Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Interview with Joe Giglio

I have known NYC based jazz guitarist Joe Giglio for years. A great guitarist and ... a really nice and funny guy to boot. I first got to know about him via newsgroups but,  more recently, I have followed him as a Facebook friend. Joe has several CDs out and writes a monthly column for Just Jazz Guitar Magazine. But let's first hear him bop out on a live take of "Donna Lee."

Do you make a living playing and teaching jazz guitar?

Yes I do. Over the years the balance between gigging & teaching has shifted a few times. In the early 1990s it was 50-50; now it is 85% teaching & 15% gigging.

Do you prefer one to the other?

I truly love them both. My ideal balance would be 10 engaging students, & 3 appropriate-paying gigs. I wouldn’t mind if one of those gigs was a little more varied than the typical jazz gig, as I like playing rootsy music of many types.

How long have you been playing guitar and at what age did you first get into guitar playing?

It has been 40+ years of playing, beginning at age 10. Prior to that I played the Tennis Racquet, the Piano, the French Horn, & the Tennis Racquet.

Was it jazz right from the start?

Not really. It was: Elvis, Ricky Nelson, The Beach Boys/Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, & then: ‘Ascension’ by John Coltrane-‘Forrest Flower’ by Charles Lloyd. ‘Message From Birdland’ by Maynard Ferguson, ‘Cello Debut at The Renaissance’ by Red Mitchell-feat. Jom Hall, John Handy Quintet Live at Monterey. Then it was ‘Jazz-Rock’ (still my favorite) wit the likes of Miles Davis, Gary Burton, Tony Williams Lifetime, The Blues Project, etc…

Did you have any formal education in jazz?

Yes. I have a Masters Degree from Purchase College in Jazz Performance. I also studied intensively with pianist Sal Mosca which was much more stringent than music school, I must say.

Do you recall a particular practice routine when you were a jazz guitar student?

I had several. There was the famous OCD Routine, whereby I would get up at 8am & practice everything I could think of until Noon, Then at 1pm I would practice everything I could think of until 6pm, then I would practice extra technique exercises (scales, picking, arpeggios, etc), while watching TV from 8-10pm. Needed meds BADLY!

A more sane routine was 45 minutes of scales/arps/picking exercises, with varying metronome settings, including some polyrhythm stuff; 45 minutes of reading anything/everything; two hours of tunes-learning them & improvising; then later if I had time I would learn solos by singing them & down the road a bit, I would learn them on the guitar &/or notate them

Which jazz guitarists had an influence on your playing?

All of them: good & bad. Mostly though it was: Jim Hall/Wes Montgomery/Larry Coryell/Joe Pass/Grant Green/Pat Martino.

When and where did you start gigging?

I was 12 years old-The Davenport Beach & Tennis Club-we played songs by Cream, The Seeds, The Beatles, The Stones, B.B. King – BADLY!

When did you start singing and how does the combination work?

I started singing I am told, at age 3, & never stopped. I love singing as much as guitar playing & that is a whole whopping lot! I enjoy the combination of playing & singing very much – it is truly my winning combination!

And when did you start composing?

I began composing at age 12 – in a juvenile way I am sure. By age 16 I was writing some memorable songs, 2 of which I still play. Once I started playing Jazz my composing became mostly instrumental.

I know you live in Manhattan. What is it like living and playing in the jazz capital of the world? The competition must be fierce …

It is amazing & horrible. Amazing in that I can play with some of the world’s best musicians – horrible in that there are very few gigs. NYC is so expensive at this point that a trip to the grocery market is like going to Tiffany. Regarding the competition, for me it is like this: I don’t compete in the traditional sense-fortunately I have matured out of that. The fact is though, that with NYC being mistakenly thought of as a Music Mecca, everyone comes here to make it, & those people are willing to play for free, or actually will ‘pay to play’. They also are willing to teach for peanuts. Most are supported by parents back home, & live in apartments with many roommates. That is the competition. It is not musical, it is simply a matter of a body count.

Could you highlight some milestones in your jazz career?

