JIMMY BRUNO
Maplewood Avenue
(Affiliated Artists)

 

Recorded and mastered at Jimmy’s house in Philadelphia, the 2007 CD release of Maplewood Avenue captures jazz guitar ace Jimmy Bruno in top form. Backed up by Tony Miceli (vibes) and Jeff Pedras (acoustic bass), the nine track CD presents an intimate portrait of a guitarist thoroughly devoted to the jazz guitar idiom. Regarding his new studio trio, Bruno adds, ‘Like me, both Jeff and Tony are listening musicians. It is very easy to play with those guys because they both have great ears and know how to use them. We start playing any type of free-type music, we could follow each other perfectly.’ Bruno is also currently on the cutting edge of guitar education with his online venture, the Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute with the guitarist further adding, ‘I tell you the truth, the state of jazz guitar instruction in the world is just awful. So much bad information! There are literally hundreds of method books and mode and scale books. Hundreds of instructional videos and DVDs. And hardly any students are learning to play jazz guitar, to improvise. I really want to change this. I have been teaching guitar my whole life, and I know what actually works, what is important, what is not important. Using the power of the internet, I am finally getting a proper, proven method out there. Now, instead of teaching 22 private students like before, I am teaching hundreds and more—from 40 countries. And I have a huge number of guitar teachers studying on the site. So finally, we're going to see to great guitar players coming up. The only problem is the site is nearing capacity!’ www.jimmybruno.com

JIMMY’S HOUSE
an interview with Jimmy Bruno
by Robert Silverstein


Swinging guitar jazz that makes you feel you’re right there in the same room with the players, Maplewood Avenue is the latest CD from jazz guitar icon Jimmy Bruno. For Maplewood Avenue, Bruno teams with a pair of like-minded players—Tony Miceli and Jeff Pedraz—and the results combine for a state of the art of jazz guitar listening experience. Recording at his home studio in Philadelphia, Bruno sounds completely relaxed and natural on Maplewood Avenue, the guitarist’s first release on the California based Affiliated Artists label. In other Bruno news, the guitarist sounds very excited about his new online teaching venture, the internet-based Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute, accessible online at the www.jimmybruno.com web site. In November 2007, 20th Century Guitar reviews editor and mwe3.com founder Robert Silverstein spoke with Jimmy Bruno about Maplewood Avenue, his JBGI web site, his Sadowsky guitar and more.

{The following interview featuring Jimmy Bruno,
written and produced by Robert Silverstein, first appeared in the January 2008 issue of 20th Century Guitar magazine
. MWE3.com now presents the complete interview}

MWE3: On Maplewood Avenue it sounds like you’re keeping the jazz guitar sound alive and well. Is there a story behind the origins of the Maplewood Avenue CD?

JB: I had just built a studio in my house and wanted to experiment with all the new recording gear. Tony and Jeff would come buy once a week just to hang out and make some music in the new studio. It just sounded so great to me that I decided to try to capture that natural, raw sound. The combination of instruments was perfect for the space. Tony and Jeff began writing tunes, trading off back and forth. I would record the second run through of each of the tunes, and before we knew it we had over 60 minutes of music. We never set out to make a CD, it just sort of happened.

MWE3: How did you come to work with the Sadowsky guitar company and how closely did you work with the company on the design of your signature Sadowsky guitar?

JB: I was at Towson university playing the First World Guitar Congress. I was late getting to the venue and I was running through the crowd at the show. I accidentally bumped the bridge of the guitar I was supposed to play; it made it unplayable. Lucky for me, Roger Sadowsky's booth was right outside the performance hall. More or less in desperation, I asked Roger if I could borrow one of his guitars. He grabbed one of his Jim Hall models and handed it to me, and I literally ran onstage and began to play. I instantly fell in love with that guitar. Soon afterward Roger and I talked about a Jimmy Bruno model. It started by Roger asking what I would change on the Jim Hall model. At first I said nothing because I liked the Jim Hall model so much, but Roger really wanted to do a custom guitar for me. So we started with making size adjustments, and went from there. We went through every part of the guitar, from the nut to the tail piece. In the end Roger and I changed everything. All I can say is I love that guitar. It is the perfect jazz box. It has a small body, has a warm tone, is easy to play and it won't feedback. And because it is a laminate, it is affordable.

