Month: January 2014

Review: DAVID COHEN GUITAR by Maria Thompson Corley

This Review is a reprinted with permission from Maria Thompson Corley and 

Available at: iTunes & CD Baby
Artist website:

by Maria Thompson Corley
Even though I don’t particularly want to fall into the trap laid by the marketers of jewelry, cards and chocolates, as February 14 approaches I nevertheless find myself thinking about love.  Because I have to admit that when two people find in each other true companionship, it’s beautiful, and deserves celebration.
The Song of Songs says, love is strong as death.  But when death takes one we love, what do we do?  If you’re a maharajah, perhaps you build a majestic edifice.  And if you’re a musician, perhaps you compose something as a way to process your grief, as Johannes Brahms did with his Four Serious Songs, inspired by the passing of his dear friend, Clara Schumann. David Cohen a classical guitarist from Philadelphia and his beloved wife Tanya were together for 17 years, 16 of those as husband and wife.  On Valentine’s Day of 2011, she went to the hospital for a chemotherapy appointment and stayed there. The cancer that would claim her life eleven days later had spread from her ovaries to her liver. So that February 14 was their last together. The CD David Cohen: Guitar is his Latin-tinged Taj Mahal.
First, a few confessions:  1.  David Cohen is my friend,  2.  I have a secret fantasy about taking Latin dance lessons, and 3.  My only brother died of cancer.  The pieces on this CD were a way for David to process his very personal grief, but as I listened to them, I found that they spoke to me, too.
Not surprisingly, each track has a deeply personal connection to Tanya’s life and passing.
The first track, a rumba, is called “Breath;” the full title is “One More Breath, Just to Say How Much We Love You.”  It is full of rhythmic drive and interest; I wouldn’t have guessed at its subject matter.
“Letters to Joann” refers to a woman David met playing the bagpipes two weeks after Tanya’s death.  He hadn’t practiced and his thoughts were, understandably, elsewhere until Joann thanked him for playing, confiding that she had just finished her first round of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.  When she was diagnosed, she’d thought she would never hear the bagpipes again.  The piece, which is inspired by the playing of Joni Mitchell, was meant to contrast David’s tension when he doesn’t hear from her with his joy when he does.  I hear more tension than joy in this piece, which again contains the constant syncopation that is characteristic of many of the pieces on this recording, although the end does seem more upbeat.
The joyful “Every Minute in Paris” grew out of a conversation during Tanya’s hospitalization when she asked David if he could remember a recent time when they’d had fun together, and he told her he remembered every minute in Paris. A week after her death, this piece came to him “in an explosion in my head from start to end.”
“Turn Towards Me,” which is also very upbeat, refers to Tanya’s being a dental hygienist.  She loved working with her patients, who loved her back. Joan Armatrading was an influence on this piece, the only one that wasn’t written to “control through sound” David’s grief.
“The Last Genuine Smile,” which, unlike the other pieces, was written specifically to be technically challenging (which was influenced by both Bach and Michael Dunford), refers to a time when Tanya was in remission. She and David had canceled a cruise when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, but were finally able to go about a year before she died.  When they returned, so had the cancer.  A picture taken in the dining hall, which David brought to surprise her, showed them cheek to cheek, smiling and full of hope.  In David’s words, “I look at that now and realize that was my last genuine smile.”  I must admit that I didn’t find this piece emotionally engaging, despite the subject matter.
I feel just the opposite way about “Saying Goodbye,” which was the result of an aural hallucination so real to David as he was bidding farewell to Tanya that he looked up, thinking that someone was playing music nearby.  This is a beautiful piece, full of emotion.
“Cold Rain” came to him similarly, while he was standing at her graveside in a damp and chilly March day, wishing she could be there with him to feel the rain, which is represented by a tremolo that also conveys his tension.
“In My Dreams, We Fly” was inspired by a vivid dream he had about Tanya that left him surprised, happy, and confused because he remembered seeing her in her coffin. She said “Yeah, but dying won’t stop me”. They flew around like birds, holding each other, and then he realized he was dreaming and started crying so loudly that he woke himself up. The mournful opening yields to an exuberant rumba.
The title, “Power of Attorney” refers to Tanya’s request that David act as her voice in conveying her love to their grandchildren.  Again, I hear the influence of Bach, despite the use of seconds; rather appropriately, I don’t hear a lot of grief, perhaps because the piece is based on a township jive rhythm.
My second favorite track is “Tatyana,” which was Tanya’s formal Russian name.  A celebration of who she was, it is in a major key. Since the CD was recorded in order, this piece came last. By this time, David was so comfortable in the studio with his producer, Phil Romeo, that he felt free to improvise, so that what started as a guitar tremolo piece became a piece for pipa (one of several other instruments David plays), played on the guitar.
The folk-tinged bonus track, “Tabernacle Tea,” was written years earlier and used by Fox Chase Cancer Center as background music for one of their training videos.  This is my least favorite track on the CD, which may be due to the fact that I’m generally not fond of folk music.
David told me that Tanya’s final days were full of laughter, music, and libations—a going home party, in a sense.  So even though there are moments that ache with emotion, most of David Cohen: Guitar will leave you more inspired to dance than to weep, which is the best way to celebrate the kind of love that transcends the annual mid-February dose of hearts and flowers.

Maria Thompson Corley is a Julliard-trained concert pianist and published novelist. She lives in Lancaster, PA.

Allen Krantz Classical Guitarist Interview w/ David Cohen

Originally published 1/13

Allen Krantz
Sunday January13, 3013
Settlement Music School 3pm

ALLEN KRANTZ, a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory and Stanford University, has received acclaim as a composer, solo guitarist, and chamber musician. His performances throughout the United States have included appearances at Carnegie Hall, Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the Phillips Collection in Washington, with his diverse programs often featuring original compositions.

Recent premieres have included “Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra”; “Passacaglia” for trombone, guitar and piano, premiered by Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic; and “American Document” commissioned by the Martha Graham Dance Company and premiered at the Joyce Theater in NY. Other recent pieces are “Sacred Places” for solo guitar; “A Musical Walk”, a children’s piece commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra; a symphony entitled “In the Air”, and “Under One Roof”, a trio for trumpet violin and piano in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“An American Town” for string orchestra, commissioned by the Village Bach Festival in Michigan was also presented at the Moscow Autumn festival and in Australia. Jason Vieaux performed Krantz’s guitar concerto, “Innocence and Experience”, at the Darwin International Guitar Festival in Australia and with Orchestra 2001 in Philadelphia. “anyone lived in a pretty how town”, commissioned by Gretna Music, has been performed by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit in Saratoga and Philadelphia. Krantz’s arrangement of Copland’s Appalachian Spring sketches were presented at the Library of Congress with the Martha Graham Company.

Allen Krantz is composer in residence for the Philadelphia based chamber ensemble, 1807 & Friends, which has premiered many of his works. Allen Krantz has received support from the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance among others.

