LINDSEY BLAIR QUARTET
A New Dawn
(Southernmost Records)

 

The best instrumental jazz guitar 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 there’s so much guitar goodness here. On A New Dawn, Lindsey Blair’s 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. There’s 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 Quartet. www.LindseyBlairMusic.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
LINDSEY BLAIR


mwe3
: 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 wasn’t bad either of course.

I’ve gotten to play with so many great musicians and bands here that it’s 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.

mwe3: 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 other instruments?

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 didn’t 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 good improviser.

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. I’ve seen several jazz guitarists that pride themselves on never listening to guitar music. I’m 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.

mwe3: 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 didn’t 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 don’t really fit neatly into one box. It’s 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? What’s the chemistry like between the members of your quartet?

Lindsey Blair: Any kind of music is really a reflection of life if it’s any good. The song “A New Dawn” sounds like watching the beauty of a sunrise on a new day, not that I’m 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. It’s a new beginning for me even though I’ve been at this for a really long time.

I can’t 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. I’ve 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!

mwe3: 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 elements?

Lindsey Blair: We recorded at Clay’s place, Red Rocks Studio in Miami. I’m 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 didn’t 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 you’re 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?

Lindsey 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”? It’s a fantastic choice for an uptempo instrumental. The song has such a rich history. What inspired your pick to cover it?

Lindsey Blair: Funny when I started this project, I decided I didn’t want to record any songs that were written before I began playing the guitar: most jazz standards were written in the 1930s. I’m 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 didn’t know that the song is so old that it literally doesn’t have a copyright. I had heard that Bob Dylan wrote it or had stolen it from Dave Van Ronk, but I didn’t know that it’s 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 haven’t 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: There’s 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?

Lindsey 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. It’s 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 it’s 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 don’t 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.

mwe3: 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 don’t look for students. I have taught at University of Miami, FIU and GIT in Los Angeles, and I’m 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.

mwe3: 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.

Thanks to Lindsey Blair @ www.LindseyBlairMusic.com

 

 
   
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