MELVIN TAYLOR

L1010246_3bwWHAT WAS THE FIRST GUITAR YOU EVER OWNED AND WHAT WAS THE BEST THING YOU RECALL ABOUT IT?  

My very first guitar was given to me by my teacher, Father Duffacy at Saint Francis Cabrini.  I was 13. It was a white Kingston and he also gave me an amplifier. I couldn’t believe it – my family could not afford to buy me one.  What a wonderful, generous man.  I loved that guitar.  I polished it, slept with it… The best part about the guitar was that it was my very own.

ANY GUITARS YOU’VE HAD OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU WISH YOU STILL HAD NOW?

One guitar I wish I had now was a cherry red Gretch Country Gentleman. It was a reissue of 1967 Chet Adkins model.  I lost it when my basement flooded in 1998. I was on the road, out of town at the time.  It was completely ruined by the time home.

IN TERMS OF PLAIN OLD FEELING GOOD, DO YOU PREFER PLAYING GUITAR AT HOME ALONE, IN THE STUDIO OR LIVE ON STAGE?

For me there is nothing like performing live on stage.  I feed off of the energy the audience puts out and I throw it right back to them.

WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO MAKING NEW RECORDS? DOES THERE NEED TO BE A MUSICAL THEME FOR A GIVEN RELEASE OR DO YOU PREFER THE FREEDOM TO CHANGE IT UP THROUGHOUT?

When I started out I recorded for a label – my first 6 CD’s were done that way;  the producer sets the approach and theme for a release. The music turned out great but financially it did not work well for me.

melvinMy most recent CD’s, Beyond the Burning Guitar (2010), Sweet Taste of Guitar (2011), and Taylor Made (2013) I composed, recorded and produced on my own.  It gave me the freedom to record and present the music the way I want.  It had been almost 10 years since my last CD so there was lots of discussion with my management about how to proceed.  BTBG is all instrumental, 23 original songs plus my arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth (Melvin Meets Beethoven).  The CD covers several styles of music including, jazz, latin, blues and classical. The idea was to feature my guitar playing.  I love ALL kinds of music and I’ve been blessed with my talent. I’ve never had a guitar lesson, no one taught me how to play; I would just hear a song and could play it.

Throughout my career I constantly heard producers, music critics, other musicians say, “pick one style, just one, and stay with That”.  I thought the idea was absurd and could get very boring. I did not want to limit myself.

Basically I created my own sound by combining elements from many areas of music and I think I have done it well. Once again with my latest release, Taylor Made (2013), the theme is exactly that.  The title explains the music on the CD – All kinds of music is who I am.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO PLAY GUITAR FOR A LIVING AND THERE WAS NO TURNING BACK?

Around age 11 or 12 I began performing on Maxwell Street in Chicago.  I would play with my Uncle Floyd and his friends. I did not even have my own guitar so I would play my uncle’s Fender Mustang. When people started crowding around us and throwing money in the tip jar – I knew right then there was no turning back.

WHAT’S THE BEST BLUES GUITAR SHOWDOWN YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN OR WITNESSED LIVE ON STAGE?

I think this answer will surprise you – the late 1980’s – I believe 1987, George Benson and Earl Klugh at Carnegie Hall of all places.  Fabulous blues by two exceptionally talented guitarists.

HOW DID THE HABIT OF TURNING YOUR AMP BACKWARDS ‘TO THE WALL’ COME ABOUT?

Good music and sound levels go hand in hand.  Lots of people think the louder the music the better – not true! Inexperience with sound engineering can ruin a show.  Sound levels of each band member need to blend.  Whether it’s a 3 piece band or a symphony orchestra.  When playing in a smaller club I often turn my amp to face backwards or away from the audience.  I don’t want to shatter their eardrums.

MelvinTaylorWHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE GUITAR(S) FOR THE CLEANER, MORE JAZZ INFLUENCED MATERIAL VERSES THE BLUESIER, MORE ROCKIN’ BONZO BLUES STUFF?

