Martin Taylor began playing the guitar at the age of four when his father, jazz bassist Buck Taylor gave him a small acoustic guitar as a present. He began to teach himself to play by listening to his father's jazz records and by the age of twelve was playing in local bands. Although inspired initially by the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, it was to be piano players, most notably Art Tatum, that caught his imagination and set him on the path of developing his own individual style of solo guitar playing.
In 1978 he made his debut album "Taylor Made" for Wave Records and the following year received a call from Stephane Grappelli inviting him to play on a series of concerts in France. The great jazz violinist was so impressed that he asked Taylor to join him on a coast to coast tour of the U.S. including Carnegie Hall New York and The Hollywood Bowl. Alongside his work with Grappelli, he was still pursuing his own solo career, receiving wide critical acclaim for his albums "Sarabanda" recorded in Los Angeles in 1987 and featuring bassist John Patitucci, Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and produced by Toto bassist David Hungate.
In 1990, Taylor made his first album for Linn Records "Don't Fret" and decided to concentrate completely on his solo career. In 1993 he made his solo album ARTISTRY which topped the UK Jazz Charts for 6 weeks. In the same year, Grappelli and Taylor briefly joined forces again to make a duo album "Reunion" and were the subject of a BBC TV documentary which has been shown across Europe, America, the Far East and Australia. In 1994 he formed his group MARTIN TAYLOR'S SPIRIT OF DJANGO with the aim to pay homage and create a new contemporary sound inspired by the gypsy guitar genius Django Reinhardt. Their first album "Spirit of Django", reached No. 1 in the UK Jazz Charts for several weeks and was nominated "Best Album of the Year 1995" at the British Jazz Awards. In 1997 the group was voted "Best Small Band" in the British Jazz Awards and Martin was voted "Best Guitarist" for the seventh time.
Over the past decade Martin has built up a large following worldwide through his recordings, videos and busy touring schedule. He has been featured in most of the popular guitar magazines in America and Europe, and in May '98 was the first non-classical guitarist to grace the front cover of Classical Guitar Magazine. Martin has collaborated with many musicians outside the jazz world including Yes guitarist Steve Howe and classical guitarist Carlos Bonell.
In celebrating 25 years as a professional musician he has been honoured this year with a Civic Reception in his home town of Ayr, Scotland and was given the Freedom of the City of London in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the world of guitar music. He is also being awarded with an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Paisley in Scotland.
George Benson & Ian Macgregor
Guitarist Peter Leitch is self-taught, although some studies for classical guitar were a part of his early introduction to the instrument. Born in Ottawa in 1944 but raised in Montreal he started playing at the early age of 16. "Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall and Rene Thomas were my favourite four guitarists back then", Peter remembers. Belgium's Thomas lived in Montreal from 1956 to 1961, and came back to visit a few times after that. "Rene was the first jazz guitarist I ever heard" says Peter.
In Montreal he worked in local clubs and recorded with Sadik Hakim on the CBC label. When he later moved to Toronto he joined the Phil Nimmons band 'Nimmons and Nine plus Six', did some television appearances with this band and with Rob McConnell's Boss Brass and Peter Appleyard.
During the next five years Peter had a variety of gigs that helped strengthen his ability and technique - Kenny Wheeler, Red Norvo, Clark Terry, Pat LaBarbera, Jim Galloway, Sam Noto and others too numerous to mention. In 1982 he felt the urge to move to New York and continue his studies. Along with the lessons he was able to play with other musicians - Milt Jackson, Pepper Adams, Jaki Byard, Al Grey, Jimmy Forrest and Woody Shaw, and finally decided to make New York his home base.
Since the mid 1980's Peter has been busy teaching, recording for Criss Cross, Concord and Reservoir as a leader and playing in the U.S., Europe and Canada.