MWE3: How did you meet and how would you describe the chemistry between you with Tony Miceli and Jeff Pedraz on the Maplewood Avenue CD?

JB: Jeff was in one of my improv classes when I was teaching at University of the Arts. Jeff showed tremendous talent even at a very young age. We started doing gigs together about a year later, and played on and off as he completed his masters degree. I don't remember when I met Tony, but we've known each other for many, many years. I love the way he plays. Like me, both Jeff and Tony are listening musicans. It is very easy to play with those guys because they both have great ears and know how to use them. We start playing any type of free-type music, we could follow each other perfectly.

MWE3: There’s very little echo and no overdubbing on Maplewood Avenue, what kind of sound were you going for on the new CD?

JB: I wanted a pure old fashioned jazz sound with no coloration added by mics or pre-amps. I wanted it to sound as if you were in my living room listening to the trio.

MWE3: As much of the music on the Maplewood Avenue album was written by Jeff and Tony, what was the approach in writing the music for what’s being called your “Chamber Jazz” album?

JB: Well, my studio is very small and it would be hard to use a drummer in there without putting him in a isolation booth, which is no fun. Remember, we were just hanging out playing for ourselves, no thought of doing a commercial project. To get some percussion going, I just had Jeff pound and slap the bass. Loved it! Funny, some of the early people that heard the CD thought I had made a mistake or something. I guess that's how sterile recording has become, people forget that music is actually made by real people, using steel strings and mallets. Primal. Even so, without drums we needed to add another element to the music. That element was space. It wasn't so much in the composing as it was the improv. We needed clear lines that would stand on their own, as if each instrument was a small part of the whole.

MWE3: Can you compare recording with a drummer with your current line-up and using no drummer?

JB: The Maplewood sessions were kind of an exception. I almost always play with a drummer. I currently have Webb Thomas on drums when I am out on the road, and he really swings. Drums take the music in a completely different direction. It is in fact a lot easier to record and make the music swing when you have a drummer. With no drums, the feel is a lot more difficult, more of a challenge.

MWE3: What are your favorite Maplewood Avenue tracks?

JB: I see the whole CD as more a continuous piece of music, with several movements, if you will. So it's hard to break out a single tune.

MWE3: The “Bach Sonata Trio” piece is a real highlight. What inspired that?

JB: That was Tony's idea. We had a hard time playing it with the right feel and tempo. We wanted it to swing, but not too much. It was a delicate balance. We experimented having Jeff playing on the beat, behind the beat ahead of the beat. But we finally got it and nailed it with just two takes.

MWE3: I hear you’re pretty hot on the electric guitar, what got you interested in playing more traditional jazz compared to rock or fusion?

JB: My parents were both musicians, and our house was full of music all the time. I just grew up listening to jazz, so that's what I hear my head. When I pick up a guitar, that's what I want to play. Most of the rock that was happening during my formative years was very, very simple in terms of the guitar parts; it was no challenge to me. I found jazz more of a challenge

MWE3: What guitarists made you want to pick up the guitar in the first place and how about some of your most influential guitar albums?

JB: That would be Johnny Smith and Hank Garland. The two albums were Moonlight in Vermont and Jazz Winds From A New Direction. Of course I love all of the Coltrane and Charlie Parker music.

MWE3: Can you tell the readers about what got you started with your online Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute?

