Long Island N.Y. guitarist Bobby Corsetti has several recent
albums out including his 2013 CD Not By Chance. From
a jazz guitar perspective, Corsetti keeps the sound upbeat and varied.
From smooth jazz and funky grooves to ballads and jazz-rock fusion,
the sound of Not By Chance lives up to its title. Bobby tastefully
accompanies his guitar sounds with added overdubs of keyboards and
drums, getting a full band sound throughout the disc. Speaking about
recording the entire album by himself, Bobby tells mwe3.com "Most
of the instruments on both of my previous projects were played by
me alone, except for a few cameo appearances. Recording Not By Chance
was not easy for me. I played all the instruments except the trumpet
and flugelhorn which were played by the talented Bill Mobley. Why
I played all the instruments on this record is a good question. The
number one reason would have to be the convenience of being able to
make things feel and sound just as close as possible to what I was
trying to achieve. The second reason, honestly, was the financial
aspect of it. I work cheap - and sometimes all night!" Another
recent CD of note by Corsetti is La Dolce Vita, from
2009. Another colorful snapshot of Corsettis eclectic approach
to jazz rock fusion, La Dolce Vita kicks off with a breezy,
instrumental cover of The Young Rascals 60s hit Groovin
played smooth jazz style and also, amid the originals, is a Corsetti
vocal of the 1960's classic My Favorite Things. While
he might not be internationally renowned, with these two CDs, Bobby
Corsetti is clearly a world class guitarist deserving further acclaim.
mwe3.com presents an interview
Can you tell us where youre from originally, where you live
now and what you like best about it?
I was born and raised in a little town named Bellport, on Long Island
New York. It's on the South Shore of the Island, right on a body of
water called the Great South Bay. It's one of those places that in
some ways has been frozen in time. A place where everybody knows your
name. A place where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all
lived on the same block, or not more than five minutes away. A place
where the Good Humor Ice Cream man - Charlie would stop his truck
and come into my house
in my mother's kitchen, actually (lol)
and listen to me play my guitar.
It's a special place and, although the winters are tough, in the summer
theres no better place to be. We have a beautiful boat marina
and private beach across the bay. It's known as the halfway point
to the world famous Hamptons, where I spent many of my younger years
playing music in the local clubs.
mwe3: You often cite guitar players including Wes Montgomery,
George Benson and Pat Martino as big influences. When did you really
start listening seriously to guitar music and did you immediately
gravitate towards jazz or was rock and pop also on the list of your
big influences? What other bands and guitarists are on that list?
It was in my early teens when I started listening to Wes Montgomery,
George Benson, and Pat Martino. These guys had a great effect on my
playing. There were others also, such as John McLaughlin, Alan Holdsworth,
and Joe Pass just to name a few. I also loved the great classical
guitar players - Andrés Segovia, Carlos Montoya, Christopher
Parkening and many, many others. All types of guitar players - including
rock and blues players - are my earliest influences.
also had the opportunity to study with one of the greatest jazz guitarists
of our time, Pat Martino. Pat has probably been my greatest single
influence. His personal story is very inspiring - not only pertaining
to the guitar, but how he dealt with adversity. Pat's approach to
the guitar and his outlook on life is very different than most. I
think that's what makes great artists great. It seems to me that we
all perceive, learn, and process things differently. Naturally we
are all very different. We have different attributes - both mentally
and physically. Finding what works best for each one of us individually
is where I believe the path to success lies. It also seems to me after
studying all of these great musicians that Ive mentioned, they
have one thing in common
they all have their own method and approach
to the instrument. That's what I learned from observing Pat.
Pat Martino, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, and all other great artists
have their own methodology. Sure, they all borrowed and built upon
their predecessors and even their peers' knowledge and creative works.
And that's okay
But eventually, those chosen qualities must then be transcended and
brought to life through our own uniqueness, by finding our own way.
Even then still, it's about effectively communicating your ideas and
emotions, while saying something meaningful, with conviction
speaking, that is.
When did you start seriously studying the guitar and what were your
early music studies like? Do you remember your first guitar or guitars?
As you improved guitar-wise, how did your choice of guitars reflect
I was serious about the guitar from the beginning. I was about five,
sitting on my bed, when I heard a voice that spoke to me and said
"You will play the guitar". I dont recall the voice
being something that came from my own imagination, but more like a
spoken commission followed by a moment of bliss. I knew that this
was my calling, my purpose and the direction my life was to take.
Those words have been with me ever since.
It was serious business right from the start. First of all, I had
to sneak and take my older brother's guitar and music study books
from his bedroom. Then I would pull out the dresser - which was mounted
in the wall and half in the attic of the house! I was not permitted
to touch his guitar, so I would practice in the space behind the dresser
it was dark and about a hundred degrees in there. That's where I hid,
and aided by a flashlight, I started practicing the guitar.