Krantz heads the guitar program of The New School Institute at Temple University. He also gives occasional courses on music history and is a lecturer for the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is a core member of the Dolce Suono Ensemble, and performs in “Duo Paganini” and the “Florian Trio” with violinist Nancy Bean and cellist Lloyd Smith. Krantz’s compositions are published by the Theodore Presser Co. and Falls House Press His solo and chamber music arrangements for the guitar are published by International Music. Allen Krantz’s recordings for the DTR label include “Summer Music” , “The Romantic Guitar”, and “The Philadelphia Connection”. He has also recorded for Albany and Crystal Records labels.

David Cohen: I remember hearing your name in Philadelphia as a classical guitarist in my early days of studying the instrument. Are you originally from Philly?

Allen Krantz: I am from Connecticut and came to Philadelphia in1979.

David: When did you pick up guitar?

Allen: I played violin and piano when I was younger but it was in my teen years that I picked up the guitar. It was mostly blues, folk and jazz. I went through the whole progression. I started to get serious about classical guitar in my first year of college.

David: When you went to college that’s when you picked up classical guitar?

Allen: That’s when I officially took my first classical guitar lesson after trying to teach myself a little bit. There was very nice teacher at Washington University where I went so it was in my freshman year that I started doing it.

David: Did you enter school for composition?

Allen No, I went to Washington University promising my parents that I would get a basic liberal arts education. After one year I changed my major to music. After my second year even my teacher suggested I go to a conservatory, he felt I had out grown him. Washington University was a very interesting place. But he felt I had out grown him and it was very good of him to suggest I go to a conservatory. Then I went to San Francisco Conservatory where I was a guitar major. When I was there I got very interested in renaissance and baroque music. It was a hot bed of activity at Berkeley and Stanford. A lot of my best teachers at the conservatory were graduate students who came up from Stanford. So I got this idea that that’s were I should go so I went there to graduate school at Stanford and studied early music performance and received my Masters there. It’s funny at the at that point everybody urged me that the best guitar programs were in California.

David: That has changes a lot.

Allen: Of course, Julliard has a guitar program Curtis was the last and now has one. In those days there were still other programs – Mannes College had one for instance. At that time Christopher Parkening and Michael Lorimer were the two best know guitarists in America and I went to San Francisco to specifically study with Lorimer.

David: What about Parkening?

Allen: Well, he is a friend of mine. I was there when Parkening was becoming famous. I think his recordings were some of the most beautiful ever made on the guitar. He told me he played differently on recording than he played in concert. He understood how recording worked which Segovia never did. He played to himself in the studio, which Segovia never did. Segovia played the same way in concert and in the studio. The recordings of the 1970’s are gorgeous. The sheer passion of his playing and the colors that he gets has been rarely done so beautifully. I got to be friends with him and spent a lot of time hanging out with him and learned a lot just sitting next to him and listening to him play or he would listen to me and he would give me advice about colors. David: We’re talking days when people were selling out the big halls. Allen: Well you know the guitar was like tennis in the 1970’s. Classical guitar had a growth spurt. Up until then it was Segovia and a handful of other people. There were a lot of people of my age who grew up with the guitar and then naturally followed to classical guitar – in my case especially since I had a classical background. So it was almost a fad in the 1970’s

David: Do you think the popularity has diminished?

Allen: No, I think it’s taken its rightful place in the great scheme of things. I think it’s continued to grow. Yesterday I was adjudicating the Astral auditions. They had four guitarists audition and they were all outstanding. The level of guitar playing continues to grow as it does in other instruments in terms of technique prowess I think the guitar is much more established as part of the musical landscape.

Part 2

David: I read an interview with John Williams where in the course of the interview said that classical guitarists are notorious for being bad sight-readers. What do you see as issues guitarists have to address?

Allen: I’m a very good sight-reader only because I made a point of it. I do think that the guitar is a hard instrument to sight read on. It’s harder than most instruments because we’re playing polyphonic music and also because it’s not laid out in the logical way like the piano is laid out. I do encourage my students to spend a little time every day practicing sight-reading.

David: Other obstacles?

Allen: Well, there are a couple fundamental obstacles that are a natural part of the guitar. Number one- the average guitarist spends too much time playing by themselves and playing solo music and they can develop indulgent bad musical habits, if they played more chamber music that would be corrected. They wouldn’t be able to get away with it. That is one tendency I think is changing. I’ve always considered that one function of mine-to write guitar chamber music, which I’ve written quite a bit of. I think it’s healthy for the guitar that we don’t sit in the corner and play by ourselves-as much as I like solo guitar music. We also participate as chamber music players and we have a surprisingly rich heritage of chamber music if we look for it. What goes along with that is most guitarists play to softly. Go play with a violin and see what happens. I think guitar makers who are building louder guitars are addressing some of that. I think the average guitarist plays too much to themselves and they need to over come those two things.

David: Do you have a specific piece that you wrote that is your favorite?

Allen: It’s hard to be objective they’re your children. I think one that I feel best about is a trio that I wrote for guitar, violin and cello. I’m very happy in fact and my desire is to have other people play them. There is an up and coming guitarist named Adam Levin who lives in Boston, he is playing it a number of times this year around the country in different venues. He’s playing it in Chicago and I’m going out there as the guest composer on this chamber music series he is part of. I like that piece a lot, when he heard it he it he got very excited about it. That’s one piece I feel good about. I feel good about my Guitar Concerto that Jason Vieaux has played a number of times. It’s for guitar and chamber orchestra.

David: Does being a classical guitarist give you a different perspective?

Allen: Yes, Bruckner is an example of somebody who was a great orchestral composer and you can really tell he approached the orchestra differently because his instrument was the organ. His orchestral music really has that imprint of his organ background. I’d like to think my guitar background gives me a little different way to think of things.

David: Is the guitar a hard instrument to write for?

Allen: Yes, I know it is. I think the guitar is the hardest instrument to write for. It has so many idiosyncrasies that make it difficult to anticipate unless you play it yourself. So I think the best advice is what Segovia use to do. He’d have composers listen to a few pieces and get a sense of the texture and basically say just write, don’t inhibit yourself and I’ll help you correct the details. I think composers who don’t play the guitar should take an approach like that. To make the guitar sound natural is really tough. I’ve worked a lot with composers, as long as they have basic idea of the right sound and texture and try not to make it sound like a grand piano. Usually you work with them and hold theirs hands a little bit and show them some options of what they want to do. And then there are the composers who write successfully for the guitar in a limited way because they treat it like a violin. So it is really hard to write for the guitar especially solo guitar music without playing it. To me the most impressive example of that is the Britten Nocturnal at least in the standard repertoire. A lot of the best pieces have been written with a guitarist on the scene working with the composer.

David: Was your piece Small Symphony for Saxophone and Electric Guitar written with a specific electric guitar in mind?

Allen: I wanted it to have a bridge between a classical symphony but with the expressivity of a blues guitar. I guess I was thinking of your typical blues guitar can play that like a Stratocaster. Theres a lot of places in that also where you play it with finger style. In a sense the way Jimi Hendrix would play Little Wing, beautiful quasi-acoustic sounding. I wanted to treat the guitar in that way. I’d love to write a concerto for electric guitar and orchestra. That’s in the back of my mind.

David: Do you have an electric guitar?