JB: I tell you the truth, the state of jazz guitar instruction in the world is just awful. So much bad information! There are literally hundreds of method books and mode and scale books. Hundreds of instructional videos and DVDs. And hardly any students are learning to play jazz guitar, to improvise. I really want to change this. I have been teaching guitar my whole life, and I know what actually works, what is important, what is not important. Using the power of the internet, I am finally getting a proper, proven method out there. Now, instead of teaching 22 private students like before, I am teaching hundreds and more—from 40 countries. And I have a huge number of guitar teachers studying on the site. So finally, we're going to see to great guitar players coming up. The only problem is the site is nearing capacity! (You can get to the Internet-based Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute by going to jimmybruno.com. - Ed.)

MWE3: So you’re totally changing from using instructional DVDs to only teaching through your online Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute?

JB: The No Nonsense Jazz Guitar videos and The Six Essential Fingerings method book were great, but they were created in the mid-90's, and over the last several years, I've evolved my method a bit beyond that. At the JBGI , I teach the "The Five Shapes." The 5 shapes are actually derived from the Six Essential Fingerings, but are a simplification of them. It's the way I play. I spent a lifetime figuring out how to convey it. As to the millions of scales and modes to worry about, I just throw all of that stuff away. You can't play while thinking about scales, you have to listen. I teach you how to hear what is happening musically around, and how to make melodies. I don't plan to make anymore instructional DVDs. The online JBGI (Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute) is the way to go. We have so much material on the site it would take dozens of DVDs to capture. The great thing about the JBGI is that I can think of an idea, something I want to teach, and I can get it front of 1000 guitar players all over the world almost immediately.

MWE3: I hear you’re doing some gigs with Joe Beck in the coming weeks, what was it like making the Polarity album with Joe and how would you describe the guitar chemistry with him?

JB: That was easy. Joe has a such a large harmonic vocabulary. We picked tunes and Joe did the reharmonization on the spot and I followed him. He is such an amazing musician. I can't wait to play with him again. We are going to try to get a video of the performance, maybe do a DVD if it comes out good.

MWE3: Can you sum up and tell the readers what you’ve got planned for the coming weeks and months as well as any other news or views you’d like to get out there?

JB: There is so much happening; this is the busiest I've been my whole career. I have to stay focused on the JBGI. We are nearing capacity and I am totally dedicated with helping these students become great guitar players and I am having a blast working with them. Also, I am recording a new CD in the spring. I've just started writing tunes for it and I'm talking to potential collaborators. Also, with the guitar instruction site doing well, it is time for me to relaunch my music web site. It will be a place where you can watch and hear me and my friends play jazz, both prerecorded and live streaming events. You know, at first I didn't know how I was going to deal with the internet, and how it was going to impact me. Amazingly, it has done nothing but great things for me. It's a great way to reach students and fans.

Thanks to Jimmy Bruno @ www.jimmybruno.com - David and Patricia Butler @ www.affiliatedartists.com and Roger Sadowsky @ www.sadowsky.com


-------------------------------
QUOTE FROM DAVID BUTLER

The more I learned from Jimmy about his finances, the more I began to feel like the traditional music business model was no longer working very well for jazz musicians. Jazz has never been a very lucrative field for musicians, but in the last ten years it has gotten much, much worse. Yet there is still a lot of interest in jazz, and a lot of fans. With the JBGI (Jimmy's online jazz guitar instruction site) generating new interest in Jimmy as an artist, I thought it might be a good idea for Jimmy to try go directly to his fans with his latest CD, using the internet for distribution. With that in mind, Affiliated Artists Records was born, a label to empower artists to reach their fans directly, cutting out several layers of middlemen. Affiliated Artists breaks the traditional music business model in that it doesn't pay artist royalties. Instead, we set up a true business expense/profit split with transparent accounting. The artist and the label split project expenses; the artist bears the expense of recording the music, the label pays for packaging and duplication. After distribution and marketing expenses (which are kept minimal), profits are split evenly between the recording artist and Affiliated Artist Records. Maplewood Avenue is Affiliated Artists' first release; we plan to do more. Because the artist gets a much larger percentage of the money, even modest sales result in a good returns.
- David Butler of Affiliated Artists

 

 
   
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