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JEFF CURTIS
GUITARIST-COMPOSER
INSTRUMENTAL ECLECTIC FINGERSTYLE ACOUSTIC GUITAR & BEYOND

Guitarist-Composer Jeff Curtis was born on Long Island and resides in Westbury, New York. While growing up during the 1960’s, his earliest musical experiences involved "music lessons for about a week - I think it was the accordion" at age 7. "My father was a builder and my mother was basically a homemaker - I suppose the last thing they ever expected was for me to become a musician." Within two years, the Beatles had hit the scene and young Jeff found himself becoming engrossed in their music. "There was something about the energy in their songs that made it so accessible, so personal in so many ways - you really felt like you were a part of the music whenever you listened to it." There was also a rock band "I don’t remember what name the guys used" that some friends on his block had put together. "I watched and saw how cool it was to connect with an audience through music. In late 1969, my friend Bob brought over this new album he had just gotten. I had a little more freedom at my house with the family stereo and it was an opportunity for both of us to listen to ‘Led Zeppelin 2‘. When I first heard the song ‘Whole Lotta Love’, I decided then and there that I was going to be a part of music on a much deeper level and would to teach myself guitar. In early 1970, I borrowed one of those small pocket chord diagram booklets and a nylon stringed guitar from friends and started practicing. I bought my first electric guitar later that year."

Jeff continued for the next 20 years primarily with the electric guitar. "I never actually took lessons, I learned pretty much everything I know by ear and watching others along with endless experimentation. I can’t read music and know virtually nothing about theory. If something sounds interesting or melodic, I‘ll play around with it and see what evolves from experimenting and jamming." Though lacking in formal musical training, Jeff’s influences over the years are broad and varied. He cites Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page as "probably the biggest influence on my playing and approach to composition" along with a close friend from Long Island, Quin. "We met the summer after graduating from our respective high schools over a pair of guitars. The improvs and interplay just seemed to click from the beginning so it was easy to invent material. We probably jammed at more parties just for the fun of it than anyone else we know. We would set up this single amp and both plug in and go for it. The sound was horrendous but we always had a blast and got invited all over the place." When asked about other guitar influences, Jeff cites the following: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Steve Howe, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Duane Allman, Roy Buchanan, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

In the early 1980’s, Jeff had also started playing and composing on the acoustic guitar. "I was getting more into jazz and as my tastes in music mellowed, the acoustic guitar started to have more appeal for me personally." He had also started listening to a whole different genre of musicians: Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell, Michael Hedges, Preston Reed, Alex DeGrassi, Jorma Kaukonen, Leo Kottke, Will Ackerman, Adrian Legg and Pierre Bensusan came to mind when asked that question. "I consider these guys absolutely required listening for any serious acoustic player. I learned by listening, watching and experimenting on my own, but you have to challenge yourself and these guys certainly provide the inspiration. I don’t ever expect to approach their level of playing but what matters is simply trying to do one‘s best. I think anytime I go to a concert, it also serves as a lesson."

The inspiration is not limited solely to other musical artists. Having traveled the country extensively, Jeff is quick to mention nature and the many places he has traveled to the great outdoors as having influenced his music, as well as personal experiences with different people he‘s known. "I could show you the exact places in Vermont, West Virginia and California where I essentially came up with ideas that turned into some of the tracks from both CDs. I have this belief that there is music in some form in just about everything one can experience and nature plays a big part in that belief."

In the summer of 1998, Jeff released ‘Dreams‘, a CD containing 18 original compositions that was co-produced and engineered by Greg Sweney. The album featured primarily solo acoustic guitar instrumentals along with viola and/or flute duets on some of the tracks. In addition to the regular standard tuning, Jeff used the drop-D and open-G tunings along with another special modal tuning. The guitar was a "cheap little Carlos I bought for something like 35 dollars and spent another 65 dollars or so for Grover tuners." The 3/4 scale guitar has brass saddles both at the top and on the bridge giving it a bright sound, which Jeff says he reinforced by changing the strings before virtually every recording session.

