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Blame it on my being born in New Jersey in the 1950s, but I seemed to gravitate to the musical instrument that was indigenous to the time and place of my youth — the guitar. From George Harrison to Jimi Hendrix in the ’60s, to Peter Frampton and the iconic guitar solos of Santana, Queen, Boston and Yes in the ’70s, I absorbed it all. Through the decades, I would listen to the songs over and over, trying to learn certain guitar parts. I never got very good at it.
I realized later in life that these music encounters were not meant to inspire me to be the next Eddie Van Halen but rather served as a bridge to jazz-fusion. That led me to guitarists like Al DiMeola, Lee Ritenour, George Benson and Pat Metheny, and gradually morphed my record collection from pop to rock to prog to jazz. While I sometimes regret that I didn’t take playing the guitar more seriously in my formative years, I did briefly take guitar lessons while attending the University of Florida from a local legend named Charlie Bush. Charlie taught me that a good guitar solo should always tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Realizing that a career as a musician was not in the cards, I became a serious listener and student of music.
A few years ago, YouTuber Rick Beato did a countdown of the 20 best guitar solos of all time. I was amazed by how many of Rick’s faves were the same musicians, songs and riffs that caught my ear and led me to jazz. If you don’t know of Beato, you should. He’s racked up more than 3 million followers as he introduces the nuances of music like few presenters I’ve known. Sure, JAZZIZ has some of the best music writers, who listen, analyze, critique and write about jazz all day long, but Rick doesn’t come from this camp. He’s a musician — mainly guitar, and he’s got chops — but he’s also a music producer, composer, audio engineer and music theorist with a bachelor in music and a master’s in jazz studies from the New England Conservatory of Music. He loves all kinds of music, and his guests are typically poppers and rockers, but there’s no doubt he loves jazz. You can feel it, and you can certainly hear it in his vernacular, even when he’s talking about rock.
One night, Rick called me and we talked about music (and guitar) for nearly two hours. It was then I learned how he came by his deep understanding of music and that one of his all-time favorite musicians is Pat Metheny. For two years, Rick tried to get Pat on his show. Pat finally agreed, and the resulting interview is a high-level dialog that imparts a great deal of knowledge and wisdom.
In the early ’80s, my concept for JAZZIZ was to refrain from becoming another didactic collection of critics writing about jazz and reviewing albums. Instead, I wanted to focus on the creation of editorial as a dialog with the musicians and producers making this remarkable music — essentially taking you “behind the music” with insight and storytelling. Although you couldn’t observe my concept in print (the planning, the interviews, the editing and ultimately the production of each issue), I hope it was evident in the final product. But now, with technologies like YouTube and podcasts, you can see the concept more fully. Because, like Rick, we can take you on the journey with us.
Putting together this issue, with the focus on guitar, brought me back to my earliest days in music and JAZZIZ. While the time has flown by, 40 years later we continue to produce a lush print magazine with equally colorful and well-designed CDs (and now a 180-gram vinyl LP). Nowadays, we can bring you even closer to the music — and the musicians — with entire issues that delve into various areas of jazz; more in-depth and related articles and discussions online; and many of the artists covered in the magazine featured on the accompanying CDs or via streaming on our website. And now you can watch interviews with artists — with new episodes each week — telling stories about the music we love and their journey along the way. — Michael Fagien