Voyage Of The Troubadour
(White Gates Publishing)


Northern California based guitarist Jack Gates exhibits a mastery of a wide range of jazz guitar genres on the 2014 CD release of Voyage Of The Troubadour. Assisted by the fine rhythm section of Phil Thompson (drums) and Dean Muench (bass), as well as featuring the vocals of Sharyl Gates, the 12 track CD is best described as a mix of Latin, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban sounds all accented by Jack’s nimble fretboard work. Commenting on the title, Jack adds, ‘The traveling troubadour concept, was how music moved from place to place for hundreds of years. Generally, the music was made with just a couple of stringed instruments and maybe some percussion. On this album I wanted to capture that sort of sparseness with just a few instruments and occasional voice, and have the music subtly reflect different styles, motifs and rhythms that I have discovered and enjoyed playing during my career.’ As a guitar instrumentalist, Jack Gates proves his worth on his latest CD, while the addition of Sharyl's vocals on several tracks adds to the overall variety of music showcased here. Jack Gates' Voyage Of The Troubadour is a masterpiece of subtle and refined jazz guitar sounds. www.JackGatesMusic.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with

: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it?

JACK GATES: I am originally from Kensington, California, near U.C. Berkeley. I am now located in El Sobrante, California, which is more rural. My wife, Sharyl and I enjoy hiking in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park which is adjacent to our house. We have horses and other animals on the property and there is a lot of wildlife nearby, and this provides marvelous inspiration for musical thinking and playing.

mwe3: What did you set out to achieve on the
Voyage Of The Troubadour album? Is there a musical evolution there? Why did you decide to use that title for the Voyage Of The Troubadour album?

JACK GATES: My experience as a sideman, bandleader, producer and arranger has brought me into contact with musicians from all corners of the globe. The opportunity to play the music of Brazil, East India, Peru, Spain and many other countries, with folkloric, jazz and popular musicians steeped in those traditions, has provided me with a rich melodic, harmonic and stylistic vocabulary.

The CD, Voyage Of The Troubadour, is an exploration of some of these musical places, shaped by my own guitaristic vision that uses elements of jazz, classical, flamenco and samba/bossa nova techniques and flavors.

mwe3: What was it like growing up during the golden era of the 1960's Berkeley and San Francisco music scene? I was reading you even attended classes with Julian Bream? What was that like? How did you get interested in classical guitar and jazz during and era when rock was so influential and how do you balance your love of all the different musical and guitar genres?

JACK GATES: I was very lucky to hear the finest musicians of the psychedelic era, including The Grateful Dead, Santana, Azteca, Tower Of Power. These bands often played for free in Provo Park in Berkeley, which seems incredible in our current age.

Local musicians that I performed with, such as drummer Tyler Eng, went onto success with Greg Kihn, Santana and many other bands. Members of Credence Clearwater Revival attended my high school and lived in my neighborhood when I was growing up.

I heard many iconic legends of the electric guitar, so this had a profound influence on my concept of sound, touch, amplification, bending of notes, vibrato, etc.

I became fascinated with classical guitar, studied with David Tanenbaum and was able to audit a fantastic master class that Julian Bream gave in San Francisco. It was a remarkable display of musical interpretation, passion for the guitar and incredible control of tone color using no amplification, just a highly refined right hand technique.

The guitar has always fascinated me, initially I didn’t see the acoustic guitar, electric, classical, rock worlds as being unrelated. I have always viewed the instrument as a musical palette, almost like a blank canvas that we, as guitarists can paint the notes with.

At the same time, I found that to excel in any area of guitar playing, I had to devote myself to one approach for a period of years. This was particularly true for classical guitar, which is a very demanding and technical discipline.

mwe3: I remember your great Eastern music influenced album Morning Song, Evening Song with Tim White. Was that album a result of your studying with Ali Akbar Khan? What’s new with Tim these days and do you have some fresh reflections on making that album?

JACK GATES: Tim White and I are currently in the process of creating a new duo recording, which is based on improvisations using a combination of traditional raga forms, flamenco, jazz and classical music.

Ali Akbar Khan was one of the greatest creators in the sphere of Hindustani music of the 20th Century. His contribution to music education, improvisation and creation is continuing to resonate in the 21st Century through the work of his sons, his students and many disciples.

Morning Song Evening Song was a landmark recording for us as a duo, most of the material was totally improvised using some raga like structures, but also incorporating bamboo flute and South Indian mrdangam.

Tim White has been performing some traditional Hindustani sitar music, but has also worked as a recording engineer on Derek Trucks’ recent CD. His latest release, Inhale Slowly, received the Best New Artist Award from the Zone Music Reporter for radio airplay.

mwe3: From a recording perspective, did you set out to be very eclectic on the Voyage Of The Troubadour CD? There’s quite a few genres of guitar music covered on the CD. How did you determine how many styles you wanted to cover and are there other genres of music you didn’t cover here that you wanted to?

JACK GATES: The current CD reflects my musical influences and tastes, although I listen to many more styles than I could ever perform. I do want to continue new explorations of Latin, Asian and North American musical forms.

The common sonic quality that I work with on the CD is a natural, organic sound with relatively few effects.

