JazzColumbus.com Interview Series: Zakk Jones

Next in our series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is guitarist Zakk Jones. Jones has been very busy since graduating from Capital University in the spring, including leading the August residency at Dick’s Den, touring regionally with his Screeching Owl ensemble, and playing with bands of all stripes. He is currently traveling, but will be back in December, when he’ll get back in the swing of things promptly (see below). Keep reading for details on Jones’ musical development and for info on upcoming projects and shows:

When and why did you start playing music and jazz?

Zakk Jones (ZJ): Piano was actually my first instrument, and I started playing it at the age of 6. I was pretty self-driven in wanting to begin lessons, and knew I wanted to play music. At that point I was actually very interested in composing, and spent a lot of time working on that to the best of my ability. Although I had an eagerness in my writing and playing, I really wasn’t actively LISTENING to music until I was about 9-10, when my Dad started indoctrinating me with Prince (his favorite artist), Metallica, Miles Davis, Van Halen, Beastie Boys, Earth Wind & Fire, and many other amazing artists across all genres.

After picking up the guitar around age 11, I was mostly interested in rock and metal until it came time for college decisions. I was set on pursuing music at the collegiate level, but figured I wasn’t going to be getting a degree in death metal, so I decided to find a teacher who could help me wet my toes in jazz. Thankfully I found a wonderful instructor who got me into jazz, Brazilian, and classical music. I had almost no experience playing live jazz when I got to Capital but I immediately knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life!

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

ZJ: This is always a tough question!! Artists can influence me in a lot of ways, harmonically, rhythmically, melodically, the ability to evoke emotion (of any kind), stage presence, composition, arranging…bearing that in mind I’ll try to keep this list relatively short…(impossible!)

Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Jim Hall
Lage Lund
Gilad Hekselman
Wes Montgomery
Ed Bickert
Robert Glasper
Stan Smith
Mark Flugge
Olivier Messiaen
Paul Motian

And many many more!

What is your fondest musical memory?

ZJ: I’m grateful to say that there isn’t just one, as I have had many wonderful musical moments especially in the past few years. I’ll share some that stand out!

My senior (full) recital was a great moment for me, as I got to really share with my family and friends the culmination of 4 years work at Capital University. I was grateful for the freedom with repertoire, and was able to have fun with a wide range of music, including some of my own! Spending the evening with my best friends on and off the stage was a joy for me.

I’m very proud of my group Screeching Owl, and I can gloat a bit at the fact that since creating it in January of this year I released a 6-song original EP of my compositions, booked a successful tour in August ’15 and additionally have performed at Comfest, Jazz and Ribs Fest, Dick’s Den, Brothers Drake, and Wild Goose Creative. It’s hard work to lead a group, write all the music and arrangements (printing and taping is a large battle), plus act as a manager/booker, BUT it’s highly rewarding and I can’t wait to get back into it early next year.

The group can be seen here!


Most recently I had the great pleasure of being 1/3 of the stellar Birdshack Trio, and the Tony Monaco Trio. These gigs have really opened me up to listening, interacting, and having fun more than ever on the gig. It’s a hard challenge to set aside all the B.S. of daily life but when you’re playing you have to set it all aside and speak MUSIC. I’m grateful for any musician who gives me the chance to do this alongside them and look forward to many more moments that inspire not only me, but my bandmates and of course the audience.

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

ZJ: I listen to anything I can get my hands on, and it’s always evolving, but the best barometer to what I’m listening to is what’s in my car. Recently it’s been:

Pat Metheny Group
Lage Lund
John Scofield
Steely Dan
Claude Thornhill
Michael Jackson
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Will Vinson
Thelonious Monk
Robert Glasper
Anything with Bill Stewart..!!

What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?

ZJ: Columbus has sincerely shaped me in every way, and there are a lot of factors for that. Attending Capital University allowed me to be thrown head first into a program that is equally nurturing and challenging. Thankfully I met some amazing friends and musicians there to help me keep my sanity! The talent in Columbus is really astonishing, especially compared to the size of the entire city! The best part about it is having the chance to meet and even play with many of these master musicians. Everyone is so kind and I have had strong mentors who really look out for me, giving me opportunities that never would have happened in other circumstances. There is always something going on, and I’d say we all support each other whenever possible, both by attending as active listeners, and participating in musical projects. Recently I have played with the Floorwalkers, Tony Monaco Trio, Birdshack, Bluewater Kings, Soul Fedge, Safety Squad, Chase Potter Band and more! I love that I get to be put in many different situations and styles, it really keeps me on my toes especially with these inspiring musicians! I look forward to staying here as a full-time musician, continuing to grow as a leader, sideman, teacher, writer, and person!

What are you working on these days? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?

ZJ: Honestly I’ve been on a bit of a break from leading any projects. After a busy summer with Screeching Owl and my Dick’s Den Residency I wanted some time to focus on my personal playing/practicing and sideman duties. I do have a lot of ideas however; I’d like to put together a concert of George Russell’s music, as well as a few other composers. I’m working on original music for Safety Squad, and eventually will be writing a whole new book for Screeching Owl to record and tour with. As far as other recordings I really want to do a collection of solo guitar pieces (music of all sorts), and a trio record focusing on great standards that are underplayed.

Where can local audiences see you play in the near future?

I’m out of town for November but in December I’m getting right back into it.

December 9th: Brothers Drake with Danny Bauer, Ryan Folger, and Alex Burgoyne (new group and new music!!)

December 31st (New Years Eve): Playing with the Tony Monaco Trio at the Trout Club in Newark!

All of January and part of February I will be playing with the amazing trio Birdshack which has two weekly gigs:

Sundays at The Crest, 11:30am-2:30pm
Mondays at Giuseppe’s, 6-8:30pm

Keep a lookout on my social media as gigs pop up!



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