albums are the ones that take the most chances and cover the most
ground musically. Case in point is A New Dawn,
the 2014 CD release from the South Florida based group The Lindsey
Blair Quartet. Perhaps on this debut CD from his quartet, Lindsey
Blair takes some cues from the ever versatile Pat Metheny because
theres so much guitar goodness here. On A New Dawn, Lindsey
Blairs original compositions are alternatively upbeat and thought
provoking. A subdued cover of the Beatles White Album classic
Julia is a definite highlight on A New Dawn with
Lindsey bringing out all the haunting melodic nuances that made this
Beatles song so memorable in the first place. Theres also a
CD closing instrumental cover of the traditional blues song House
Of The Rising Sun played in a funky West Coast jazz way ala
Wes Montgomery that is also a lot of fun. Speaking to mwe3.com about
the eclectic nature of his CD, Lindsey explains, I wrote
or arranged things that I find interesting. That is the only criteria.
I am an eclectic musician, I honestly enjoy all kinds of music. I
knew I was making a jazz album, but I didnt want to narrow my
parameters to fit a specific style. If it defies category, I think
that is an honest statement coming from me, because I dont really
fit neatly into one box. Throughout the album, Lindsey gets
ace support from his quartet including Nicky Orta (electric
bass), Carlomagno Araya (drums) and Clay Ostwald (keyboards).
The interplay and near sonic ESP among these fine players is also
noteworthy. Jazz guitar watchers, lend an ear to the Lindsey Blair
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Where are you from originally and how do you like living in Florida?
How long have you lived in South Florida? I know you were voted as
best jazz musician of 2011 by the Miami New Times. What have been
your best musical experiences in Florida, how does living in South
Florida impact your music and how would you compare living in Florida
to other states and countries?
Lindsey Blair: I love Florida, particularly south east coast
Florida. I originally moved here because of the jazz department at
University of Miami. I came from Indianapolis, Indiana and I immediately
saw that there was more opportunity for a working musician in Miami,
and that the style of the musicians was closer to what my tastes in
music were at the time. The weather wasnt bad either of course.
Ive gotten to play with so many great musicians and bands here
that its difficult to pick one experience, but playing in the
UM concert jazz band probably led me to most of the connections that
have sustained me through my life as a musician. Playing in Gloria
Estefan's band was an honor and a great opportunity to reconnect with
guys like Clay Ostwald, Jorge Casas and Teddy Mulet who were guys
I actually met when I first moved to town and before they were connected
with the Estefan's.
Clay Ostwald has become a big part of my band. He and I and also have
another original jazz project called 7 Crossing. Putting my own band
together and writing for the band has really given me a new focus
and energy for my music, and has helped me define what I want to say
as a musician. South Florida has such a broad spectrum of musical
styles to draw from being a melting pot for jazz, funk, Latin music,
the islands and South American styles of music.
How long have you played guitar and what were your early guitar studies
like and what artists are among some of your favorite guitar influences?
What made you pick up the guitar in the first place and do you play
Lindsey Blair: I started as a result of the British invasion
bands. I was self taught for about the first ten years that I played.
It was all about playing the vinyl records, and lifting the needle
up to repeat the part you didnt get the first time. I had to
buy several copies of quite a few albums because I destroyed them
trying to learn the tunes. When I went to music school I was behind
the curve when it came to reading music, but ahead of the curve when
it came time to play by ear, which is really what you need to be a
I have played several other instruments, but I would not be proficient
enough to play a gig on anything but guitar. I like a wide range of
guitar players and styles. Bottom line is I really like guitar music
and the sound of the instrument. Ive seen several jazz guitarists
that pride themselves on never listening to guitar music. Im
not one of those. Some of my favorite guitarists are Wes Montgomery,
Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny, Derek Trucks, Ted Greene, Lenny Breau, Barney
Kessel, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhart.
How did the A New Dawn CD come together so to speak? How does
A New Dawn reflect your guitar sound and vision and what were
some of your musical parameters in putting the album together?
Lindsey Blair: I wrote or arranged things that I find interesting.