My personal favorite guitar is my Ibanez SA200.  I can play everything on this guitar – jazz, blues, rock. Now let me add that I modify ALL of my guitars, amps and pedals.  If someone goes out and buys the same brand names of equipment they will not get the same sound that I do.  Recently I’ve been beta testing ceramic wire for a company in Japan. Some day I hope to market my own line of guitars and equipment.

WHAT EARLY BLUES RECORDS HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU AS A YOUNGSTER AND DO YOU STILL LISTEN TO THEM TODAY?

Freddie King –  Hide Away. Jimmy Reed Shuffle. These 2 are at the top of my list. Remember I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s – EVERYTHING was going on. Motown, James Brown, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Chet Atkins, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder.   It was funk/soul, rock, jazz – an absolutely amazing time to be growing up and soaking in all this music especially for a young guitar player.

DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE BLUES TO PLAY THEM OR IS IT MORE A WAY OF LIFE THAN A STATE OF MIND?

When I think of guys who put blues on the map I would have to name Albert King, Pinetop, Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) and Willie Dixon as major forces. The blues is a “feeling”.  Broken and in pain, sadness and misery. Unfortunately it WAS a way of life for these people. Many people have come to me to teach them to play the blues – I can teach them blues chords and blues licks but the real blues comes from deep within….MELVIN TAYLOR

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DIDA PELLED

1.0 – When did your love of jazz begin and with what artists / records?

I began listening to jazz when I was fifteen years old, at The Thelma Yellin High School (Israel). I didn’t listen to jazz at all before that. As a guitar player (I didn’t sing at all at the time) I loved listening to Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and to other instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Miles David, Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal and many others.

2.0 – Were you singing before you picked up an instrument?

No. I began playing music only as a guitar player, and did only that for a few years. I played many gigs as a guitar player only before starting to sing, and at the time I wasn’t even thinking about singing. After High school, I went to the army (like everyone in Israel), and I was chosen to serve as an ‘outstanding musician’, so I played in the army band. In that band I started singing a little bit, and I fell in love with it. A year after, when I moved to New York, I began singing on my gigs too.

3.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?

In the beginning I didn’t sing jazz so much, and I was mostly fooling around with singing some Israeli songs, Nirvana songs, or something in that vibe, I don’t remember :) So I guess those were the first songs I sang and played at the same time. I think that the first standard that I’ve learned to sing an play at the same time was “Like Someone In love”.

4.0 – It seems so few female guitarists gravitate towards improvisation but rather use it as a vehicle for songs: did that come naturally to you or was it something you had to work at a bit?

It came very naturally, because I started as a guitar player, so improvisation was what I was mostly working on. When I played a gig, many times with another singer, I was only playing guitar, and improvising was my way to express myself. In that sense, I think that I’m happy that I started singing late, because starting with the guitar gave me a point of view of an instrumentalist first, and of someone in the band. Starting to sing after playing guitar and improvising, and really knowing the songs and the language helps a lot.

5.0 – How was your experience like at Berkeley School of Music?

I was there only for 5 weeks, so I don’t really know how it is like to be a student there.:)

6.0 – What led to your decision to ultimately go for it as a musician in the states versus your home of Isreal?

I had a dream about moving to New York even before I started playing music. My older sister and brother were students in NY and I wanted to do the same since I was very young. Later after I got serious into jazz, I had no doubt that NY is where I want to be!

7.0 – Do the early 50’s rock’n’roll pioneers have any influence on your sensibility as a player?

Sure :)

8.0 – What do you enjoy most: playing live, writing or recording?

Playing live!

9.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in New York?

I don’t know another city in the world where you can go out every night and find a few very good options of different music to listen to, and to be inspired by the best musicians in the world.  I am back in NY at The Living Room on August 27th.

10.0 – If you could sit in with anyone, anywhere, anytime, past or present, for just one night….who and where?

Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles?  It’s a hard question! ( Visit Dida online at DidaMusic.com or on Facebook )