Allen: It’s actually a Stratocaster copy. It’s a Casio that I bought when I use to do commercial music. It’s a Midi guitar and it actually functions quite nicely as a Strat.

David: What kind of commercial music did you write?

Allen: I went through a stage in the late 1980’s early 1990’s where I was writing TV and radio commercials.

David: Was it a stage or necessity?

Allen: It was a stage. If it were out of necessity I would still be doing it. What happed was I was getting restless and I had an opportunity to write at a fairly high level. My first job was an American Express commercial. That’s what jump-started me as a composer. Getting to write commercials and film scores.

David: What else have I bought as a result of your music?

Allen: Well it was American Express and Molson Ale that were the big radio campaigns. I did it for maybe eight to ten years. It justified composing as a viable profession. The funny thing was that once I stared doing it I realized that how much I wanted to do it but was afraid of it but was now getting paid and it justified it. And it was doing film where I was able to be myself and then I got some opportunities to write chamber music and I realized this is what I really want to be doing. Making a living as a classical composer is pretty difficult. Of course by the time I got there I cared less about the difficulty because it’s what I wanted to do.

David: Do consider yourself a guitarist/composer or a composer/guitarist?

Allen: (Laughter) It depends on what day you ask me that question. It’s true, that’s the challenge of my life. I love both and find it very difficult to do both at the same time. That’s what my challenge is trying to plan my day well enough or plan my schedule well enough because I find when I’m composing especially if I have a commission that has a dead line to it, it takes over. I love the fact that it takes over and it’s difficult to practice with the intensity for a concert and vice –a-versa. I have a juggling act. It’s not hard to pick up the guitar when I’m out of practice but it’s hard to pick up composing when I’m out of practice. That’s something I’d like to try and improve in my life. Which is just that I don’t get really intensely into composing mode and then drop it and lose that momentum. I find it painful to get started again. I think I’ll compose better if I keep those gears going.

David: Will we ever see you perform a program of just your music?
Allen: I would never say never maybe that would be a nice thing at some point. I’d feel better If somebody else wanted to do it.
David: That’s the composer in you.
Allen: Yes it is! I really find it hard playing my own pieces. My guitar pieces are pretty difficult. I have to just be one of the musicians and I don’t mind playing one or two pieces but a whole program would kill me.
David: Emotionally or technically?
Allen: Emotionally! It is an interesting thought I shouldn’t rule it out. It isn’t something I’ve worried about but you know in a way it would be a pretty cool thing now that you’ve raised the question. I think I’ve written enough guitar chamber music. I would put the electric guitar piece on there, woodwinds and strings. There would be a good variety and a make a nice program.

David: What kind of guitar do you use?

Allen: I’m playing on a Delarue which I bought from Bob Page at the Classical Guitar Store. He came over to my house one day and I was not in the market for a guitar. He wanted me to see this for my Temple students and then I played it and it was like WOW!

David: What kind of strings do you use?
Allen: Hannabach.
David: Can you tell me about your program on Sunday?
Allen: I’m playing the Sarabande from the Bach Cello Suite it’s like a prayer to start the concert with. Then I am playing five fantasies from de Milano who I have really begun to appreciate in the past few year’s. Why in fact he is so important I’m constantly being amazed at how beautiful, deep and sophisticated his music is. I understand why he was called “El Davino” in the 16th century. In the program it lists that I am paying four but I’ve added one. And then a great Sonata by Wencelas Matiegka who is also a recent discovery in the past six years. I’ve now played through all eleven of his sonatas and he clearly has the largest body and most important body of large form guitar music from the early 19th century. To find somebody in the era of Beethoven and Schubert who was comfortable with sophisticated large sonata form was exciting to me so I’m playing the Bmi Sonata.
In the second half of program is my transcription of Spanish Dance no. 11 by Granados. That’s not played as a solo guitar piece usually and I’am finishing with Sephardic Life by Michael White. It was written for Peter Segal who founded the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society. It’s beautiful and that’s an example of Michael writing it with Peter’s participation.

Congratulation to Allen and his wife Susan who were married last week.

Renaissance’s Michael Dunford Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitarist Phila. July 2011

Michael Dunford
All to often I do not heed reminders that life is short and not to put things off. It’s a lesson I still haven’t learned although I get closer with each reminder. A reminder was served on November 21, 2012 when the band Renaissance posted on their Face Book page that their guitarist Michael Dunford passed away on November 20, 2012. There was not a longterm illness. Michael had just returned home after the first leg of the bands North American Tour. He was dining with his family and suffered a massive instantaneous cerebral hemorrhage. He was rushed to the hospital where the doctors declared his condition irreversible and terminal. He never regained consciousness and passed away on November 20, 2012 surrounded by family.
Michael Dunford is a guitarist who had a huge, huge, huge influence and impact on me. It was in the mid-seventies that his rhythms, leads and compositions for the band Renaissance lead me to pick up the classical guitar. I devoured everything he did and the diet lasted through the eighties, nineties and the later releases after Renaissance.
When the announcement was in made 2011 that Annie Haslam (Renaissance lead singer) and Michael Dunford were re-uniting and a tour was looming I moved fast on tring to interview Michael. It was through Annie Haslam whom I interviewed a few years ago that I was able to contact Michael. What a rush for a Renaissance fan! Annie Haslam put me in touch with my guitar hero Michael Dunford. We spoke for fifty minutes. He was great. He was very opened to all of my questions including some I felt difficult to ask about his solo career.
When I was conducting the research for this interview very little information was found on this amazing musician. The decision was made that the interview would be to honor this man. As my life was complicated from dealing with the loss of my wife to ovarian cancer, finishing college, writing the music that would become my first CD, along with my gigs and teaching, I never sat down to transcribe the interview. In my mind there was all the time in the world. As all the time in the world passed by, posting the interview would have to be done at a noteworthy time for the band whether it be the release of their new studio album Renaissance Grandine il Ventoor or the completion of the tour that was currently underway. The goal was to contact Michael for a follow up interview to give the theme a before and after aspect. What started out to be something to honor Michael Dunford is now sadly also in tribute.
Part 1
David Cohen: Did you study classical guitar?

Michael Dunford: I haven’t been taught at all. I have not had any lesson of any description. In fact I do remember I when I would pick up the guitar in my early teens my dad wanted me to have lessons and go forth, here I’m going back to when I wasn’t to keen on being in a band, I never did. You don’t think then that you would look back with regret.

Cohen: One of my introductions to classical guitar was early press for Renaissance that spoke of how all the band members studied classical music. I was young and didn’t know you could study music in school.

Dunford: I think that wasn’t accurate at all. In the original band John Tout was taught classical piano. After a certain level I don’t think he went on or got a degree.

Cohen: Did you just want to play the blues?