I dont hold it against my parents for not letting me touch his
guitar. I was really little, and they didnt want me trashing
my older brother's new instrument. At some point they saw my interest
in music and gave in and bought me a cheap little guitar. I think
I got my first real nice instrument at about 12 years of age. It was
a Gibson SG. I sold my much-treasured coin collection and my parents
put up the other half. I remember it was about $260.00 dollars with
the tax, a large sum of money in those days.
I started playing professionally a few years later. I had already
been playing the guitar for seven years at that time, and could hold
my own with the older guys. I played with my brother who had switched
over to the bass. We played popular music of the late 1960s
and early 70s. I had to wear black eye mascara on my mustache
as I was only thirteen at the time. Back then the legal age to play
in an establishment that served alcohol was 18. I even had phony ID
just in case someone asked.
in my early teens, I was invited to a local jazz club to hear a close
friend's uncle and his band. They were playing some real cool bebop
jazz tunes. Tunes by Wes, Coltrane, some standards, and even originals.
I remember how it sounded that day, the atmosphere in the club, and
how attentive everyone was of the music. The owner of the club came
over to me as I was sitting at the bar and sternly asked me, "Who
are you here with, young man? " I said, "Im a guest
of the band leader, Tommy." He replied, "All right, make
sure you keep quiet, no talking or getting loud
" and I
did as I was told.
After their individual solos were completed I soon learned it was
not only permitted, but appropriate to applaud for each one of the
band members. I thought to myself, Wow how cool is this
people are actually listening to these guys play! I was bitten by
the bug. The cool guitar chords, the flowing, articulate lines, the
complexity of the music, and of course the emotional content
it all just blew me away.
That day was the wakeup call for me. These guys could really play,
and I knew I was not yet in their league. I was being schooled. That
day put my ego back in check. I was used to people telling me how
great of a guitar player I was, and suddenly I realized how much more
there was for me to learn. I went home and practiced, and continue
to do so as much as I can.
mwe3: What guitars are you playing and recording the Not By Chance
album? What are your favorite amps, effects and strings?
Im currently playing an Ibanez GB 30 guitar. It's a semi-hollow
body and this one is a 1986 model. It's strung with D'Addario flat
wound 12 chromes. I plug directly into my Fractal Ultra Axe-Fx Guitar
Preamp. In the studio for recording the same setup hits my Universal
Audio 6176 Preamp/Compressor before the computer interface. I also
use the same setup for my Custom Strat and my Godin nylon string.
What are some of your impressions about the guitar and gear world
these days? Can great guitars still be made or are the vintage guitars
still the most sought after? Is the guitar still the most popular
instrument in the world? Even with all the sampling and dependence
on computers, is the level of musicianship rising or falling in your
Man, there is a lot of great gear being made these days, both guitars
and amps. The guitar is holding its own in this computer-based age
we live in. Vintage or new? It's a matter of opinion as far as I'm
concerned. Just because something is old or new doesnt make
it good. I think it comes down to the individual instrument and builder.
Obviously a special instrument must be built with quality select woods,
and attention to detail is of supreme importance. There are still
some great luthiers building beautiful guitars.
I remember being in the late great guitar luthier Jimmy D'Aquistos
shop. He built beautiful guitars. He would work on my guitars back
in the day. He was a perfectionist, a very intense guy. He knew all
of the popular guitarists and wasnt afraid of letting you know
how he felt about them. He loved Joe Pass. The first time I went to
his shop he rolled out this little Ampeg amp and handed me a guitar
he had built for Herb Ellis. I couldnt believe how well it played,
and how perfect the intonation was.
With a protractor he explained and demonstrated how the division of
the frets was formulated, and why some guitars were impossible to
tune if the division was incorrect. Jimmy then offered to build me
a solid body guitar and I felt a little awkward because I didnt
have a lot of money at that time. I cant repeat what he said
to me, but he called me a few choice words! He was also very gracious
to me, and would come to the club where my band was playing in the
Hamptons and work on my guitar on top of the bar
I wish I had
a picture of that! I wish I had listened to him and had him build
me a guitar.
As far as your question pertaining to the quality of musicianship
these days, for sure there are some great young and talented people
Why did you decide to play all the instruments on the Not By Chance
album all by yourself and how does that compare with working with
other musicians in the studio? Who else was involved in the making
of Not By Chance? It must be very challenging to coordinate
everything to perfectly sync up in the final mix. Tell us about your
live band and who else plays with you in a live setting?
