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Talking Jazz With Ted Ludwig Down In The Big Easy



You might think of the banjo when thinking of The Big Easy – but Ted Ludwig and his seven-string guitars may have you reevaluate that thought.

The Inception of Jazz music for many is quite simple.  New Orleans!  Dixieland, Satchmo, and the Marsalis family wove the fabric of the French Quarter.  Ironically, it is not uncommon to think of the banjo before you might think of the guitar down in The Big Easy but Ted Ludwig and his seven strings a-leaping may have you reevaluate your thoughts.  Jazz Guitar Today would like to thank Mr. Ted Ludwig for this exclusive interview.

Ted Ludwig

In prepping for a gig that involves long-distance travel, do you have a running to-do checklist or advice before your departure that can help an aspiring artist?

This is a great question! When traveling, the first thing that comes to mind for me is getting my instrument there safe and sound! Because great sounding guitars are delicate, having great insurance and a strong case like a Hoffee or Calton to protect my instrument is important. I also keep a humidifier gel pack in the case. Another important thing is bringing a well-organized folder of charts for the other musicians to play my tunes. Make sure that the intros, endings, and blowing changes are clear so there are no problems on the bandstand. I try to arrange to borrow or rent an amp since they are difficult to travel with by plane. Always carry extra picks, cables, and a spare pack of Thomastic/Infeld strings in my suitcase. And don’t overpack! Take only what you need as far as clothes. A heavy bag will slow you down.

Please tell Jazz Guitar Today readers about your relationship with your Linda Manzer Guitar and this inspiring work of seven string art that you employ on gigs and sessions?

I had been hearing great things about Linda Manzer Guitars for the last 25 years. In 2016, I was playing at the Woodstock Luthier’s Invitational guitar show and I wandered over to Linda’s booth. She had a beautiful archtop called “The Wildwood“ sitting behind her table and I asked her if I could try it out. As soon as I started playing it, I was blown away!! I could not believe how responsive and resonant the instrument was! I could not put it down. I spent most of my time at that show hanging out with Linda and playing that guitar. Linda was so nice and mentioned that she would like to make me a guitar! I said that I would need 7 strings and she said “I made a 42 string guitar for Pat Metheny so 7 strings should not be a problem “. After 2 years of working together on the design, she delivered my guitar “Rosie” to me at the 2018 Woodstock Festival. This has proven to be the finest guitar I’ve ever played! The clarity of the tone and the ease in playability are unparalleled. The upper register is bell-like with lots of sustain while the bass response is clear and warm. I use this instrument constantly at my gigs and concerts. I also use it for teaching and touring! It is my voice! I believe that Linda is the Stradivarius of modern guitar makers! From the bottom of my heart, I thank Linda Manzer for crafting such an exceptional guitar for me!

Ted Ludwig 2
Ted and saxophonist Joel Frahm

You received and undergraduate and graduate degrees in jazz studies from the University of New Orleans.  Beyond the academics, what role did the modern New Orleans jazz scene shape you during that time period?

Growing up in New Orleans and having access to such a diverse live jazz scene had a huge impact on my musical development. My first jazz guitar teacher was a local legend named Hank Mackie. Hank has been a guiding light for so many guitar players in NOLA. I am forever grateful for his influence. Hank encouraged me to enroll at The University of New Orleans and study with the great Steve Masakowski. Steve is an amazing player and was a fantastic teacher and mentor for me. He played in a modern jazz group called “Astral Project” which included the most prolific musicians in town. I would show up at all of his gigs to listen and learn. Steve took me under his wing and recommended me for gigs or to sub for him at Snug Harbor or The Windsor Court with great pianist Michael Pellera. I learned so much from Steve about music and about life.  

Another huge influence on me was Ellis Marsalis!! Ellis was very encouraging during my time at UNO. He had an old school approach to teaching jazz. A sort of get out there and learn from your mistakes approach. He really pushed me to get out of the practice room and start playing lots of gigs. All types of gigs, Dixieland, traditional, big band, modern jazz, funk, etc… Ellis could play it all and he encouraged his students to do the same. I’m forever grateful for his guidance and support!
There is so much music in NOLA. It seems to seep from the ground. The history, the rhythms, the culture, and of course the amazing food have had a lasting impact on the music. You have to be there to soak it in. I had to leave my home after Hurricane Katrina but NOLA will always be in my heart.

Have you had a chance to catch any of the Jazz themed documentaries on Netflix or Amazon Prime such as those on Jaco Pastorius, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Bill Evans and more?

I am a huge Netflix fan! I have watched many of the music documentaries. Including Jaco, Chasing Trane, Birth of the Cool, Quincy Jones, and Bill Evans. All of these were very informative and inspiring to check out! I was most interested in the Jaco Pastorius documentary because my father toured with Jaco for about 6 months in Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders band. My dad still tells some great stories about his experiences with Jaco. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo did an amazing job telling Jaco’s remarkable and tragic story.

The Jody Grind with bassist Nat Reeves

Is there a bucket list of any future instrumental combos your care to explore or players that you wish to collaborate with and have your jazz guitar stylings be a part of?

Currently I am working on music for a new quintet recording that will feature Saxophonist Joel Frahm and Pianist Jon Cowherd. We will be recording it in the early spring. I’m working on developing a new Jazz guitar studies course that will be on TrueFire. I’m also working with Jazz Guitar Today in creating 2 new lesson series for the magazine. I’m very excited about these new upcoming projects.

 Willow Weep For Me with Saxophonist Joel Frahm.

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