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JazzColumbus.com Interview Series: Douglas Neel

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by Andrew Patton on March 17, 2015

Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is multi-instrumentalist Doug Neel. A 2002 Capital grad, Neel returned to Columbus in August 2014 from Northwest Ohio and is in the process of re-immersing himself in the local jazz scene. He is currently an adjunct professor of guitar at multiple local colleges, including Capital, and has been a member of Canta BRASIL for almost a year. Though guitar is his current focal point, Neel is also an accomplished trombonist and bassist. While he plays regularly with Canta BRASIL, he is also leading his own trio these days – Neel will play his first show at Dick’s Den as a leader on Sunday, March 29th at 8pm. Keep reading for insights into Neel’s musical experiences and plans for the future:

When and why did you start playing music and jazz?

Doug Neel (DN): I began playing music “formally” in 5th grade band with trombone as my chosen instrument. Interestingly, I chose trombone for two reasons: 1) my parents very quickly vetoed alto sax and snare drum, and 2) I discovered I could poke the person seated in front of me with the slide of the trombone. From there, I picked up guitar at the age of 13, playing mostly rock, metal, and country (I am a farm boy, after all). It wasn’t until I got to college at Capital University that I was really exposed to jazz, and I fell completely in love. Specifically, I remember seeing Gene Bertoncini (guitar) and Doug Richeson (bass) play a duo set at the Borders Books & Music Jazz Fest my freshman year, and I asked myself “how can so much music come from only two people!?!?” The rest, as they say, is history.

Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?

DN: Of course, I have WAY too many to list. First and foremost are my teachers (Stan Smith, Chris Buzzelli, Paul Brown, Dr. Thomas Zugger, Dr. William Mathis, and Garth Simmons). Next, I’d have to say players like John Scofield, Grant Green, Joshua Redman, Jaco Pastorius, Frank Zappa, Brad Paisley, Charlie Hunter, Herb Ellis, Hank Mobley, John Petrucci, David Gilmour, Katie Noonan, System Of A Down, The Roots, etc., etc. I really tend to gravitate to players/groups that I feel have something unique, original, and/or special about their sound and the way they play.

What is your fondest musical memory?

DN: Again, too many to keep track! One standout memory is when my younger brother, Dennis, was able to join me and my friends in The Student Loan Stringband to play a rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on my graduate recital at Bowling Green State University. He is not a professional musician, so anytime he gets the chance to play live it really means the world to him. Naturally, he sounded great, and he was thrilled to get a chance to hang with the “big kids” that night. It really was a special thing, and I’m glad I got to share that with him.

What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?

DN: As of late, my playlist includes Workout (Hank Mobley), The Phosphorescent Blues and Who’s Feeling Young Now? (Punch Brothers), Blackbird: The Music Of Lennon & McCartney (Katie Noonan), Herb Ellis Meets Jimmy Giuffre (Herb Ellis & Jimmy Giuffre), The Amanuensis (Monuments), and Maps Of Non-Existent Places (Thank You Scientist). I’ve also recently been checking out some tracks by Submotion Orchestra and Hiatus Kaiyote.

What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?

DN: As I talk to musicians all throughout the city, it really seems as though everyone is always working on something new! Be it a new band/project, some fresh arrangements, original compositions, or forthcoming albums, Columbus really seems to foster a music culture that is not content with “sitting still,” so to speak. There are so many amazing musicians doing beautiful things that one can’t help but get inspired and motivated to create something special.

What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?

DN: Well, being as I’ve only been back in town for about 6 months, I’m still working to get back into the swing of things. That being said, I do have a couple forthcoming local shows that are definitely worth mentioning:

Saturday, March 21st: Canta BRASIL @ Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza & Live Music, 10p-12a
Sunday, March 29th: Doug Neel Trio @ Dick’s Den w/ Matt Paetsch (bass) and Maxwell Button (drums), 8p-12a
Wednesday, April 1st: Doug Neel, solo guitar @ The Worthington Inn, 7p-9p

Additionally, my hope is to begin recording my first CD as a leader later this year.

For more info on Neel, visit benedettoguitars.com/artists/douglas-j-neel/

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