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. www.GregSmithGuitar.com
mwe3.com 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 whats the musical chemistry like between the
Well, I hadnt 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
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 usDon 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 tunesone 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 Ive
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.
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 Ive 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 hundreds 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!
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
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, its 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. Whats your background with Chick and
Larry and how did they impact your playing?
GS: Ive 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! Hes definitely one of my favorite musicians, ever. Larry
Ive known for around 12 years and Ive taken lessons with
him, arranged a concert for him to do in my hometown and Ive
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 themI 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 Tonys creamy
studio reverb, this effect was very cool and reflected the sound of
peacocks calling back and forth through the night...serendipitous
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
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 @ www.GregSmithGuitar.com