Connect with us

Artist Features

Two New Albums From Tim Cummiskey



JGT contributor Joe Barth interviews guitarist Tim Cummiskey as he releases two new albums, “Blue Steel” and “Liquid Fire”

One of the most solid jazz guitarists in the central Ohio area is Tim Cummiskey.  A Columbus, Ohio native, Tim is a leading virtuoso of the instrument in the area.  In addition to his busy performance schedule, he has served the music faculties of Ohio State University and Kenyon College.

JB: I know you grew up in the Columbus, Ohio area, who inspired you to play jazz guitar, and what was most helpful in your personal development as a guitarist?

 TC:  I started out listening to the jazz/ rock fusion players of the time, people like Jeff Beck, Al DiMeola, Steve Morse, and Allan Holdsworth.  I had no clue where to start with traditional jazz/bebop.  So studying with local musicians Tom Carroll, Stan Smith, and Don Hales was very helpful with a course of study and listening. 

JB:  To you, what are three of the most influential jazz guitar albums and why? 

 TC:  First, Wes Montgomery’s. Smokin’ At the Half Note. Wes’ power as a performer is showcased in this live recording. The Wynton Kelly Trio (Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb) enables Wes to execute his brilliance with passion, precision, and joy. Each and every solo and comp on this recording is a study in and of itself. 

Then Pat Martino’s El Hombre’. Thus was Martino’s debut recording at age 22.

He plays such profound, swinging melodic lines with impeccable technique and fiery energy. This is a classic Philadelphia organ trio/quartet with Trudy Pitts on the organ. The selections of standards, blues, and original compositions perfectly frame Martino as one of the greatest of all time.

Thirdly is Joe Pass Virtuoso (1). This recording was incredibly inspiring.  I had heard solo classical guitar before, but his performances showed the magnitude of what was possible with solo jazz guitar.  It blew my mind.  The spontaneous improvisation and arrangement are at the highest level, even to this day.

JB:  You have been a more traditional player, using a seven-string archtop, but with your new records Blue Steel and Liquid Fire you use contemporary pop rhythms and distortion on your guitar.  Why the change?

 TC:  I started out playing rock and heavy metal, then soon after I transitioned to jazz fusion.  I was listening to Allan Holdsworth, John Scofield,  Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, and others.  After studying and playing primarily bebop and classical for decades, I wanted to tackle many of the compositions and concepts that initially inspired and challenged me back in the 1980s.

JB:  Pianist Jon Eshelman, bassist Andrew Woodson, and drummer Reggie Jackson are all fine musicians.  What drew you to these musicians as a rhythm section for your new albums?

TC:  I’ve been playing with these fine artists for over 25 years.  They listen intently, study and work hard for every situation and provide the trust, interaction, and challenge to maximize each performance. 

JB:  Between the two albums you cover several Allan Holdsworth and John Scofield songs.  What guided you in your choice of material for these two albums?

TC:  These artists, compositions, and solos were some of the first transcriptions I worked on.

JB:  What about your career today that you find rewarding?

TC:  The infinite and inexhaustible study and challenge of music.  There are always new concepts and music to work on.  A source of perpetual inspiration, confidence, humility, and gratitude to glorify the living God.  Also, quality music will always offer inspiration and challenge to study, master and maintain.  The art is an “infinite pursuit” to cite a Jean Luc Ponty title. 

JB:  Tell us about the guitars that you use.

TC:  On these new recordings I use a seven-string PRS 7 that I’ve had modified and a Music Man JP7 Petrucci 7 string.  I put DiMarzio Liquid Fire pickups in the PRS. The Petrucci has piezo pickups as well as a pair of DiMarzio humbuckers.  This really opens up the sonic range and possibilities. I also have three Benedettos that I play quite a bit. They’re the finest guitars in the world. 

JB:  What amp do you use?

 TC:  A Fender Blues Deluxe and an EVH 150.  For overdrive, I used a Mesa Boogie Flux Drive pedal.

JB:  What advice would you give to young jazz guitarists?

TC:  View yourself as a lifelong scholar. Play with musicians that are better than you. Work as much as possible.  Ask questions and find out what the Socratic method is.  Play the guitar and work on music every day. Take advantage of your time, this will change as time passes.  I’m more excited about playing and expanding than ever!  If you don’t do the business, the business will do you.

ANY serious guitarist should study classical guitar. Transcribe, study and emulate the historically, great guitarists.  Make sure you study saxophonists and pianists also. They are the towering innovators of jazz styles. 

Subscribe to Jazz Guitar Today – it’s FREE!

Continue Reading