The inaugural Jazz Guitar Now Festival, “centered around contemporary directions in jazz guitar and some of the up-and-coming players on the scene today,” takes place at the Capital University Conservatory of Music and Dick’s Den this weekend. Guitarist and Capital Conservatory Adjunct Faculty Doug Neel led the organization of this two-day event which also features fellow guitarists Taylor Roberts, Brandon Coleman, and Jackson Evans. The festival kicks off on Friday, April 21st at 11am at Conservatory Room 09 with clinics, continues that night at 9pm with a performance by the Doug Neel Quintet featuring Roberts, Coleman, and Evans at Dick’s Den, and concludes with a recital concert by all four guitarists and special guests at Capital’s Huntington Recital Hall on Saturday, April 22nd at 1pm. All events are open to the public. The events at Capital are free, and the Dick’s Den show has a $5 cover and is admitting guests 18 and older (very rare for the usually 21+ club). Visit the festival’s Facebook event page for more info. Neel was kind enough to answer my questions about the festival via email. Keep reading to learn more about this exciting chance to experience jazz guitar in intimate settings.
What inspired you to organize Jazz Guitar Now? Who helped you get the festival started? What are your goals for the festival?
Doug Neel (DN): I was inspired to do the fest largely in part by Tom Carroll and his success with the Denison University Jazz Guitar Festival (which still stands as the longest continually running jazz guitar festival in the country). The idea of hosting a guitar-centric festival at a university, particularly during a time in our culture where the guitar is such a widely popular instrument, seems like a “no-brainer” to me. It’s a perfect avenue to get folks to visit campus who otherwise might not, and, while they’re there, perhaps learn a bit about Capital University and all the things we have to offer. This festival was an idea I’d had for some time, and, in the wake of the success of last year’s Benedetto at Capital event, I decided to move forward. With the help/support of my colleagues at Capital (including Stan Smith, Bob Breithaupt, and Dr. Lou Fischer) and Howard Paul of Benedetto Guitars, I’ve been able to see this year’s festival through to fruition.
Tell us a bit about the festival’s guest artists. What led you to pick these guitarists to be involved?
DN: While I have known about them for some time now, I chose this year’s guests for one very specific reason: they are all YOUNG & accomplished jazz guitarists. In academic circles, we often see clinics featuring musicians/artists who are rather far along in their respective careers, and rightfully so! Unfortunately, there is not as much discussion regarding younger artists who are still establishing promising careers, and I feel as though artists in this particular position have VERY valuable insight into “what it takes” to enjoy success as a full-time musician.
I chose these three guitarists specifically due to the wide-range of abilities represented. Jackson Evans (Savannah, GA) is a very talented guitarist who works in a multitude of styles/settings (gypsy, straight-ahead, solo, pop/rock, etc.), including combo work with his wife, Maggie Evans (who is a very talented vocalist & bassist). Taylor Roberts (Jacksonville, FL) is carving out a reputation as a “rising star” of the solo guitar world, as he is just as comfortable playing arrangements of Heyman/Young songs as he is songs by Taylor Swift. Brandon Coleman (Cincinnati, OH) is a savage fretboard technician who explores very unique means of composing/improvising, and who also has a hand in running Golden Mean Arts, a performing arts space/venue, dedicated to the craft of the younger artist. Additionally, all three of these gentlemen are accomplished teachers, recording artists, performers, and all-around “self-starters” that will be able to impart some valuable lessons & information to all of our festival attendees (regardless of age!).
You have arranged a strong variety of activities for a two day festival. What are you hoping that young guitarists, and the local jazz community at large, learn and experience at these different events?
DN: Yes, we have afternoon clinics scheduled, an evening “club” date, and an afternoon recital all on the docket for the fest. First and foremost, it is our hope that, by offering a wide-variety of events, that potential attendees will find SOMETHING they like and are interested in. Second, for our students, I want them to see these guests in a variety of settings, and really pay close attention to how they handle themselves in each situation. We all know you have to be SUPER flexible as a pro, and what better way to demonstrate that than to witness it in action. Finally, and most importantly, I want to expose the Columbus area music community to some players that they may not have been familiar with, in the hopes that they’ll ultimately find some new music/musicians to get excited about. At the end of the day, I feel like that’s what it’s really all about.