John Pisano has been formally recognized as one of the world's finest guitarists. He has an extremely diverse background, having emerged on the jazz scene in the mid-50's, first recording in 1958 and 1959 with the legendary Billy Bean and a two-year stint with drummer Chico Hamilton (which at one time featured the innovative reedist Eric Dolphy). Even if his name doesn't immediately ring a bell, odds are that you've heard his guitar work. Although John has occasionally stepped forward to lead his own group, for years his "comfort zone" was the background and John became an active member of the Los Angeles studio scene, adding his special touch to groups let by Buddy DeFranco, Red Norvo, Bud Shank and Benny Goodman. Additionally, John has accompanied in concert or recording some of music's biggest names, including Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Frank Sinatra, Michael Franks, Clare Fischer, Julie London, Bobby Troup, Natalie Cole, Joe Pass Barbra Streisand and Diana Krall. John is a founding member of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass and obtained some solid Brazilian experience working with Sergio Mendes.
In the last several years, however, Pisano has assumed the leader's role, releasing a series of Pablo CD's remarkable for their beauty and musical camaraderie. "Among Friends" was the first, featuring him in duet settings with six of the instrument's most talented players: Lee Ritenour, Phil Upchurch, Ron Affif, Dori Caymmi, Ted Greene, and the late Joe Pass, with whom John had worked extensively for three decades and released more than a dozen albums together (Pass died on May 23, 1994).
Pass was also heard on "Duets", which focused on empathic guitar conversations recorded at a 1991 Pisano/Pass session.
His subsequent album, the Pablo release, "Conversation Pieces", includes wonderfully varied material from 1994 and '95 recordings with, once again, Lee Ritenour, Phil Upchurch, Ted Greene, and Dori Caymmi, as well as Joe Diorio and Gene Bertoncini. Eric Miller, who was Pass's producer in the guitarist's final years, has also produced all of Pisano's dates for the label. Most recently, John was featured on Natalie Cole's album, entitled "Ask A Women Who Knows" and Diana Krall's platinum recording "The Look Of Love" and the Grammy winning "Live In Paris" available both as a CD and a DVD.
John hosts (and performs at)"John Pisano's Guitar Night" held Tuesdays at the Sherman Oaks, California club Spazio. This weekly series, which will celebrate its 6th anniversary on September 23, 2003, features a wide range of guitarists and attracts the elite of the L.A. jazz scene. Additionally, John has worked several times at the popular Zinc Bar in lower Manhattan and will be performing this October (2003) at Birdland.
John joined 'The Great Guitarists' series with the likes of Gene Bertoncini, Philip Catherine, Herb Ellis and Mundell Lowe on tours of Germany and Italy where they performed to sell-out crowds.
John is the current spokesman and chief endorser for the new line of Eastman Guitars and is currently developing the "John Pisano" Signature Model for Eastman.
Ulf Wakenius, Martin Taylor & John Pisano
Appreciated as both musician and performer by millions, George Benson has always had the duel personae of expert improviser and vibrant entertainer.
Few might have predicted that striking level of stardom some forty years ago, when Benson was a fledgling guitarist working the corner pubs of his native Pittsburgh.
It was Wes Montgomery, one of jazz's most creative players, who came across Benson early on; the vet complimented the young guitarist, urging him to continue his already impressive work.
By the time legendary talent scout John Hammond signed Benson to Columbia, the guitarist's name was bubbling throughout the industry.
In the late '60s he sat in on heady Miles Davis sessions, and also put a personal spin on the tunes from the Beatles' Abbey Road.
Hooking up with the CTI label in 1970, he was united with many of jazz's finest instrumentalists, including Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter, and Freddie Hubbard.
Breezin' was the first jazz record to attain platinum sales. The 1976 blockbuster, his first in a long association with Warner Bros. Records, brought the instrumental title track to jazz radio. And Benson's soulful update of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade," which featured the guitarist scatting along with his solo break, was a pop smash. He followed up with a sultry version of "On Broadway," and the irresistible "Give Me The Night," which thrilled many a dancer.
Throughout the 1980s Warner Bros. and LiPuma followed their smash success with several terrific Benson records. Individually, they blended grooves and guitar work, proving that R&B was a natural part of Benson's profile. Collectively, they cemented his global renowned. The guitarist has won eight Grammies, played around the world, and thrilled many crowds with his playing.
In the mid-'90s Benson followed LiPuma to the GRP label. Their association had proven artistically and commercially fertile; both wanted to sustain it. Together they cut the 1996 gem That's Right. It offered a modern version of contemporary jazz that reminded its listeners Benson was one of the genre's forefathers.