Dunford: I certainly wasn’t right to play anything like that at that time. It was mostly playing covers of hits and all sorts of different things. I was in a band and it was in the days when the Musician Union over here did not allow certain artists mainly from the U.S. to bring their own bands here. So the artists had to pick up a band here. We were with an agency and we did quite a lot of that. The biggest name was Jerry Lee Lewis. We toured extensively with him, another was John Lee hooker, there were quite a few. We kept busy touring it was fantastic! Jerry Lee was like a monster and he sort of took it out on the drummer. Even on stage, because it wasn’t what he was use to or what he wanted. It was awful and embarrassing but in the end we won him over it was great, we had a good time but he was a bit of a hairy mess to begin with. John Lee Hooker was so laid back and so cool and completely different. Great experiences!

Cohen: Was there a period where you questioned whether you would be able to make a living in music?

Dunford: It was all very exciting. I remember after playing in various bands obviously I had to go out to work but during that period I was in a band The Nashville Teens and we had an offer to go to Germany I think I was nineteen, to play at the famous Star Club in Hamburg where the Beatles played. I remember we had to play fifty-minute sets for six or eight hours each night and it would kill our fingers it was just murderous and in that induction we all had jobs and we thought this will be great and we were very successful. Coming back I had gotten glandular fever, which really lays into you for a time, with that they replaced me. I had to get a job so I worked at Heathrow Airport for a while. Then I met up with a couple old mates and decided to give it a go and got a manager again and off we went. That was the time when I did turn professional. I was living at home so I didn’t have obviously the expenses and my good parents were very patient, let it go to a certain level before they started saying I had to go out for a proper job. It could have carried on and one thing led to another.

But to answer your question it really was taking a chance and it didn’t work for me as such but then I decided to do it and I went into it again. Once it’s in your blood it’s hard to let it go.

Cohen: That was in the early days of rock & roll and you mentioned that your parents were patient. Did it ever come down to them saying Michael you have to get a job?

Dunford: Yes, I think it did come down to that. I seem to remember drifting in and out of playing and then getting a job and then going back in. I thought I wasn’t that interested. I was always interested in music and it was probably then I went to work, a job as such. I think I was doing some shift work. I started writing, it was probably the end of the sixties. It was the time when Renaissance was formed with Jim McCarty and Keith Relf. When Keith died Jim McCarty was working with a Cornish Poet named Betty Thatcher and then he decided he wanted to go out on his own. And that’s how that started, it was the early seventies.

Part II
Cohen: Did you start on electric or acoustic guitar?

Dunford: I’m just self- taught really. I don’t profess to be any great guitar player. I know my limitations in what I do. I’m more of a writer/composer on the guitar but I started on the acoustic guitar initially and then getting into the first band was with electric guitar. I stayed with electric guitar until the second album that Renaissance didAshes are Burning that sort of came about because I was concentrating on writing. I remember I had a number of songs for the next album and it sort of seemed to work, it seemed to happen there, that seemed to fit in with the piano and everything else that was slightly different from anybody else and it worked with the material that was written. From then on it was let’s see how this goes and that’s how that started with the acoustic guitar.

Cohen: Did you listen to classical music before Renaissance?

Dunford: I might have. I can’t say anything strongly like I listened to this or that as I do occasionally now. I like classical music don’t get me wrong but I don’t really seem to have the time to be able to listen too much. If I’m in the car I have the radio on sometimes but other times I’m thinking about a song or piece of music so the radio is off. Here at home I have two young children so I’m with them a lot of the time. My wife works locally so when I’m here I have to pick up so on and so on, it’s a time thing.

Cohen: This is getting off topic but you mentioned you have two young kids. Do you worry about what they listen to? What I mean by that is that in the early days when I was beginning to be influenced by the musicians I admired whether it be the publicity departments working or truth there was a lot that was education based stories. For instance one of the members of Kansas was a philosophy major, Renaissance were classical musicians, read any Joni Mitchell interview and it was intelligence speaking. Of course there was trash too but not generalizing, it seems that the best criminal record gets the best contracts now.

Dunford: No, I don’t think so. It’s amazing because they’re nine and twelve at that age I certainly wasn’t involved with music like they are. They play music some of it I like some of it they don’t like. Like, they don’t particularly like my music.

Cohen: They don’t like your music?

Dunford: No, I mean they like pop songs. They like the hit singles, Northern Lights. They liked my last studio album Tuscany it was very uptempo. There’re some nice things from there. So I guess it really doesn’t concern me that much. They will grow up a lot more and quickly, and they know a lot more than we do.

Cohen: Yes, but you can’t let them know that.

Dunford: Of course not.

Cohen: Speaking of the album Tuscany that came out after your album Michael Dunford’s Renaissance. When you recorded Michael Dunford’s Renaissance did you realize you were running a risk with having another woman singing Annie’s parts? Whether the fans would accept another woman singing them? As a die hard fan speaking here Annie was the one that could never be replaced.

Dunford: Annie was doing her own thing. She had her band and was touring and recording. I was given the chance to do this and somebody would put the money up for me to do this and I said fine I’ll do it. At the time I was working on my musical Scheherazade and we were doing some stuff at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In fact one of the tutors there who was originally one of the singers on the Scheherazade and other Stories album put us in touch with and we got to use some of the students which we did and in fact did a showcase/workshop with them. During that time there was girl that stood out, very pretty, American girl, and that was Stephanie. I requested her number to speak with her to see if she would be interested in doing something and that’s how that came about. As I said I had the offer to do this album, which we did. She was classically trained so therefore completely different training in singing. She had a lovely voice and I was quite happy with the different, slightly harder director. I thought some of the songs were quite good, some of my favorites actually.

Cohen: Now that you have this tour coming up will there be a new Renaissance album?

Dunford: We have a new manager now. He’s talking to various people and we’re looking to do a new album, currently we have three or four songs written.

Cohen: Will Betty Thatcher be involved? (Betty Thatcher, February 1944 – August 2011) 

Dunford: No, I’m doing the writing with Annie actually. Annie is doing the lyrics. On our last tour we did a new song called Mystic and the Muse that went phenomenally well. So that was the beginning of it. We’re working away on new material.

Cohen: Are rehearsals difficult because Annie lives in the states now?

Dunford: Interesting because I have to come over earlier. At this particular time we’re doing a concept in that we are doing the two albums Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade in their entirety so it is quite a lot of new work for the guys to learn. We actually didn’t perform Scheherazade in its entirety a lot. It’s a twenty-five minute piece, we didn’t perform it a lot of times. So to me I have to bring back the memories of working on that. I will come in seven days early for rehearsal.

Cohen: Are you staying with Annie?

Dunford: Yes, but where we will be rehearsing is far from Annie’s house so we’ll get a hotel.

Part III
Cohen: Are you more involved with the marketing or management now?
Dunford: No, not really. Of course you have to be involved in all aspects now that’s the way it works even with minimal things. We’ve just got a new manager he’s been around in corporate stuff involved with EMI, Capitol, Warner Bros and people like that. He managed a number of successful acts. We obviously communicate by phone or Skype. There are just things you have to do on a daily basis organizing things. Agreeing to do this sorting that out. It’s a quite a busy time now.

Cohen: It’s also a very different time we live now.

Dunford: Yeah, of course! There were no cell phones no computers and all that jazz. That’s of course where half of everything is done on the social media side of things. It is so important. That’s one thing we try to get across to everybody to draw up to the public thoughts and interest and try to expand, that is where so much is done. Our manager helps there too. We do what we do and try to push that along.