Most of the instruments on both of my previous projects were played
by me alone, except for a few cameo appearances. Recording Not
By Chance was not easy for me. I played all the instruments except
the trumpet and flugelhorn which were played by the talented Bill
Mobley. Why I played all the instruments on this record is a good
question. The number one reason would have to be the convenience of
being able to make things feel and sound just as close as possible
to what I was trying to achieve. The second reason, honestly, was
the financial aspect of it. I work cheap... and sometimes all night!
Getting a band together for multiple rehearsals is almost impossible
without some kind of budget. Of course, it would be wonderful if I
had the luxury of having great musicians at my disposal. That being
said, these past three records I've made are also not what one would
call straight-ahead jazz records. They have a less challenging sound
to the average listener. Yes - to the purist - and even myself
things can get a little let's say, homogenized, for lack of a better
word. Or maybe pasteurized would be a better choice
The way I like to describe it, is like the song says... Just
a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go
down ... you get the picture!
I've tried to make my music more palatable to the average listener.
I know that doesnt sit well with a lot of people. I have also
tried to be cognizant of the fact that real musicians want to hear
you stretch out a bit and still speak their language. It's a tough
balance to achieve. That's what the great George Benson has done so
well for so long.
Playing live, however, is much different in so many ways. It has a
whole different set of challenges - organizing the musicians, being
a band leader, giving every member some creative space, coordinating
schedules, communicating with club owners, and most of all, being
on your game. Being able to give the people something back for taking
their time and spending their money to come and see you perform. I
take that very seriously.
Interesting that you call the recent CD, Not By Chance. Is
that kind of a metaphysical way to look at life, in that were
all here, walking and talking on the earth, not by chance? I like
that picture of the guitar player in the booklet, whose outline is
covered in stars and galaxies. Why do you think that people dont
take a more... kind of metaphysical view of what were doing
here on Earth for 70 or 80 odd years?
Not By Chance is not only the title of my latest CD
is a surrender and a recognition to the Creator of the Universe -
God. The scripture says that God created man in his image. That is
precisely why we have the ability to create things. We have the gift
of creation in us.
Take a bunch of notes for instance. Put, let's say, twelve different
notes into a box. Mix all twelve of them up, real good, and throw
them up in the air. Now let's have them land on an imaginary musical
staff made up of five lines. Let the notes randomly land on the lines
at different times and on different spaces or lines. Now let's play
the notes on an instrument. Let's see how many chances it would take
to form a beautiful melody, or a beautiful sequence of harmonized
notes in chords. How about Beethovens 6th Symphony or maybe
Handel's Messiah? Or even Twinkle,Twinkle Little
Star? Forget it- it wouldn't happen. Never. Not in a million
or ten billion years.
we live in was created by God with design and reason. That's why that
Star Man guitar player standing on the edge of a galaxy has the ability
to play an instrument and create music. That Star Man could be anyone.
A doctor, carpenter, writer, teacher, scientist, inventor, or even
See my point? There is too much form and evidence of intelligent design
in the universe to think this all just happened by chance. Why dont
people think about these things more often? Well, some do. Some people
are motivated by these concepts. The idea that you can create something
from nothing is one of the greatest gifts given to us. It is only
surpassed in value by our ability to love one another and do good
things with those gifts.
As per your other question, as to why people dont think about
these things, well let's just say that they are choked and consumed
by the cares and worries of this world. Maybe they are just unwilling
to give credence to a God, who, by His wisdom has seemingly left us
to fend for ourselves. You see, faith is of the unseen things, and
without it is impossible to please God. And even more impossible to
believe in Him. One might ask - what does this all have to do with
music and playing guitar? To me, it means everything. It gives purpose
and meaning to everything I play, and acknowledges the voice I heard
when I was a child.
mwe3: How do you compare Not By Chance with your other
and La Dolce Vita? One thing that strikes me is that on La
Dolce Vita is theres several covers, but Not By Chance
is all original music. Also I thought your cover version of Groovin
is one of the great pop covers of the decade. I guess you show your
1960s music roots! What did Felix fromm The Rascals think about your
Corsetti: Not By Chance is
a bit more aggressive than the other two records. I wanted to stretch
out a little bit more and I think I was able to do that without going
too far. My first record Cuvée had its own sound and
its own vibe. I used the Gibson Pat Martino model guitar on that recording.
It had a bit of a hip-hop feel to it. Before recording Cuvée
I was actually, believe it or not, working on a bunch of hip-hop records
with Hank Shocklee, a famous record producer who had played a big
part in early hip-hop and Rap (Public Enemy) music production. I had
signed an artist deal with him as an R&B singer. He was shopping
a major record deal for me at the time. Things didnt pan out
as expected and we friendly parted ways.