That is the only criteria. I am an eclectic musician, I honestly enjoy
all kinds of music. I knew I was making a jazz album, but I didnt
want to narrow my parameters to fit a specific style. If it defies
category, I think that is an honest statement coming from me, because
I dont really fit neatly into one box. Its all stuff that
I want to play on my gigs, it really boils down to that.
mwe3: Why do you call the album A New Dawn and can you
tell us how you met your band members who play on the CD with you?
Whats the chemistry like between the members of your quartet?
Blair: Any kind of music is really a reflection of life if its
any good. The song A New Dawn sounds like watching the
beauty of a sunrise on a new day, not that Im ever awake for
that... (lol) It has an optimistic energy that carries the tune, and
it feels like a new adventure to me. This being my first CD ever under
my own name, I thought the song title set a theme for the whole project.
Its a new beginning for me even though Ive been at this
for a really long time.
I cant say enough about the crew on my CD. These guys are the
perfect musicians to compliment these songs; Clay Ostwald, Nicky Orta
and Carlomagno Araya. Ive had a long relationship with all the
guys except Carlomagno Araya whom I had only played with a few times
before we started playing in this band. I had seen him on some videos
with the Araya/Orta Quartet and thought he and Nicky Orta would be
the ultimate Miami team for the kind of music that I wanted to play.
Everybody along with Richard Bravo who played some extra percussion
tracks for a few of the tunes are great and supportive friends that
compliment any musical idea that is presented to them perfectly. They
all have unbelievable technical skills as musicians, but more importantly
they play with heart, lots of heart!
Where was A New Dawn recorded and were all the musicians in
the same studio or was there a lot of overdubbing? Who else do you
credit with assisting you with the studio sound and other production
Lindsey Blair: We recorded at Clays place, Red Rocks
Studio in Miami. Im very fortunate to have Clay in the band
because he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge not only as
a musician, but also as a producer and recording engineer. It helps
to have a multi Grammy winning producer like Clay on the scene when
you are recording. We didnt do any preproduction recording for
the CD, all the basic rhythm tracks were recorded live with guitar,
piano, bass and drums. We did go back and do some overdubbing on it.
The recording and mixing is really all Clay with a few tracks that
were done at other places for convenience.
mwe3: Can you tell us about the guitars in your collection
and what guitars youre playing on the A New Dawn CD and
what amps and other effects you use on the CD and on different sessions?
Do you have an endorsement deal with a guitar company and what does
your ideal guitar look and sound like?
Lindsey Blair: I have about 25 guitars. I mainly played my
Ibanez George Benson, my Fender VG Strat and my Godin multiac for
the nylon string stuff. The main amp I used was my 76 Fender
Deluxe Reverb. I used several other guitars though. A Danelectro baritone,
A Gibson Les Paul standard, a PRS Swamp Ash Special, A Valley Arts
Brent Mason Telecaster, a mid 70s Guild F212 12 string, a Martin Tres.
And I used an Egnater IE4 preamp, a 1962 Fender Tremolux, and a Marshall
JTM 45 for some of the tracks on the amp side. I now endorse Petrounov
and Pinol guitars. I have endorsed Godin and Reverend guitars in the
past and also Dean Markley strings.
mwe3: Some of the tracks on you latest CD A New Dawn
are very jazzy and some are very impressionistic, such as Angel
On My Shoulder which is very melodic and atmospheric and very
original sounding too. What inspired Angel On My Shoulder
and what tracks on A New Dawn do you find are getting the most
airplay or recognition?
Blair: Too early to tell about airplay yet. I think the song that
has gotten the most compliments and remarks is Angel On My Shoulder.
I wrote that song when I got a delay pedal called the Strymon Timeline.
One of the presets on the Timeline just got me playing some stuff
that I really found interesting. There is a very lush ambient hallow
around every note you play with that sound, but if you play too much
too fast the effect becomes overwhelming. I started improvising using
2 note counterpoint because more than 2 notes seemed too much for
that tone and the song sort of just came out of the blue by playing
that tone. I luckily had recorded me playing and improvising, and
when I listened to it back the A section of Angel was
in there just as I played it on the record. I later came up with the
bridge to compliment it, but the song sort of wrote itself pretty
quickly in one afternoon. I see it as kind of a musical prayer. The
delay gives the illusion of some otherworldly spirit surrounding the
notes in the melody.
mwe3: How about the CD closing cover of House Of The
Rising Sun? Its a fantastic choice for an uptempo instrumental.
