendary too and is playing always sounds effortless!