The Ultimate Trio
(Greg Smith Music)


A mainstay of the jazz and jazz fusion guitar scene for most of the past decade, Greg Smith distills his live music history for the record with the 2012 CD release of Greg Smith And The Ultimate Trio. Recorded by Smith between 1999-2001, the 15 track Ultimate Trio CD collection captures Greg and his trio of fellow players in fine form performing solid, upbeat, well recorded live tracks that revisit some classic music from legends like Wes Montgomery, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Duke Ellington and a whole lot more. Carefully chosen from over 50 live, modern jazz performances, these 15 tracks are accurately described in the liner notes as containing "the highest level of warm musical conversations between three good friends". As far as instrumental jazz guitar goes, it rarely gets better than Greg Smith, who already has a sizable jazz fan base thanks to his acclaimed CD releases Above The Clouds and his solo acoustic guitar CD simply called Beyond. presents an interview with

mwe3: Can you say something about the events that led to the making of your new CD The Ultimate Trio? Where and when were the tracks recorded live and what’s the musical chemistry like between the trio?

GS: Well, I hadn’t done a CD for about 3 years. I debated doing a CD of all originals. I actually wrote and recorded a piece called “Beams”, intended for a new all originals CD, which you can hear on my You Tube channel-search under my channel name for it “SMOGFRUIT”.

I remembered doing a bunch of gigs back in 1999-2001 with the Ultimate Trio which were a lot of fun. I had recorded every gig on a cheap 4 track cassette machine and I basically threw them in a box after one listen on the way home from each gig. I decided to listen to each tape to see if anything was useable. I was very surprised at the level of playing for the 3 of us—Don Hood on drums, Jeff Avrin on bass and myself on guitar. I had around 45 tapes, and over 300 tunes. I went through them and whittled the load down to about 70 useable recordings. I took them to recording engineer wizard Tony Rockliff, who, using Samplitude recording software, digitally remastered the tunes. Next was the process of deciding which tunes to use, which was not an easy task, because I liked each one!. But eventually I narrowed it down to 15 tunes—one of which, “ The Peacocks” I decided to record newly, which I did in December of last year as a solo piece. The recording were mostly done at A Taste For Wine, a venue I’ve been playing in St. Petersburg, Florida for around 15 years. I still play solo guitar there. There is definitely a chemistry between Don, Jeff and myself when we play, mainly because we are close friends and have been so for over 20 years. A lot of time our performances come out like conversation as a result.

mwe3: How do you compare the sound and musical mission of the Ultimate Trio CD with your first two solo albums Above The Clouds and Beyond?

GS: Above The Clouds was basically a gathering up of originals I had written over the last 30 years, and I arranged it primarily for acoustic guitar, along with some overdubbed guitar synth instruments. Beyond reflects the main tunes I’ve played on hundreds of solo gigs over the years, each of which have a skeletal arrangement, but which comes out different each time I play a given tune, approaching each with an improvisational approach. Greg Smith And The Ultimate Trio is a different approach, as it is three musicians as opposed to myself only, and it is a distillation of hundred’s of tunes down to the best live performances. We played very on the edge when we performed, taking a lot of chances. I guess you could say this recording reflects a group of guys hightailing it through some rough terrain on the edge of their seats, with the resultant spur of the moment exciting creations!

mwe3: Are these artists you cover on the Ultimate Trio CD your main guitar inspirations? How does Wes compare as an influence on you compared to say Monk, Miles and Duke, who are also covered by you on the new CD.

GS: My taste is very eclectic. I love everything from Bob Dylan to ‘Trane to Eddie Van Halen to Ravel to Shoenberg to Michael Brecker to Chet Atkins to Chick Corea to Tommy Emmanuel to Pat Martino... I could go on with this list forever, it’s fun doing it! But I very definitely listen to and enjoy way more that just guitar. I love working out Bill Evans piano arrangements for guitar, Michael Brecker sax solos on guitar, Bach pieces, Ragtime stuff, Japanese koto music, etc, etc... So you can tell I like a big mix. The fun thing about The Ultimate Trio was I took jazz standards by my favorite composers and recordings by Bird, Diz, Corea, Shorter, Ellington, Coryell, McLaughlin, on and on, from a music lab type approach, “Hey, I always wanted to play this tune, lets do it!”, type thing. And my most favorite setting to perform in is definitely a guitar trio. I have total command over the harmonic and melodic approaches I create and I mesh with the guitar and bass rhythmically to create an integrated sound! Nothing like it in my estimation!

mwe3: I also noticed quotes about you from both Chick Corea and Larry Coryell on your playing. What’s your background with Chick and Larry and how did they impact your playing?

GS: I’ve known Chick for over 35 years, have jammed with him a few times and I even gave him a few guitar lessons, believe it or not! He’s definitely one of my favorite musicians, ever. Larry I’ve known for around 12 years and I’ve taken lessons with him, arranged a concert for him to do in my hometown and I’ve hung out with him several times, a great player and guy. Both were gracious enough to give me a nice quote about my playing that I was able to put on the first page of my web site.

mwe3: What guitars are you playing on the Ultimate Trio CD?

GS: On The Ultimate Trio CD I used an Ibanez L-4 copy from the so-called “lawsuit era” when Gibson sued Ibanez basically for making great guitars. The guitars from that era are definitely some of the finest instruments you can buy and I highly recommend them—I own several. The last tune on the CD, “The Peacocks” I recorded on my Taylor acoustic for a completely different approach. A funny story about that recording: My neighborhood has wild peacocks living in it. They make a haunting calling sound back and forth throughout the night. The tune has some parts of the melody Jimmy Rowles incorporated into it that has a musical interpretation of this back and forth call of these birds. Well, I went to record this piece using my home software, recording it dry, no reverb I played the piece and noticed, at first to my dismay there was a short in the right/ left stereo hook up and the result was the sound would randomly travel back and forth from right to left speakers and at times settling together as a true stereo sound. I took the track to the studio and when we added in some of Tony’s creamy studio reverb, this effect was very cool and reflected the sound of peacocks calling back and forth through the night...serendipitous or what!

mwe3: What are your future plans as far as writing, recording and any possible live shows?

GS: The future is open! I have a group with a very good friend, Gary Relkin, The New York Guitar Cats that I play weekly around the Tampa Bay area. I continue to do solo gigs at various venues, and we will probably do an Ultimate Trio CD release party sometime soon. As for recording, I definitely will do a largely original CD soon, containing the tune "Beams", and it will be very eclectic as always, with me digging into my treasure chest of influences and putting it together in a way that is exciting and pleasing to listen to.

Thanks to Greg Smith @


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