What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: John Stowell

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature John Stowell and his new website. I did a bit on John a few years ago (which follows) along with his new online bio:

I managed to see John Stowell twice when he came through LA this time around. The first night was with an upright bass and jazz vocalist in a small outdoor cafe. He played his nylon string guitar, which added a very unique flavor to the set of songs I heard. John has an unusual approach to the guitar. He holds it almost perpendicular, with the head of the guitar resting by his left ear. This puts his wrist in position so that he can do tremendous stretches for his chordal work with more

ease than if he held the guitar in the normal manner. He also has a style of playing that uses many arpeggios, and he darts up and down the neck with great speed and dexterity during his solos.

I saw him next at Tony do Rosario's Sam Ash Jazz Guitar clinic, where he talked about his particular approach to the guitar. He likes to play chords that require stretches that are beyond the norm. He explained how he arrived at this method of playing, and showed how anyone can develop this skill.

Something that stuck in my mind was his approach to practicing. He said that he leaves his guitar and music out in an obvious place and whenever he has 10 or 15 minutes where normally he wouldn't think to practice, he can grab his guitar and spend a few minutes working on something. He said that several of these short mini sessions can add up, and if you don't have a stretch of time to devote to practicing during a busy day, you can still accomplish a great deal in bits and pieces where normally you might not get to your instrument at all. Good advice, I feel.

John Stowell is a very open and accessible person. He gave everyone a thick handout at the clinic and happily passed out his email address and phone number to all who asked, inviting them to contact him with further questions if they so desired.

Online bio

John Stowell began his successful career in the early 1970's with private study with guitarist Linc Chamberland and pianist John Mehegan. Both men were valuable mentors to John, allowing him to play with them as he progressed in his development. Several years later he met bassist David Friesen in New York City, and they formed a duo that recorded and toured prolifically for seven years, with performances in the United States,Canada, Europe and Australia. The duo continues to perform thirty years after their first meeting.

In 1983, John and David joined flutist Paul Horn and Paul's son Robin Horn (on drums) for a historic tour of the Soviet Union. This was the first time in forty years that an American jazz group had been invited to play public performances in Russia. In 1993, 1995, and 1998 John returned to Russia, playing in numerous cities. His two sold-out performances in Kursk may have been the first appearances there by an American jazz musician.

John continues to tour, record and teach internationally. He has been Artist-In-Residence at schools in Germany, Indonesia, Argentina, and in the United States and Canada. He served as assistant director and performer in Oregon Public Broadcasting's PDX Jazz Summit in 1991, and since 1995 has been a contributing columnist for a number of magazines, including "Downbeat", "Guitar Player", Canadian Musician", "Soundcheck" (Germany), and "Guitar Club" (Italy).

With bassist David Friesen, featured of the soundtracks of two Academy Award Nominated short films (Will Vinton Studios, Portland, OR, and Bosustow Studios, Los Angeles, CA)

"Through the Listening Glass" with David Friesen chosen of the "Ten Best Jazz Albums of the Decade" by the Los Angeles Examiner

Chosen "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" by Downbeat's International Critic's Poll, 1978 and 1979

Featured in Japan's "Swing Journal" , "The Jazz Guitar" (Ashely Mark Publishing, England), and the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler).

Appearances on BET Jazz Discovery and Guitar Series television shows

Recording/Performance Credits: Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, Conte Condoli, Herb Ellis, Bill Watrous, Mundell Lowe, George Cables, Billy Higgins, Billy Hart, Richie Cole, Paul Horn, Tom Harrrell, Don Thompson, Dave Liebman, and many others

John's website:

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc now endorses Peerless Guitars and has the website Jazz Guitar Zone to help promote Peerless jazz guitars in the US. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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