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Jack Pearson: Exploring the “Language” of Jazz



More and more Nashville players are performing jazz or incorporating jazz influences in their playing. JGT Editor Bob Bakert speaks to Jack Pearson.

JGT: When I was backstage at the Little Walter shows the last two years I heard a lot of bebop and post-bop lines.  How much is jazz batted about among the Nashville players?  Is there a growing interest in jazz and its many iterations?

Jack: I wasn’t at the events you mentioned but there is a long history of Jazz guitarists in Nashville. To name a few, Hank Garland, Roland Gresham, Richard Cotten, Lenny Breau, Mike Elliott, Mel Deal, Andy Reiss, too many to think of…this area always has many great pickers.

JGT: What is your favorite style to play? 

Jack: Jazz, blues, southern rock, rockabilly, I like the older styles that I learned from. I might play some bebop in any of those styles at any time, and it’s gotten me fired a few times. LOL

JGT: What is your music education, formal or otherwise? 

Jack: Mostly self taught, my oldest brother Stanley taught me a lot and I learned from playing along with records. There were several fine guitar players where I grew up and we would share what we were learning with each other. 

“Jack Pearson is truly a musician’s musician, yet a person who has never picked up a guitar will totally be amazed and moved by his sheer skill and musicality. His limitless abilities have him playing so many styles with taste and authenticity. He moves effortlessly from southern rock to delta blues to jazz to bluegrass to swing. His live performances sizzle with pure soul and entertainment. Pound for pound, Jack’s the best out there!”…Tommy Emmanuel

JGT: Who are your biggest influences? 

Jack: Too many to list and also instruments besides guitar, but as far as jazz guitar players the tops would be Django, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass.

JGT: What are you listening to today?

Jack: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Django, Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, etc…

JGT: What guitars, amps and strings including gauges are you using?  Does it change depending on style (obviously acoustic vs electric is a given)  Ted Greene, for example played about everything on a Tele as Larry Carlton plays everything on a 335.

Jack: Each guitar has it’s own tension to the neck and action, so the gauges vary depending on the guitar and style of music I play on it. I use D’addario strings. For electric I get individual strings and make up my own sets because I use flatwound Chromes on the lower 3 strings and my gauges aren’t what the factory uses in their sets. I’ve done a lot of experimenting through the years to get the action and feel that I want.  My amp is the VVT Jack Pearson model.

JGT: What new music are you working on?

Jack: I’m always writing and trying to learn something new and add it to my playing. Improvising through chords changes is what I like to do.

JGT: What are your goals for your own playing?

Jack: My goal has always been to keep learning and improving my playing. I enjoy practicing so it’s never been a chore, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting by myself playing. In fact that’s what I’m gonna go do now.

JGT: Do you see jazz gaining popularity in Nashville and/or around the country if/as you tour? 

Jack: It’s mostly small clubs and restaurants that have jazz, it’s been that way for a long time. It’s a shame the public doesn’t like jazz more. It’s a true American art form. Some of the older musicians that I’ve played with said that they got to play jazz 5 nights a week back in the day. I hope traditional jazz makes a comeback. 

And a look back…

Jack backstage with Buddy DeFranco from April 1987
Lloyd Wells, Jimmy Raney, Jack and Mel Deal from1986
Jack with Richard “Groove” Holmes from 1987
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