Cohen: Who takes care of the Face Book page?

Dunford: There’s a team of us. The input is done through our manager Bruce as well. I personally don’t get involved but there are various questions that come on there that we get involved in.

Cohen: In terms of your writing has technology changed your approach?

Dunford: Yeah, before I had an acoustic guitar and small tape recorder and I use to put the melodies down for Betty at that time and then post it to her home then she’d come back with the lyric and then I go off and play it for the band and off we go. Now a days I have a Mac and everything I do is in Garage Band. So I can use that to get different sounds, ideas and try around with different things and then finally come down to get a demo. I can do most of it myself. It changed it physically from my point of view. It takes a lot longer as well because you also have to learn this stuff. It’s a whole new learning curve.

Cohen: For myself I’ve grown to dislike physically writing, now I record and go back and listen if I have to remind myself of something I’ve done.

Dunford: I think that’s it. I enjoy this aspect probably a lot more than I did back then.

Cohen: What kind of guitar do you use now?

Dunford: I play Martin now, I was using Ovation for some time and then I’ve got a 12- String Martin Jumbo and a six string that I use.

Cohen: So no more Ovations?

Dunford: No more Ovations. I’m selling my 12-string shortly.

Cohen: How much?

Dunford: I don’t know. It will be an auction on Ebay, so watch out. I also have a Yamaha 12-string that I used all the way right from the early run of meeting up with the band and using it on Ashes are Burning to Tuscany. I’m not selling them at the same time. They should go up shortly, it’s being setup by someone else.

Cohen: What made you change from Ovation to Martin?

Dunford: Ovations where great and the sound was very good for what I was working but the technology has moved forward and much has been done now with acoustic guitars. A friend of Annie’s, a friend of the band got involved and I went down to the Martin factory and I really liked the quality, craftsmanship, and the sound. I played a couple of those and it was the right forward for me. It gives more acoustic guitar sound on stage as well and in recordings.

Cohen: Do you own any nylon string guitars?

Dunford: I did have an Ovation classical at one time but not anymore. Again It’s depending on how things progress I was thinking of actually getting another to try out and play some things. But for now the twelve and six string are what I use in recordings.

Cohen: What’s going on with Scheherazade the musical?

Dunford: It’s been on the back burner for awhile. We got close to putting it on here but because of what’s going on in London and the public turn of events and 911it got put on the back burner. One of my partners who is the lyricist has been working with an American director who has had a lot of success on Broadway and has even been brought in to salvage Spiderman the musical. I don’t know how that turned out but he’s working with him on it. I met with him on tour last year in Albany and he’s interested in doing a different angle, more contemporary. He came up with some ideas hopefully it will work and it will go on some point. It’s very difficult to get the right team together and the right creators. But now there are some really good people involved. I’m very pleased.

Cohen: You probably get asked all the time what your favorite Renaissance album is but which one is your least favorite? 

Dunford: That one is easy- Timeline. John Tout and Terry left, Annie, Jon Camp and myself took a break for a couple years and we came back with a couple other guys. And we did Camera Camera which has some interesting things on there and then Timeline. Jon camp was a bit more influential in the writing and it was just awful and consequently as a result of that it didn’t do well. That was my least favorite album.

Cohen: The band now is doing small reunion tours mostly in the East, are there plans to go fulltime?

Dunford: It is fulltime at the moment actually. It’s a question of making it work. We’ve been working on the East a lot and we’ve made our way to a few festivals in Canada. We’d love to get across to the rest of the country but it’s difficult to make it work. We can play anywhere but financially it won’t work. So that’s what we’re trying to do is open things up now with the social media side of things, the new album that will hopefully be the catalyst to push us with promotion and that sort of thing. It’s tough to get airplay, that would help immensely it’s not like the early days.
We have a great team out there helping us.

Michael Dunford

BalletX: Reaching The Sweet Spot

One may ask what the ballet is doing in a section that is designated to exploring the guitar in the Philadelphia area. Looking at the art of dance and thinking of the guitar leads to the flamenco traditions of the instrument of Spanish origin. That is unless you attended the performances of BalletX from July 11 thru 15 at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. It was the performances during that week that introduced two Philadelphia guitarist to the loyal audiences of BalletX. Guitarist Enda Keegan and David Cohen took part in an extraordinary and bold move by BalletX to bring attention to these artists and others in Philadelphia.

In designing an experience there are four values to work within: educational, escapist, esthetic and entertainment. Within those values when the participant has gone through the realms of absorption, active participation, immersion and passive participation, the participant has reached the sweet spot. On Sunday, July 15th BalletX closed their Summer Series 2012 giving their audiences for the five days and six performances the opportunity to reach their Sweet Spot.

Through a grant from the Knights Art Challenge BalletX received $13,000 when they replied to the foundation with their answer to this question, “What’s your best idea for the arts in Philadelphia?” Out of the 1,752 applicants that answered that question BalletX was chosen along with thirty-five other arts organizations to receive a portion of the grant. In the mission of BalletX to define Philadelphia as a home for arts, culture and dance directors Christine Cox and Mathew Neenan replied to the Knight’s Foundation question with their answer, “To expand the cultural experience of ballet audiences with unexpected dance, comedy, music and spoken word during BalletX’s seasonal performances”.  In this bold move BalletX stepped outside of their safety zone as they do with their chorography to include other artists inside and outside of dance.

For one week in July 2012 audiences at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia experienced performances of: Beside Myself choreography by Tobin Del Cuore, and world premieres of Mashup, choreography by Adam Hougland and Differences In Sections choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie and had the eXperience eXpanded with separate performances on stage and in the lobby with Philadelphia artists: David Cohen-classical & flamenco guitar, Chinese pipa & bagpipes, Billy Blaise Dufala aka Juicy Flute, Clyde Evans-Chosen Dance Company, Enda Keegan-singer songwriter and Pasion y Arte Falmenco. The knight challenge is a three-year $9 million initiative for the arts in Philadelphia.
BalletX is a contemporary ballet company that expands the vocabulary of classical dance. The Company reflects the joint vision of award-winning Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan. Their focus on the creation of new works has resonated with both local and international dance audiences and has captured the attention of highly-regarded artists in the field of dance.

BalletX has built a diverse, dynamic, and active repertoire that includes original choreography by Cox and Neenan, as well as an impressive array of talented guest artists. Guest artists range from emerging talents to established choreographers from the national and international dance communities. Featured choreographers include: Jorma Elo, Jodie Gates, Adam Hougland, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Zane Booker, Edwaard Liang, Helen Pickett, Thang Dao, Alex Ketley, and Tobin Del Cuore, among others. Performed by dancers with remarkable technical proficiency, BalletX’s original works challenge and engage audiences and dancers alike.

The Company was formed around three basic core values: quality and integrity of dance, relationship with the audience, and relationship with each other. BalletX is committed to bringing choreographers’ and dancers’ visions to life by welcoming new and innovative styles and methods of performance. BalletX views dance as a conversation with the audience; by engaging audiences with innovative works, the Company seeks to develop a collective appetite and demand for bold new dance.

