in Dallas Texas, fretboard master Russ Hewitt continues refining
his unique blend of acoustic-based Nuevo Flamenco and Gypsy Jazz guitar
instrumentals. Sounding equally inspired by vintage flamenco, classical
guitar and rhumba flamenco with a touch of glowing Santana inspired
guitar moves, Hewitt clearly has the chops and, while his sound is
impeccable, its also worth noting that on the 2011 CD release
of Alma Vieja (Old Soul), Hewitt is also about emotion
and feel. The notes just flow off of Hewitt's nylon string guitars
and the melodies are memorable too. On the Alma Vieja album,
Russ reunites once again with producer Bob Parr, and several
of the key players who were also featured on the 2009 CD release of
Bajo el Solincluding Steve Winwood drummer Walfredo
Reyes Jr. and percussionist Rafael Padilla. Where Hewitt
dazzles with his usual deft flamenco jazz sound, on track 8 here,
Las Cruces, Hewitt also displays a rare compositional
knack for composing songs that could very well turn out to be instrumental
standardsfor fusion, flamenco, jazz and beyond. Texas has turned
out some of the great American rock and blues guitar pioneers of all
time, and the American Nuevo Flamenco Jazz sound gets a solid boost
with the timeless flamenco guitar groove of Alma Vieja. www.RussHewittMusic.com
an interview with
The new Alma Vieja CD is a fantastic follow up to your 2008
album Bajo el Sol. Can you say something about when and where
the Alma Vieja album was recorded, how long it took to write
and record and what was your musical approach this time?
RH: Fortunately this time I was able to record everything in one studio
(On Parr Studios) in Argyle, Texas just north of Dallas. Bajo el
Sol was recorded in 5 different studios from California to Connecticut
which proved to be logistically difficult to put all the files together.
My musical approach was to push the boundaries of the Nuevo Flamenco
genre a little bit more and add a Tango, Milonga, Samba and some Cha
Chas. I spent most of 2009 on press while 2010 was focused on song
writing and recording. 2011 was primarily spent on mixing. All the
while I was playing 200+ shows per year.
mwe3: The new CD sounds quite professionally recorded and performed.
How would you describe the chemistry between your guitar sound and
compositions and these great players on your albums?
Everybody that played on my CD is truly amazing and Im honored
that they joined me on this project. When working with high caliber
players you dont have to worry about whether or not theyre
playing in time, rushing a lick or too busy with a fill and we can
concentrate on making the song as robust as possible. Ultimately I
have the final say but Im very open to everybodys thoughts
and ideas because they understand what kind of sound and feel Im
going for. I wanted the CD to sound sonically as good if not better
than any major label release, which is why we spent almost a year
on mixing. With all the effort spent up to this point it would be
a shame if it didnt sound amazing on everything from a high
dollar stereo system to an iPod.
mwe3: What did producer Bob Parr bring to the album sound this time
and was the Alma Vieja album recorded and produced live in
the studio in a similar way to the Bajo el Sol album?
Bob becomes the mad scientist when we start in on the mixes. Ive
worked with him for almost 10 years and Im still amazed at the
thought process he goes through to get the sounds that he does. We
recorded all 11 songs live in one day with the band. We spent a couple
of days of overdubs for the rhythm guitar and a couple more days for
the lead guitar and that was it. We were close to being done with
the mixes and then brought in Charlie Bisharat to do violin and Michael
Lington to do saxophone. Some songs have up to 70 tracks going at
any given time. Unlike working in multiple studios, this time we werent
on a time table so we were able to methodically go through track by
track until we achieved what we thought was perfection.
mwe3: Did you take a different approach to the guitars played on the
Alma Vieja album and can you say something about what guitars
you feature the Alma Vieja tracks and how does your choice
of guitar strings affect the guitar sound?
I use a Godin Grand Concert SA when Im playing live but I dont
record with them. When you plug in a nylon string guitar theres
a plastic sound to it which is impossible to EQ out and
the Godin doesnt have enough body to make it sound good micd.
I used a Taylor NS72 CE Grand Concert Classical guitar on both Baja
el Sol and Alma Vieja. The sound of the guitar really cuts
through the mix and I dont have to fight the frequencies of
the other instruments. I use DAddario hard tension strings but
I recently discovered, and have been using a wound 3rd string made
by Hannabach that I really like.
mwe3: How did you become interested in the flamenco / jazz guitar
sound and what genres of guitar and what guitarists interest you the
RH: I discovered Ottmar Liebert and the Gipsy Kings while I was studying
classical guitar in college. I always enjoyed the style but it wasnt
until after I graduated that I started to play it live. I love traditional
flamenco guitar like Sabicas and Paco de Lucia but because the technique
is different than classical, I really couldnt do both at the
same time. Im not a huge fan of traditional jazz, though I can
appreciate what is involved. I love Gypsy Jazz guitar and you can
hear the influence of that style in my solos. I always get excited
when I see a great guitar player regardless of what style of music
it is. Recently Ive been getting into Guthrie Govan and Stochelo
mwe3: Can you say something about where you grew up and how the music
of your youth made an impact on your guitar playing?
I grew up in a small town in Texas with a population of 10,000 and
there wasnt much to do other than look for trouble and play
guitar. The majority of my licks and technique come from my days learning
Van Halen, Ozzy, and Iron Maiden songs as well as songs from any band
on Shrapnel Records. The style that I play now lends perfectly to
what I previously learned playing rock and metal since the chord progressions
in Nuevo Flamenco are very similar to some of the styles I grew up
playing. The chord progressions Im playing now are very similar
to learning to solo over the chord progression changes of Mr.
Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne.
mwe3: It looks like the Alma Vieja CD is getting some great
press around the globe. What are your plans as far as bringing your
CDs and guitar playing to music lovers far and wide.
RH: One of the big advantages today of being an independent artist
is the digital age we live in. With iTunes worldwide and the internet
its been a real game changer on being able to reach places and
get my music heard in places I couldnt have imagined 10 years
ago. Im currently working with booking agents on the logistics
of touring overseas and hope to have more news on that soon.
Do you have other interests outside of music including hobbies and
RH: Ive played several shows to raise money for local charities.
As far as hobbies, Im so consumed with music, whether it be
writing, promoting or playing live, I dont have time for much
else. My little free time is spent hanging out with my wife, two Siberian
Huskies and Siamese cat.
mwe3: Thanks Russ, best of luck on the new album!
RH: Thank you for all of your help and support in getting my music
Thanks to Russ Hewitt @ www.RussHewittMusic.com