Gates is a renowned guitarist / composer on the 21st century American
instrumental guitar scene. In 2014, Jack released his solo album,
Voyage Of The Troubadour and in 2017 he follows with a batch
of all new studio tracks called Bring The Flavors.
Featuring Jack performing on both nylon string guitars and electric
guitars, sometimes in the same song, the fourteen track, 55 minute
Bring The Flavors is filled with jazzy and meditative grooves
that reflects Jacks interest in World Music, especially Latin,
Brazilian and South American music. Commenting on Bring The Flavors,
Jack explains, This album was written and recorded while
I was living in a forest in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California,
where I was studying Tibetan Buddhism. The music has a peaceful quality
and is certainly an outgrowth of meditation and being close to nature."
Recorded in the mountains of Northern California, Bring The
Flavors features Jack in the recording studio backed up by a band
of like-minded players, including the rhythm section of Steve Robertson
(drums, percussion) and Stan Poplin (acoustic bass), along
with Damien Masterson (harmonica) and Michal Palzewicz (cello).
Jack Gates has released a number of critically acclaimed solo albums
over the years, as well as playing and writing duo albums with sitar
player Tim White, who serves as remix advisor on Bring The
Flavors. Blending 14 tracks of contemporary instrumental jazz,
on Bring The Flavors Jack Gates serves up a sublime mix of
guitar-based sounds. www.jackgatesmusic.com
presents an interview with
Your 2017 album, Bring The Flavors is one of the finest guitar
albums of the year. You say it takes an approach like cooking, where
you add in a range of spices to come up with something fresh. Also
what spices are on the cover? You also mention Tibetan Buddhism as
being an influence. How did both cooking and Buddhism add to your
musical approach on Bring The Flavors?
Jack Gates: I feel that there is a relationship between
flavors and sonic qualities. What Im trying to convey is an
almost palpable aroma or sensation through the music. I think that
the acoustic guitar is particularly well-suited to this process.
The spices on the cover are from a region of India called Kerala.
Buddhism provides a method for developing-self understanding. It also
helps to focus the mind and transform negative thinking.
mwe3: How do you maintain such a peaceful sonic outlook on
Bring The Flavors? With the world so stressful these days especially,
do you align music in a way as to soothe the beast so to speak? New
Age and Classical influenced jazz is very popular these days no doubt
but people are looking to music as an aural form of meditation.
Jack Gates: The challenge for me is to tune out the world of
technology, email and news. If I can get up in the morning with a
fresh perspective, perhaps with a view of the forest, my mind is clear
enough to allow the natural music inside of me to emerge.
The other aspect is choosing a recording environment that is free
of distractions. Ive been lucky to work with Justin Mayer at
Bear Creek. He really has designed his studio to be transparent to
the user and he also brings that approach to his recording technique.
mwe3: You studied guitar with classical legends David Tanenbaum
and Julian Bream. What did you learn from your early guitar teachers
and how did they influence your own music performance and writing?
Gates: David was my main teacher, he aligned my hands for correct
positioning and taught me how to read a score and the elements of
creative interpretation within the historical context. The Bream master
class, which I audited, was a revelation of sonic possibilities. Julian
Bream could get more varied timbres out of the instrument than any
guitarist of his time.
mwe3: You like to combine classical guitar with jazz and even
some progresive influences. How do you approach and blend all those
genres and styles that sit side by side on Bring The Flavors?
Jack Gates: It was a very gradual process over many decades
of trial and error. I've been lucky in that my career as an on-call
guitarist has pushed me into live performance and studio situations
where I had to quickly adapt to many different styles of music.
I wouldnt suggest that any guitarist try to emulate that approach.
Really, Ive used classical guitar as a tool for my own compositional
purposes rather than as a career classical performer.
Electric guitar with overdrive is a very different animal than an
unamplified nylon string instrument. It requires a completely different
touch and attack of the note.
mwe3: On Bring The Flavors youre supported by
a different group of musicians than on 2014's Voyage of the Troubadour
album. How would you compare both albums and did you take a different
approach on Bring The Flavors this time around?