These days Benson's interests are many. He's often spotted out at Manhattan jazz clubs, checking the action of fledgling guitarists. The most impressive of the lot are sometimes invited back to Benson HQ for jam sessions and stylistic powwows. Benson's latest GRP disc is Standing Together. It not only assures that his chops are sharper than ever, but suggests that his studio savvy is continuing to grow.
"The easiest way to involve people is by getting 'em tapping their feet. When they're tapping a bit, they'll go your way. That's when I can float any kind of jazz line into the music. Once the audience knows I respect them, they let me be whatever I want to be. I hope - no, I firmly believe - that will always be the case."
Ray Walker, Peter Leitch and Garry Lee
Len Williams, John Pisano and Ian Macgregor
Ulf Wakenius has since 1997 held what may be the most prestigious spot in jazz for a guitarist - membership in the Oscar Peterson Quartet. His predecessors have been such legends as Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, and Joe Pass. He has performed at such classic jazz venues as Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Blue Note and played for large crowds around the world.He has also appeared on American television(CBS) and Tv Globo(Brazil) with Oscar Peterson. Last year he recorded “Trail of Dreams” with Oscar Peterson and Michel Legrand, for the Telarc label, and during recent years he has also played with such outstanding musicians as, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Johnny Griffin, Toots Thielemans, Jack DeJohnette, Max Roach, Jim Hall, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, James Moody, Roy Hargrove, Randy Brecker.
He has recorded two CDs, also for Telarc with the great Ray Brown: “Seven Steps To Heaven” which became number one in the U.S. jazz charts, and “Summertime” which was voted as one of the top ten albums of `98 in America.Lately he has lead a Stellar Quintet of his own featuring:Mike Brecker and Ray Brown.Last year he did a sold out U.S. tour with Oscar Peterson.The highlight of the tour was the Hollywood Bowl concert with 17 000 people in the audience.
Ulf Wakenius was born in Halmstad, Sweden on April 16, 1958. He began playing the guitar at the age of 11, inspired by other guitarists in the neighbourhood of his new hometown, Gothenburg.
After picking up the guitar Ulf never looked back. In the beginning he was inspired by virtuoso electric blues guitar players but soon moved to more jazz-orientated music. John McLaughlin became Ulf's new guitar hero. (John later wrote liner notes for one of Ulf's solo-albums).
At the age of 17 Ulf was already established as a jazz musician playing with different Swedish groups. During the following years he toured all over Europe. In the beginning of the '80s Ulf founded the duo “Guitars Unlimited” together with Peter Almqvist. They toured in many parts of the world and appeared frequently on Swedish Television. The highlight in their career was a performance in the 1985 Melody Grand Prix, a historic event which was seen by 600 million viewers, (probably the the largest audience a jazz-guitar duo has ever had).
In the mid-'80s Ulf also received the opportunity to record a solo album in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He was fortunate to be able to gather together such fantastic musicians as Sivuca, Luizao, Paolo Braga (Elis Regina), Nico Assumpcao (Milton Nascimento) among others. The record became a hit in Sweden with considerable airplay, even making it to the Swedish Top - “Svensktoppen”, a programme where one seldom hears any jazz. The “Brazil venture” was the beginning of a life-long love of the Brazilian culture. Later Ulf returned with Oscar Peterson and performed for 35, 000 people in Sao Paolo.
In the late '80s Ulf began playing with the Danish bass giant Niels-Henning rstedt-Pedersen, and with whom he still plays. Their collaboration has been very fruitful, resulting in concerts all over the globe, several recordings, playing for the then-President of the United States, Bill Clinton, and numerous international TV-shows.
In the beginning of the '90s Ulf started to work in different projects together with American and European top musicians. The group Grafitti was formed with the rhythm section from the John Scofield group, the members being the phantom drummer Dennis Chambers, bassist Gary Grainger, Hkon Graf on keyboards and Ulf on guitar. They toured in the United States and Europe and recorded a CD which was very well received. He also started a collaboration with the bass icon Ray Brown. Ulf has 10 solo albums to his name and has recorded several albums as a sideman together with many jazz legends.