This is one-Thank You Dick! :) Playing with the worlds best Jazz Guitarists/Bassists for 8+ years every week at 107WEST, was certainly a big highlight. Playing formal concerts with Bucky Pizzarelli, my 1st gig with Joe Puma, my 1st ever Jazz gig at ‘Vesuvio’ in NewPaltz- NY, playing with trumpet legend Joe Wilder, are some…

What recordings that you made do you like especially?

‘Sound Scape’ – duo with Saxophonist Jimmy Halperin; & ‘Rainbow Shards’ – duo with Guitarist Joe Diorio, are two that I really like.

Love for Sal (with Jimmy Halperin)
The Days of Wine and Roses  (With Joe Diorio)

You have played with so many big names. Any anecdotes or stories you would like to share?

Trombonists leave disgusting pools of spit on the bandstand…

Your Top 5 jazz guitar albums are … ?

‘Intercontinental’ – Joe Pass; ‘Live’ – Pat Martino; ‘The Wes Montgomery Trio’ – Wes Montgomery; ‘Where Would I Be’ – Jim Hall; ‘The Bridge’ – Sonny Rollins (w/Jim Hall).

What gear are you currently using (amps, guitars)?

I mostly play a ‘Forshage Ergo’, which is a headless semi-hollow electric; a 1970 Gibson ES-330-Longneck (heavily modified); a G&L ASAT-Blues Boy. Amp-wise I alternate between a Polytone ‘Mega Brute’ & a ZT ‘Lunch Box’. I also employ Korg ‘Pandora’ & Zoom multi-effects units.

What is your approach to teaching jazz guitar?

I make sure that a student is a good ‘guitarist’ first, then we learn about melody, harmony, phrasing, comping, singing-transcribing.

What educational “path” would you recommend to an aspiring bop guitarist?

Don’t go to music college unless you are wealthy or have a full scholarship. It is impossible to pay back those massive student loans working as a musician.

I suggest finding a great teacher, a low-stress-non-music-part-time job. Practicing a whole lot, jamming-sitting in, at every opportunity, attending as many live jazz performances as possible. Eat well, exercise, visit art museum & libraries, read good books, stay away from FaceBook for the most part, don’t text while driving, biking, hiking or walking, get 8+ hours of sleep, don’t get married & have children…

What music are you listening to today (guitarists or non-guitarists)?

Andy Bey, Bill Frisell, Art Tatum, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Joe Venuti & Zoot Sims, Lenny Breau, Bessie Smith (Playlist #1 on my iphone)

What is your favourite jazz guitar place on the internet?

On YouTube I often happily visit: ‘MrBebopguitar (a.k.a. Dutchbopper or Jazzerman)’.

Your favorite YouTube jazz guitar vid?

Every Ted Greene video…

Who are your favourite European jazz guitar players?

Dan Johnson, Dan Martin, Trefor Owen, & Andy Hulme from the UK. Bireli Lagrene, Dick Onstenk, Fabio Pianigiani from Siena, Eddie Palermo from Rome, Jonny Johansson from Sweden & The Bronx…

Any future plans we should know about?

I plan to keep on keepin’ on…!

Thanks Joe!

Thank You Dick!


  1. Very nice interview. Joe besides being a great player is a great human being too.

  2. Thanks Dom-The Appreciation & Respect Flows Right Back To You, My Friend & Inspiration!

  3. Love "wine & roses" with Diorio,(haven't had time to get to the others yet) & the interview was poignant as always!
    If one is lucky enough to have appreciated Joe as a teacher or a performer, or both, one is abundantly Lucky!

    "Keepin' On" indeed!

  4. Wow!! Thanks Dick and Joe! He is truly a great person and musician; I have known that to be true from personal, rewarding experience.

  5. Joe is one of the first Jazz guitarist I was able to find on the Internet back before they were everywhere. Great player. Les

  6. Great interview! Thanks to both of you for doing this. Very inspiring!

  7. Joe,

    Great responses...I will try to take your advice....do all that low-stress stuff...

    have always loved your sense of humor...
    charley k

  8. Thank you all for the wonderful comments, & for taking the time from your busy lives to read about of all things...ME!

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