Gates: I did consciously take a different approach. I have been
fortunate to work with great musicians on both recordings. Steve Robertson
brings special skills to the process, as he is expert on jazz trap
set as well as Brazilian and Latin hand percussion. On this latest
record he plays pandeiro (pan dare oo) and timba (chim
ba) , which are not often heard in the U.S. Pandeiro is becoming
more well known through the growing interest in Choro music, a style
of acoustic instrumental music that originally was heard in the U.S.
in films by Carmen Miranda.
Some of the tracks use the Steely Dan approach of layering each track
one at a time. On others, Steve and I played live together and improvised
Stan Poplin is the bassist on this record and was a member of the
famed Robben Ford / Jimmy Witherspoon Group. He brings great feel
and presence to the recording.
mwe3: You recorded another album with Tim White called Impromptu.
When was that album recorded and released? How would you compare
the Impromptu album with Tim to your other recordings with
Tim? Is Tim playing sitar on that album as well? It looks like you
guys have a great musical community in California. Whats new
Jack Gates: Impromptu was released in 2015. It was completely
improvised in the studio. Ive been recording and playing with
Tim for several decades. We both studied with the great Ustad Ali
Akbar Khan. The music community in this part of California is still
extremely active and diverse, although many of the players that I
knew in the past have relocated to New York or other areas.
Tim has been working on recording projects with Alam Khan and many
others. Hes a very active producer, recording engineer and teacher
in Northern California and he has a classical sitar performance career
mwe3: Has there been any new developments in the guitar world
for you? You recorded Voyage Of The Troubadour with classical
guitars made by Antonio Marin and John Mello and a Telecaster on the
electric parts. What guitars are featured on Bring The Flavors
and can you tell us what strings and amps you are currently using
and if theres any other tech news?
Gates: I used the same Tele on many of the electric parts on these
new songs. I also played a 1971 Guild Bluesbird guitar.
The amp is a modified Joe Morgan RV40 with 10 inch speakers in an
open back cabinet by J Design. I used an OCD Fulltone pedal as well
as a tc electronic delay.
The acoustic guitars are a John Mello classical with Honduran Rosewood,
a Jesus Jimenez flamenco negra from Spain, and a blanca made by Miguel
Malo. I also play a Glenn Canin flamenco double top in performance.
I typically use La Bella 2001 normal tension trebles and either composite
or normal Daddario Pro Arte basses. The electric strings are
Curt Mangan .11s.
The acoustics were recorded using combinations of Neumann KM 140s
and an AKG 414 TLII.
mwe3: Did you overdub different guitars on different tracks?
How many guitar tracks does a song need? A good example of that is
on track five, called "Seraphic Journey". That track is
just over eight minutes, the longest track on the CD, and you describe
it as a combination of Renaissance music as well as Brazilian music
and rock too. How did you overdub guitars on that track and then layer
it with the other instruments?
Jack Gates: On Seraphic Journey I recorded the
entire acoustic track in one take. Then I thought for a long time
about how to overdub something that could create a conversation between
the acoustic and electric guitar.
decide to overdub a clean sound in the first section, then an overdrive
sound in part 2. The first section is influenced by Dave Brubeck,
Bach and Rennaisance guitar music. Part 2 is like bossa and samba
music of the 1960s and 70s with some blues thrown in for good measure.
The only other instrument is the jazz trap set that Steve is playing,
that he played after I laid down the acoustic guitar. So, two guitars
and drums, thats it.
mwe3: What other things like performing, writing, recording
and producing are you planning for 2017?
Gates: Im working on a new album which will probably feature
woodwind and brass instruments in arrangements with acoustic nylon
string guitar. Ive been performing with sitarists Tim White
and Phillip Porter, two different ensembles with tabla accompaniment,
and Im working on several guitar books which will eventually