John Clarke Interview

John Clarke from the Southern Jazz Guitar Society contacted me and very kindly answered our interview questions. I will do a feature on UK jazz guitar societies soon.

What/who were your initial influences?

Jim Hall (‘Jazz Guitar’ with Carl Perkins and Red Mitchell), Barney Kessel (‘Four’ with Hamptom Hawes), Wes Montgomery (all the Riverside recordings)

Are you gigging much at the moment and any projects in the pipeline?

I only average half a dozen gigs a year, and this year it’s less than that, but I play in public twice a month at jam sessions. Last year, one of the bands I play in supported the Clark Tracy Quintet at the Reading Jazz Cafe, and another band I play in has played at The Marlborough Jazz Festival, the Brighton Jazz Club, the Reading Jazz Club and the Southampton Jazz Club in the past. The close proximity of London, and the dearth of gigs there for pro musicians means that, now, these local gigs can attract London jazz musicians for modest fees, so there are fewer opportunities left for local semi-pros and good amateurs.

What’s your ‘desert island’ guitar or have you got it!?

My ’59 Gibson L7 with Kent Armstrong custom archtop pick-up, but a similar vintage L5CES would be even better. I also have an Ibanez AS200 bought c. 1990, which is an exceptionally nice guitar.

Best (jazz guitar) gig you’ve ever seen?

Wes at Ronnie Scotts, I guess, but Pat Metheny at The Shaw Theatre c. 1980, and Mike Stern at the Bracknell Jazz Festival c, 1987 also stand out

Which guitarist(s) would you recommend for other people to check out?

Depends on the era (my taste covers all from fifties to the present). Pre 1980 – Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Pat Martino, and Jimmy Raney are my favourites. Post 1980 – Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and Mike Stern, or for a more conventional sound, Peter Bernstein and Jesse Van Ruller.

John Clarke
Basingstoke

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