Since the fall of 2007, BalletX has had the honor of being the resident dance company of Philadelphia’s award-winning The Wilma Theater. During this time, the Company has presented over XX World Premieres, including interdisciplinary multimedia works that blend ballet, spoken text, video, originally composed music, and imaginative set designs.
Recognized nationally and internationally, BalletX has been awarded grants by The Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works (NEW) Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as Dance Advance, a program of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. The Company has been invited to perform in the Festival de Ballet in Cali, Colombia; Ballet EXPO, in Seoul, South Korea; the Vail International Dance Festival; the Sweet Pea Festival; the Spring to Dance Festival in St. Louis, Missouri; the Laguna Dance Festival; the Joyce Theater in NYC; and the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in California. They also regularly perform in college, university, and community venues across the United States.

From the beginning BalletX has strived to reach the Sweet Spot. Visit BalletX at and join them on Face Book.

David Shabtay’s elements & Philaphonix, July 5, 2012 Phila

By day Philaphonix guitarist David Shabtay manages the elements in his study of chemistry and physics in his senior year of study at Temple University. By night Shabtay takes on the elements of funk, blues, and rock in the band Philaphonix. In the amalgamation with Shabtay on guitar the compound also consists of Jon Cannon-bass, Julian Hartwell-keys, and Kevin Nathan on drums. The four elements bond together and metamorphous into a tight unit of funk and groove. Much like in rock metamorphism that is caused by heat and pressure, the metamorphism in Philaphonix is caused by the heat of melody and pressure from rhythm and funktitude that results from the chemical reaction of the four elements. This metamorphic stage of groove for Philaphonix is in absolute funklogic time having formed in 2011.

Shabtay remembers his first grade teacher bringing his guitar and teaching them through music. The music was bluegrass and the guitar made an impression on the first grader who fell in love with the guitar and knew that was what he wanted to do. At five his parents bought him his first guitar. “It was a Fender Strat” Shabtay reminisces. “It was my teacher Tommy Gun that got me interested in the blues” Shabtay continues. Gunn was heavily into Hendrix and the influences of Hendrix. It was listening to those influences: Freddie King, Muddy Waters and Shabtay’s biggest influence Buddy Guy that has driven his sound since he started with lessons. Hailing from Lancaster Shabtay made his name know through local jazz bands and winning competitions in 2011 and 2012 for his playing.

Philaphonix has taken their sound to The Raven Lounge, Dobbs and some of the area dives that seem the course for upcoming bands. Philaphonix brings Shabtay with his Gibson ES335, 15 watt tube amp along with the elements of Cannon, Hartwell and Nathan this Thursday July 5, 2012 to the North Star Bar 2639 Popular Street in Philadelphia.  No lab coat or goggles necessary.

Check them out on Face Book: Philaphonix

Rocker Jo Wymer Philadelphia Debut

Jo Wymer

Tin Angel

Thursday February 23, 2012 

Rocker Jo Wymer at once bludgeons and seduces her audiences with her gritty and soulful songs in a voice described as “BETTER THAN BENATAR” by rock blogger John Allman from NINEBULLETS.  Wymer is a grownup.  She earned every one of the open, raw, and unrefined feelings in her songs – heartache, yearning, sex, lust, sin, romance, loss, and joy –and her voice promises her audiences will feel each and every one of them too.  The visceral experience of hearing and watching Wymer deliver these songs with her voice, her guitar, and her hard rocking band, in one of her sweat-soaked live performances, leaves her audiences more than satisfied, yet still yearning.  She wouldn’t have it any other way.


Wymer recently worked in the studio with Lakehouse Music on her debut album, which was released in 2011, and is frequently performing live in the NJ/NY/PA region with her powerhouse rock band.  She also performs rare solo acoustic shows, which provide a unique opportunity to see her perform her music in stripped down form.

Jo’s album comes from the scar tissue of adult perspective – sex, guilt, joy, failure, love, loss, lust, and their consequences and rewards – and the faith that keeps us moving forward in spite of it.

The music itself would find itself comfortably beside late 1960’s and 1970’s rock, r&b, and soul, and it embraces those influences.


Like many young artists, Wymer walked away from a career in music in her early 20’s after an unsatisfying string of musical disappointments from dropping out of Julliard after one semester – due to her own immaturity she says now – and performing as the front woman for a wedding band.  She essentially exited the music world for nearly two decades.  During that period of time she joined the Navy, and served in the Persian Gulf War in the early 90’s.  She got married to her first husband.  During that volatile relationship she gave birth to a son, who was afflicted with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She worked for many years with a large software corporation.  Got a divorce, and was left raising her son as a single mother where she dedicated herself to ensuring his educational and personal well being. Then Wymer lost her father to heart disease, then her mother to cancer.  She fell in love with a widower with two troubled teenage children. She remarried and moved to Freehold, NJ.  Currently attends TCNJ (Teacher’s College of New Jersey) working toward her Master’s Degree in Special Education specializing in Mathematics.

Joan Armatrading Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitar

Joan Armatrading-The Goddess of Change

Long recognized as a pioneering force with a career spanning three decades, the Saint Kitts born Joan Armatrading has maintained an acclaimed and storied career. The three times Grammy nominated British artist has garnered countless accolades which include Top 10 albums and singles (“Love and Affection,” “Willow,” “Drop The Pilot,” are but a few), not to mention a #1 debut atop the Billboard Blues chart in 2007 (a first for a female artist from the UK). She has made VH1’s list of the 100 Most Influential Women in Rock, has been nominated for a Brit Award, gave a command performance for Nelson Mandela on his 70th birthday at Wembley Stadium, received an Honorary Degree from Birmingham University and the list goes on—truly a charmed life and career!

David: You will have your third live recording Live at the Royal Albert Hall released in February in the United States. Your last live CD/DVD Live All the Way From America from 2004 was produced, directed and edited by you. Will you have the same role in this release?

Joan: Yes, because they are all songs I’ve written. I do that with everything I do even though I haven’t been credited.

David: Why are you releasing another live CD/DVD on the heels of Live All the Way from America. It was almost fifteen years between your first live recording and the last.

Joan: No reason, I get asked a lot by people who come to the shows for many years to do another live album. I did Live All the Way From America and Into the Blues; especially after Into the Blues people were asking for a live recording from that. It was a great live sound and I was into it myself obviously.

David: How did you discover Anderson Guitars?

Joan: I went hunting for guitars and I took my tour manager at the time to a shop and came back with a stack of guitars and the one I chose was the Tom Anderson. It sounded great. It was clean. I took that one and I needed two more. At the time I played a Strat that I couldn’t take on the road anymore it was very buzzy.

David: Do you collect guitars? How many do you have?

Joan: I don’t tell people how many I have. I have quite a few.

David: Do you have a dream guitar?

Joan: Not Really. I look at guitars all the time because I’m looking to see if there is anything new. It doesn’t have to be a new guitar per se. I just found a Strat and it’s really really good. It sounds very different, quite chunky. It was nice to get something that plays really different and works. I’m always looking for guitars in all the countries I go to.