The song has such a rich history. What inspired your pick to cover
Blair: Funny when I started this project, I decided I didnt
want to record any songs that were written before I began playing
the guitar: most jazz standards were written in the 1930s. Im
not going to beat Wes, Barney or Django at their game so why not just
do what I do well. I put House Of The Rising Sun on because
it was probably the first song I ever learned how to play on guitar.
I didnt know that the song is so old that it literally doesnt
have a copyright. I had heard that Bob Dylan wrote it or had stolen
it from Dave Van Ronk, but I didnt know that its actually
an old blues tune that had been passed around for year before that.
mwe3: Have you done many live shows with the Lindsey Blair
Quartet and for those who havent see you live yet, what are
your live concerts like?
Lindsey Blair: We were regulars at the Van Dyke Café
on South Beach, which is now closed. Live we just play the original
stuff mostly, but pull out some surprises both for the audience and
for the band to keep it interesting.
mwe3: Theres a great version on A New Dawn of
the Beatles white album classic Julia, which
John Lennon wrote for his mother. What do you like best about that
track and how did you rework the song as a jazz instrumental?
Blair: I always thought that the song lends itself perfectly to
jazz. The changes are so lush and beautiful. I figured just because
the rest of the world had dropped the ball on picking up that song
that it was only more of a reason why I should do it. Its an
excellent vehicle for jazz improvisation.
mwe3: How big of an influence were The Beatles on your musical
upbringing and what are some of your favorite Beatles songs that you
might consider reworking as jazz instrumentals? Is there a Beatles
period that interests you most? I know Wes Montgomery was probably
the first jazz guitarist that I heard who put The Beatles on the map
in the jazz world and Wes even named one of his album after the song
A Day In The Life which has also been recently covered
by Jeff Beck.
Lindsey Blair: They were one of the main reasons I began playing
music. There are so many great songs. One that really seems could
use some rearranging is All You Need Is Love. If you look
at the basic melody, lyric and chord changes its really a very
deep tune. Their arrangement almost makes the lyrics sound sarcastic
because there are so many comical elements that they added. The lyric
is full of wisdom, but you dont notice it with that yat ta
da da da thing in the arrangement. You have to admire that band,
they made the audience grow with them rather than trying to write
and record what they thought the audience would want to hear from
them. You had to grow musically to keep up with The Beatles because
they were moving on all the time. There should be more musicians willing
to do that these days.
Are you teaching guitar these days and what other guitar gigs do you
have and how about sessions and soundtrack work? Tell us about your
work on the Don Francisco Presenta show on the Univision Network.
Does that underscore the huge Latin / Spanish music influence in Miami?
Lindsey Blair: I teach when somebody calls me for it. I dont
look for students. I have taught at University of Miami, FIU and GIT
in Los Angeles, and Im very proud of my former students. My
former students have gone on to play with people like Shakira, Gloria
Estefan, Chayanne, Iggy Pop or Jon Secada. Some of my other students
had actually already done gigs for acts like Jeff Beck, Aretha Franklin,
Barry White, Cat Stevens or the Bee Gees before they took lessons
with me. The Don Francisco gig was a great experience for me. The
band is mostly guys I had known since I first time I moved to Miami,
I left town for 10 years and moved to Los Angeles before returning.
They got me on the job there, and I was on the show from the very
first program all the way till the show went off the air. 11 years
I was on that show and on TV every week all around the globe. There
is no denying the influence of Latin America in Miami, why even bother?
mwe3: Do you feel that some of your tracks incorporate other
elements in addition to jazz and pop? How about elements of progressive
rock as well as jazz-rock fusion and symphonic and orchestral instrumental
music as it pertains to guitar-centric jazz?
Lindsey Blair: I listen to everything, if I like it, it will
find its way into my playing one way or another.
What other musical directions are you planning to bring your music
to next and what plans do you have as far as writing new music, live
concerts, recording and other session work and/or productions planned
for 2014 and into 2015?
Lindsey Blair: We are in the middle of recording the second
CD for 7 Crossing right now. That CD should be done by the end of
the year. 7 Crossing is essentially Gloria Estefan's band doing a
jazz project on the side.
to Lindsey Blair @ www.LindseyBlairMusic.com