La Dolce Vita, my second record had a bit of a European flair
to it. I played the nylon string Godin on a few of the tunes and really
like that sound. On "Groovin", as you mentioned, and
thank you for that nice compliment, I used my Ibanez GB 15 guitar.
I'm not sure if Felix has heard it, but if he has I hope he enjoyed
it! It's a beautiful sounding guitar and plays as good as it sounds.
It has some feedback problems at loud volumes, especially when playing
live. I know George uses clear packing tape to cover the 'f' holes
on his guitars. I just cant seem to bring myself to put tape
on this beautiful guitar. It really works well for George though...
I might have to give it a shot.
mwe3: What other cover songs do you plan on recording one day
and how about other songs you cover that are favorites to play live?
I cant say on what I'm planning on covering and that's backfired
on me a couple of times and my idea was used before I had a chance
to record the songs! I was mad at the time, but also flattered that
someone actually listened to me and took my idea. Then again, I've
borrowed a lot of things from a lot of guitar players, especially
George Benson and Pat Martino. I play a number of their tunes live
also. Tunes like Lean Years and Turnpike by
Pat, and so many Benson tunes I should have to pay him royalties.
I do always mention them at my live shows. Even Wes - whom I've never
met, but love his playing and tunes so much.
I always like to play a little rock and roll live. I'll play a Jimmy
Hendrix tune or maybe a Jeff Beck or a Clapton tune to change things
up and add a little spice to the show. People really enjoy that stuff.
I enjoy it also and feel very comfortable playing in that style. That's
what I played as a kid.
that was a great time to grow up. So much music, and at
the same time there was Miles, Mclaughlin, Herbie, Jaco, all happening
Your music is also suited to films and soundtracks. Have you done
any film scoring and is that a possibility in the future?
A few years back I was doing some scoring for films, documentaries
for A&E Network and things of that nature. But mostly it was jingles,
a lot of jingles. I had creative rolls in a lot of them as well. I
did the first E-Trade and Optimum Online commercials. There was a
Black and Decker automatic can opener, and everything from king-sized
men's clothing to horse racing to automatic cat litter boxes! I even
scored for a Sony Electronics promotional. I've sung in Spanish and
I dont even speak Spanish (lol) and I've sung as a lobster who
went from a tank into a cooking pot! I could write a book on all the
bizarre things I've had to do as a studio musician and singer. The
jingle industry has really dropped off these past ten years for me,
and that's fine. It was fun and good money while it lasted.
mwe3: Whats new in New York in 2015? What are some your
favorite places to perform and play live shows in the NYC and the
tri-state area? How would you compare New York with other places in
the US and for that matter the world for jazz? Have you played shows
all over the world and how can you further spread the word about your
guitar playing and recorded works?
Locally, there are a few things happening on Long Island concerning
live jazz. The East End Arts Council (www.eastendarts.org
) organizes the Live On The Vine Annual Music Festival. It features
local and worldwide performers playing not only jazz, but blues, rock
and many other types of music. There are also a few people out there
organizing and hosting live jam sessions.
In the City, many staple clubs Iridium, Birdland, and Blue
Note just to name a few are hanging in there, but now have a more
eclectic style of live performers gracing their stages. Personally,
I would really love to tour all over Europe, especially Italy. I'd
also love to play in Japan.
I have to say that here in NY, even the traditional jazz clubs have
had a more eclectic approach as far as entertainment goes. Nowadays
even the term "Jazz" means so many different things to different
people. It's such a generic term now
as is with so many other
things. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Our culture dictates this
type of an atmosphere because of all of the diversity we have in it.
How can I reach more people with my music? I think I'm going to have
to get out and play more. I need to make that connection with my audience.
Youve recorded 3 albums to date and what about plans to record
in the future? Are you always writing and recording to get your ideas
down for future use? What kind of album would you like to write and
record next and what other plans do you have in the works for the
rest of 2015 and into 2016?
I'd really like to make a record that takes my playing to another
level. A record that will push me beyond where I'm at musically. I'm
always writing and recording new things. I want to showcase another
side of my playing. I'm very excited about the future. I'm believing
God for good things, not just for myself, but for everyone I meet
on this journey called Life.
credits top to bottom: 1) Playing my Gibson SG Custom 1975. 2) At
Pat Martino's house 2003. 3) playing my Gibson L5-S in the Hamptons
around 1977. 4) Brain Waves 2006. 5) Saint Thomas 6) Playing my Custom
Strat 7) Playing By the Bay. 8 Not By Chance album cover. 9) Hanging
at Birdlland NYC. 10) Jamin with Jimmy @ Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall
to Bobby Corsetti @ www.BobbyCorsetti.com