David: Do you have a nylon string guitar?

Joan: I have one I don’t play on it much

David: Who made it?

Joan: It’s a Gibson.

David: I understand why you don’t use it (Joan laughs). 

           Are you working on a CD of new material?

Joan: I’m writing now. I will give myself a year it will be 2012 when it comes out. I will be sixty-one.

David: Your tours are always extensive. Does touring get harder as you get older?

Joan: It’s tiring anyway even when you’re young. I’m a healthy strong person so I do all right. So yes it’s a tiring thing and I am busy all the time with interviews and meeting people. While the band is on a break I have a lot to do. I’ve been doing this for forty years I’m use to it.

David: Speaking of healthy and fit you ran in the New York Marathon. I heard you didn’t train.

Joan: I did do some training. I couldn’t do as much as I would have liked. I did do some. A few days before the race I hurt my knee but I finished the marathon and I got my medal and raised 175,000 Euro’s for charity.

Part Two

David: Your last recording with A&M Records was Square the Circle in 1992. That Album was just dropped in the market. What happened?

Joan: That’s up to the record company to do what they wanted. There were changes within A&M. Life changes that’s how it goes, people move on. My records do well.

David: Then you went to RCA and did What’s Inside.

Joan: There again, there were changes as well. That’s what I mean, things change all the time. I just generally don’t have control over how a company moves in and moves the artists. You just have to work with what’s there. What are you gonna do? It affects a lot of different people. You can get wrapped up and held up in things. I’m not that kind of person. I’m a very positive person. I take what comes and do the best with what I have. It’s a simple philosophy for me. I’m not a complicated person when it comes to how to be happy. I think the record company has to have the freedom to do what it has to do to be a record company. You have to accept that to do the things you want to do. That’s how things work. You have to understand that.

David: Do you have a favorite CD?

Joan: Usually the one I’m writing. I wouldn’t be able to answer that one. It’s like when people ask what is my favorite song I wrote. I can’t answer that because I’ve written so many. If I had to say it would be Love and Affection because that’s the one I came in on, but it’s very hard to answer.

People will ask what is my favorite gig. We do this all the time and we might come off the stage and say that was great like when they would sing Best Dress On from the last tour. That worked very well. We would think that nobody else would sing that loud or that many times but then we go to the next place and the people are as into it.

David: Speaking of the song Best Dress On, where did that come from?

Joan: I don’t know. I should know but I don’t remember.

David: That song seems to be speaking directly to people who are dealing with the fear and uncertainty of cancer.

Joan: It’s definitely for healing, for people who are trying to make things work. As I said to you before I’m a very positive person and write about the good in the things we make. When I write I try not to write positive stuff all the time. It takes me longer to write something that isn’t positive.

David: Where is Ma-Me-O Beach?

Joan: It’s in Canada. It’s not a beach I went to. I saw the signs for it on the road from the tour bus. I didn’t write the song there it came about later.

David: Was Secret Secret a freeing album for you?

Joan: Secret Secret was the record I decided that I would say exactly what I do on the record. All of the members of my band said I should be taking credit for what I do so yes it was freeing for me because it was when I started working on my own. I didn’t have producers in the studio with me. Not that working with producers was a bad thing. I’ve worked with fantastic producers and learned a lot from them.

David: Was it freeing vocally for you? That was the album you started vocal phrasings like the line where you sing, “ Bap par dap……..ah”.

Joan: Right, that was from Persona Grata. Not really because again on my records I sing what I want to sing and I write all the harmonies. Whatever vocals I did are things I write like the low voices on Down toZero. Nobody is there to say why don’t you do this.

David: Have you been asked to produce anybody?

Joan: Yes, but because of time I haven’t been able too. It is really a lot of work to produce.

David: Do you ever see yourself only producing and not writing?

Joan: It would be nice to produce somebody but I kind of have to write and I want to write

David: Why did you write about the Goddess Oya?

Joan: That’s a real goddess. I was thinking of change and I wanted to write about it. I wanted to find out if there was a goddess that would guide you safely through change. I did a search and found that there was a goddess. I wasn’t surprised to find out there was a goddess of change.

Jason Vieaux Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitar

Jason Vieaux

Part 1   

One of the “youngest stars of the guitar world” (New York Times, 2010), Jason Vieaux is a musician regularly noted for his engaging and virtuosic live performances, imaginative programming, and uncommon communicative gifts. Recent concert highlights include recitals for Lincoln Center and the 92nd St. Y in New York, Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, a debut with the Charlotte Symphony, and recitals for Spivey Hall and Indiana University. Vieaux’s 2010-2011 concerto performances include works of Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla and Roberto Sierra, in performances with the Chautauqua Music Festival, the symphonies of Mexico City, Ft. Worth, Grand Rapids, Illinois, Williamsburg, Reading, Dubuque, and with Boston’s A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra. His current chamber music collaborations with the Escher Quartet, flutist Gary Schocker, and bandoneon/accordion virtuoso Julien Labro continue to display Vieaux’s extensive range of musical interests. As one of the “leading guitarists of his generation” (Absolute Sound, 2009), Jason Vieaux has established a lasting connection with his audiences, as evidenced by numerous return invitations in 2010-2011 to series in Toronto, Cleveland, Kalamazoo, Greenville (NC), and the Music@Menlo festival. In October, Mr. Vieaux will receive a 2010 Salon De Virtuosi Career Grant and perform with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke at the Kennedy Center.

Mr. Vieaux is a frequent guest with orchestras across the United States. He has performed as concerto soloist with, among many others, the Cleveland Orchestra, Ft. Worth Symphony, San Diego Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Orchestra 2001, IRIS Chamber Orchestra, and the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand, while working with such renowned conductors as Miguel Harth-Bedoya, David Robertson, Michael Stern, Jahja Ling, Stefan Sanderling and Alasdair Neale. Vieaux’s triumphant programs and collaborations for Music@Menlo, Strings Music Festival, Grand Teton, Jupiter Chamber Players, and others, have forged his reputation as a first-rate chamber musician. As a passionate advocate of new music, Vieaux has premièred new pieces by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, José Luis Merlin, Eric Sessler, Arthur Hernandez, Gary Schocker, Fazil Say, and frequently plays works by Mario Davidovsky, Roberto Sierra, and John Corigliano.

DC: Do you hear comparisons to a lot of other guitarists?

Jason: Well, I’ve heard people say after concerts for years, we saw Segovia, we’ve heard Williams, Isbin, Barrueco. I play with a lot of orchestras in halls that normally don’t have guitar players on a regular basis. That’s where you will have people who are seeing a guitar player for the first time in fifteen years. They are not regular guitar society members Those are the place I hear the comparison. It’s a real honor because those are some real heavy weights.

DC: Does that put pressure on you?

Jason: At first it was a heavy thing. The last person they might have seen was Sharon Isbin-it was like WOW! In those situations now they relax me. People are there for the real enjoyment it’s less pressure. Playing for guitar societies are more pressure because they have six or so performers in a season.

DC: You’ve mentioned a lot of older names from a time that seemed to have those names in concert halls every season. Do you think the guitar’s popularity has diminished that it isn’t in concert halls as much?

