Smooth Artist Interviews
Tell us about your first guitar.
I first got interested in playing the guitar, because I heard a friend playing one over the telephone. He played a popular song and I said, "You play guitar?" He said, "yes." So I asked him to teach me, he said, "Do you have a guitar?" Of course, I did not. So I asked my mom, and she said, "Ask your grandmother." So I did and that following Christmas I got my first guitar, a Crestwood electric guitar and amplifier! It was a red and yellow sunburst color with a whammy bar. This was a great first instrument for a beginner. I did not know how to play, but all that Christmas I tried to play the latest songs that came on the radio. Thank you Grand Ma!
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
My father played Jazz music all day long, but most of the musicians were horn players or keyboard players. I was then introduced to the guitar and a player by the name of Wes Montgomery. I loved that sound as soon as I heard it. I remember asking my father what instrument is that? And he said that's a guitar. He than started playing more guitar players that influenced me... like B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Joe pass, etc. But when I was introduced to George Benson and that live album, WEEKEND IN L.A. that guitar style impressed me the most and still does today.
What made you start playing jazz?
As a child growing up, my father played Jazz records all day long. From King Pleasure to Miles Davis to Lee Morgan. My mother on the other hand liked more popular music like James Brown, Roger and Zapp, the Motown sound like The Temptations, Marvin Gay, Stevie Wonder, Al Green as well as George Clinton and Funkadelic. Growing up as a child this was the music I remember and I loved. So it was a natural progression to play the music that could best express my inner emotions.
What’s your favorite non-musical activity?
Back in the day even before I was focused in on Music, I thought I could be a professional bowler. As a youth, I grew up bowling in several youth leagues advancing into adult bowling leagues (18 years or older). I thought I was an accomplished bowler, then I begin to gamble. (In bowling it’s called jackpotting). Where you would get 15 or 20 bowlers everyone would bet $25 and the high man gets the pot. As a youth, this is how I bought my very first archtop guitar designed by my guitar hero George Benson. I bought an Ibanez GB 10, all from gambling and bowling. Now my favorite non-musical activity, believe it or not, is basketball. I feel like it’s similar to music where you have to be creative with the tools that you possessed and then work on moves to perfect them and become a better player. So basketball and bowling are my favorite non-musical activities.
How did this album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
My newest CD project is entitled Remembering You. This project is dedicated to my fiancé who made her transition to heaven in Feb. 2016. I met Shaunia at a mutual musician's Friends house. She happened to be in the gospel group, Special Gift. This group had ties to Marvin Winans and Donnie McClurkin all tied to Perfecting Church in Detroit, Michigan. Unfortunately, the leader of their group became ill and made her transition to heaven. That was such a drastic blow to the drive of the group that Shaunia started seeking other avenues to continue her musical career. I met her and she mentioned that she wanted to start singing more Jazz oriented music. After hearing her voice and how she blended with others, I Asked her to join the band as a background/lead singer. After several recordings, like I'm Here for you (I'll never leave you), It's Christmas and several gigs we begin to fall in love and I asked her to marry me. We were scheduled to be married June 18, 2016, but she fell ill and made her transition to heaven. My project Remembering You is dedicated to our season together, it will depict certain things that happen in our lives and what I really want people to get out of this project is that we are here to share our lives together. We are also here to bring good times great memories and spread love in every way. Remembering always, the more you give, the more you will receive!
Of your touring and gigs so far in your career do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?
Back in August 2014, we had the opportunity to perform on an Alexander Zonjic event entitled Jazz on the River. Each year this event is held in Trenton Michigan at a place known as Elizabeth Lake Park. The event attracts 10 to 20,000 music fans and it’s free. Elizabeth Lake Park stage is set up with a lake backdrop. This event was a very special event, not only was this My first Alexander Zonjic event but I had the opportunity to meet and perform with the likes of Harvey Mason, Peter White, Andreas Varady, a most incredible young guitarist, the Ohio Players and of course headlining was none other than Mr. Al Jarreau. Al Jarreau has been an inspiration to me since the day I heard him I was probably around 9 or 10 years old. As we found out later this was Al Jarreau’s last tour. I felt very fortunate and blessed to meet and be a part of his farewell concert.