INSTRUMENTAL ECLECTIC FINGERSTYLE ACOUSTIC GUITAR & BEYOND
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."
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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."
certainly hope so too as we await its official release on October