On the new duo CD slated for 2016, my wife, Sharyl and I are exploring music with a flamenco influence, electric music with influences of Jimi Hendrix and steel string guitar sounds influenced by Joni Mitchell.

mwe3: How would you describe Antonio Carlos Jobim’s influence on you and this album? The Voyage Of The Troubadour CD sounds like it was created for not only jazz guitar lovers but also for Jobim and Brazilian music fans too. There is a Jobim cover here, in fact the only cover I’ve heard of “So Danco Samba”. How did you find that Jobim track?

JACK GATES: Jobim is really one of the greatest composers... he discovered new ways of combining traditional Brazilian forms with jazz and classical harmony. His music uses unexpected chord combinations that have probably influenced most guitarists and composers, including my own style. Jobim’s style incorporates Afro-Brazilian, choro, samba and that becomes a springboard for my own explorations. So “Danco Samba” is an older Jobim tune that Joao Gilberto sang a beautiful version of on an early recording.

mwe3: You work a lot with your wife Sharyl on this CD. How would you describe the way you work with Sharyl and do you share the same musical influences? What is Sharyl’s background in the music / recording world? Who else was played on the Voyage CD and who else was involved in the recording process, mixing, mastering and the artwork?

JACK GATES: Sharyl and I often improvise and experiment to find new compositional ideas. Sharyl has more background in folk music and Elizabethan music and theatre. Her background as a visual artist allows her to develop lyrics with strong imagery.

The drummer on the CD is Phil Thompson, who has performed with Toniho Horta and Marcos Silva and is a master of Brazilian and Latin drumming styles. He is one of the most in demand percussionists in Northern California.

The bass player is Dean Muench. Dean is one of the directors of the Jazz School in Berkeley and has extensive experience as a sideman in Latin and jazz music.

I collaborated with Mark Allen Piccolo on the recording. I recorded all the solo and duo pieces at home. The ensemble tracks were recorded by Mark and I at guitarist George Cole’s studio.

The mixing and mastering were done by Dan Feiszli. The CD was recorded using Schoeps, Neumann and Telefunken mics in Pro Tools.

Artist Bob Giles created the cover art using photos by Sharyl Gates.

mwe3: What guitars are you featuring on the Voyage Of The Troubadour album and how do you determine what guitars you want on each track? It sounds like there’s electric guitars as well as classical guitars on the Voyage CD. What are some of your favorite guitars and what innovations or trends in the guitar world and the recording world interest you these days?

JACK GATES: The main acoustic guitars on the recording are classical guitars by Antonio Marin and John Mello. Antonio Marin is considered to be one of the greatest luthiers of Granada, Spain. John Mello is a California friend of many years, who is also a very fine luthier building excellent handmade instruments.

I prefer classical guitars with a combination of traditional Spanish and bright modern sound, so a blend of Northern and Southern European sounds.

The main electric guitar on the recording is a Telecaster copy that I assembled from Warmoth parts, that uses a Frailin bridge pickup and humbucker in the neck. The amp was a custom Clark tweed amp miced with a Beyer ribbon and Shure Sm57 on two different Alnico speakers.

mwe3: In addition to recording music, you’ve also done album production work for other artists. What are some of your favorite productions and, for those who don’t know much about how to make an album, what do you find is involved in producing an artist?

JACK GATES: My favorite production was Larry Stefl’s CD, as I got to work with two masters of Afro Cuban jazz music, John Santos and Wayne Wallace. Percussionist John Santos really created a wonderful trance like atmosphere in the studio, his hand drumming was really hypnotic.

A producer must be able to complete all the jobs in a recording process. I would often do pre production planning for hours, discover and hone arrangements, refine performance techniques, coach vocalists and instrumentalists, and worked to unlock the creativity of the artist. Many artists have illusions regarding the recording process. The most important thing is to start with good material, players and performances. If the drummer knows how to tune and set up his drums, the recording will reflect that preparation.

mwe3: How about mentioning amps and effects and stings and picks you use on the Voyage CD as well as in a live setting? How much do you let technology and computers influence your writing and recording?

JACK GATES: I usually play fingerstyle, except when I do electric solos, when I sometimes use a Fender heavy pick. I am currently using a Mesa Express 5:50 amp, but I've used a lot of vintage Fender amps in the past.

I often use Dunlop or Tomastik .11 gauge strings on electric and normal tension Galli, Augustine or Luthier brand strings on classical guitars.

If I had the option, I would record everything in analog, because I prefer the sound for most things, however, this is impractical. I do enjoy the flexibility of Pro Tools, but I have moved away from heavily edited music.

I have actually made a transition away from heavy use of computers, midi or synthesizers for my music.

mwe3: What are you hoping listeners will come away with after hearing Voyage Of The Troubadour and what other plans do you have musically for 2014 and 2015? Is there some direction you’d like to take your music in the future?

JACK GATES: The CD can be heard on many levels. If you want to bask in the sensuality of the sound, it has that aspect, but if you want to think more deeply, the music has some subtle changes of mood, style and texture for the more inquisitive listener.

Current projects include a new duo CD with my wife Sharyl Gates, and another new duo CD with sitarist Tim White.

In the future I am hoping that my recordings will become more intense, deeper, more involving and involve a more complete exploration of all the capabilities of the guitar.

Thanks To Jack & Sharyl Gates @ www.JackGatesMusic.com


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