Jason: It’s harder to get in there. I will say it’s harder to see a violin and piano recital in the bigger halls too. What the halls want are package concerts with lots of different musicians. There trying to combine the fans of one classical music in with the fans of others to attract more people. So you’re seeing a lot of hybrids of classical music and world music. That across the board.

Classical guitar is actually on the way up. I think there are a lot of fine players, young player with a lot of potential, not that the mainstream classical guitar societies are aware of them. My experience is that with each passing year more and more classical musicians are wanting to play, wanting to play the guitar chamber repertoire and having to come up with programs to meet this demand. I think there is a lot of fertile territory to meet this demand.

DC: I was looking at the course list for the guitar program David Starobin and you have created for the Curtis Institute of Music. Does your entrapanorial program come into play with meeting that demand?

Jason: With President Roberto Diaz – he wants to modernize the conservatory. Get it so the students that are there are more active in performing and also more actively in touch with the world around them so they can communicate what they do, not just the music they’re playing but what’s its value is to people in the outside world.

That’s something I’ve worked on very hard as an aspect of my career. David Starobin has too. David has been very successful not just communicating some very difficult music but also started an incredible record label Bridge Records and premièred three hundred and fifty original works for the guitar. So he has an experience level I don’t have. We brought different things to the table but complimentary so the student will get a wider spectrum when they get out and make the transition from conservatory to working.

DC: In terms of from “conservatory to working” I have run into many classical musicians who feel marketing themselves cheapens their art. For me marketing is part of the art and I am always learning.

Jason: Business is learning. I’m learning all the time and I have a lot to learn.. I’ve come along way in fifteen years. When I think of where I was fifteen years ago it was hard to make connections. In that sense it’s not a dirty word. It’s a dirty word to compromise what you’re doing. I feel that is a fear a lot of musicians have. When you become successful and are able to sell what you do to a wider public there are always acquisitions of selling out. But if you believe in what you do you are not compromising the your art.

The more people I meet who are successful in music at what they do, the more I learn about the history of performance in this country and abroad, the more I realize our most hollowed names in performance were not space cadets wondering around from place to place with no idea of the machinations of a career. These people knew about what was happening and they cultivated it. Maybe it was easier for an artist one hundred years ago not to do so much groundwork, so much office work. I seriously doubt that Caruso was completely unaware of the music business.

DC: You’re right and those are the ones who make it. I have a picture of you in the press kit I was sent of this little kid whose behind his guitar with fire in your eye and this look of nothing is getting in my way.

Part 2

DC: You’re right and those are the ones who make it. There is a picture of you in the press kit of this little kid whose behind his guitar with fire in his eyes and this look of nothing is getting in my way.

Jason: Which picture is that?

DC: (picture description)

Jason: I was twenty-one in that photo. I had just won the 1992 Guitar Foundation of America International Guitar Competition.

DC: How old where you when you started?

Jason: I was eight years old when I started learning classical guitar.

DC: Is that what you wanted to do when you were eight?

Jason: I never told anybody, ”I dig classical guitar I want to take lessons”.  I grew up in a house in Buffalo, NY that had a lot of LP’s. My mom liked dance music, soul and R & B from the 1960’s. There were stacks of Motown. Elvis! A lot of the Beatles, I really got into the Beatles as much as anyone. My dad listened to jazz, Amad Jamal, Peter Vogel Orchestra.

We didn’t know what classical guitar was but my mother bought me a guitar when I was five years old because I listened to music all the time. She never sent to the local music store for lessons. In that generation there was Spanish guitar and it was something you studied. When I was seven the Buffalo Guitar Quartet came to my school. My mother was working at the school as a secretary and it clicked in her mind. She asked member Jeremy Sparks to come to our house to listen to me. I didn’t know what to play but he thought I had potential so he took me on as a student. Within a few lesson he wanted me to continue.

DC: Do you remember what your first big boy piece was?

Jason: (laughs)There were different stages I can remember a few. Classical Gas, my teacher transcribed it from the Mason Williams recording. I was nine or ten I remember thinking that was a difficult piece. Maybe that was one of the first ones that was a big step forward.

There were several pieces a long the way. I played my first recital when I was twelve years old. I didn’t play Classical Gas it was all classical, pre 20th century except maybe a study by Segovia. But it was all concert repertoire. I remember along the way Sor Variations on a Theme by Mozart. When you’re a kid you’re thinking, “Wow, I’m doing something different”. Then there was Rumores de la Caleta when I was fifteen, I remember thinking you can’t get much harder than this. That’s the way it feels when you’re a kid but then you challenge yourself with more difficult pieces.

DC: There is always a place in your heart for your first big piece of music.

Jason: Oh yeah, I wouldn’t mind doing my first public recital again

DC: You remember it?

Jason: Yes, I even remember the order of what I played.

DC: What was it?

Jason: Four Lute pieces from the Renaissance. It was from a book collection.

Fantasia by Mudurra ( I remember this was difficult for a twelve years old)

Three Sor Etudes,

Sor Op. 9 Variations.

As it progressed the pieces got harder. I closed the first half with Tarantella.

The second half was:

Prelude in E by Ponce/Weiss,

3rd Cello Suite, (two movements)



and I ended with Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

That was my first recital.

DC: Was the book you mentioned 100 Years of Classical Guitar?

Jason: Yes! It was a fantastic book.

DC: You have a particular love of Spanish music.

Jason: I do! The melodies are great. There’s a certain feeling to that music that I identify with. I love playing that in concert. I do a lot of special programs that don’t involve Spanish music but in my typical varied programs I always like to have Spanish music as well as Bach.

DC: Your love of Bach is very apparent in your last CD, Bach Vol.1 Works for Lute. The CD prior to that

Images of Metheny shows your love for the music of Pat Metheny as well. It was also a different direction for you. Was it a conscience move to make that CD?

Jason: There wasn’t that much forethought into it. I had done a lot of Metheny arrangements, maybe thirty tunes. There are only thirteen tracks on the CD but I had done at least twice as many. I started getting into his music. I think he is a great melody writer of jazz music of the latter part of the 20th century. He’s a fantastic melodist, the chords, and the rich harmonies underneath. I started to make little arrangements from the records just to play for myself or if I ran into a Metheny fan on the road. People would say I should make a recording of the arrangements. I was recording by that time but I never thought there would be an outlet for it.

About ten years later my producer Alan Bise suggested I record the Metheny tunes. I was reluctant because most of the tunes were ballads and it would be a slow album, beside I’d only be playing the head. I had no chords or solos. Alan said to see what I could do, pick up some fast tunes and give them structure. As the date approached we set up to start recording I had the idea to take five Metheny pieces from different albums and seeing what I could do. I started to hear the tune James in a different meter. It had a mid-tempo bossa nova feel and I started to hear it as a gigue. I thought maybe I could recast some other tunes as a baroque dance. That added the structure. I kept all the melodies and harmonies of the tunes I used. Then I added chord solo’s – doing improv over the changes.

It’s a nice record. I’m really proud of it. It came about very naturally.
DC: What can you tell me about the CD you’re working on now?