The release of ‘Dreams’ led to live guest appearances on Roy Abrams’ WBLI show ‘The Island Zone’ and Don Sill’s WUSB show at Stony Brook in October 1998. Music from the album was also later aired on WLIR’s ’Tri-State Sound’ in Long Island and WRVE’s ’Acoustic Sunrise’ in Albany, New York.

In 1999, a chance meeting with Verge Belanger at an outdoor gathering led to a trip later that year to northern California. An interview/performance was taped for Verge’s radio show ‘On The Verge’ on public radio stations KZYX and KZYZ in Mendocino County and on public radio station KKUP in Cupertino outside San Jose. Since then, there have been a total of four more mini-tours of the area including performances in Monterey at Ocean Thunder, the Point Arena/Mendocino Talent Show and coffeehouse appearances in Fort Bragg, California. A sixth trip is currently planned for October, 2003 to coincide with the release of Jeff’s latest CD.

In late 2000, Jeff licensed his composition ‘Horizons’ to the producer of a local Public Access Cablevision TV show called LT1 for use as that show’s theme score. The show is produced by Bruce Figarsky of Community Media Network. Jeff later appeared on LT1, both as a soloist and in a duet with violist Laura Gallucci of the band ‘St. Huckleberry‘, who originally recorded the song ‘Horizons’ with Jeff.

Another chance meeting with New York bassist Andy Lowe in July 2002 led to a further collaborative effort as Jeff opted for a more orchestrated sound in his latest compositions. Their first live performance as a duet in October 2002 at an annual harvest party outside State College, Pennsylvania captivated the mostly college aged audience who had been listening to a jam band most of the evening. Back in New York later that fall, two more local showcase performances drew enthusiastic applause. Jeff and Andy have also appeared recently on the LT1 cable show.

In January of 2003, Jeff returned to the recording studio to begin work on a second CD of the more recent acoustic guitar-based compositions. "These are basically the ones that have been written over the years and polished a bit since the ‘Dreams’ recording project was finished five years ago. The approach to this album is different in that I am playing everything in this crazy tuning that my friend Randy Barnett showed me. It was back the fall of 1996 and we had met at a party at another friend’s place down in West Virginia. Randy is an incredible musician in his own right and plays mostly the violin. We were attempting to jam on Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Rain Song‘ and he showed me the tuning that Jimmy Page had used for that piece, though it is actually a whole step higher. The tuning I use is DADADE, low to high, though sometimes I‘ll use a capo. I started experimenting over the next few weeks afterward and discovered how easily all these unique chord voicings could be played. Three of the eighteen tracks on ‘Dreams’ were in DADADE but the new album is all tracks of DADADE in various styles - something for everybody hopefully."

The new album, entitled ‘The Next Place‘ is a collection of 16 original compositions written since 1998 that incorporate musical styles from "soft rock to funk to meditative to blues and beyond" plus a solo instrumental fingerstyle rendition of ‘The Rain Song’. Jeff mentions that "no guitar picks were used whatsoever" during the recording sessions. Sonny Speed of the Island Songwriters Showcase and of the band, ‘The Defibrillators‘ produced and engineered the project at Son Spot Studios in Commack, New York, which took almost 8 months to complete. "I tend to think of the material I am writing now as more like a movie soundtrack - each composition could possibly be the background score for a different scene." ‘Horizons’, which is included on ‘The Next Place’ CD, has been used as the theme music for ‘LT1’ since late 2000 and another track entitled ‘Medieval Forest‘ from the ‘Dreams‘ CD was used in a west coast produced full-length 2001 documentary film entitled ‘Treesit‘.

Jeff worked with 8 other musicians on the latest project: Andy Lowe on electric 6-string fretless bass and electric 6-string upright bass, Sophie Parker (who also played on the ‘Dreams‘ album) on viola and violin; Laura Gallucci, viola; Sean Grace, flute; Sonny Speed, keyboards; Chris Peters, theremin; Dave Broida, harmonica; and Simon Miller, cajon and percussion. "Everyone who participated was great to work with and helped make this CD sound really good, in my humble opinion. There are solo pieces similar to the material on ‘Dreams‘ plus orchestrated tracks that will satisfy those who want something more lively."

We certainly hope so too as we await its official release on October 25!

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