JGT contributor Joe Barth interviews Spanish jazz guitarist, Jordi Farrés
How old were you when you started to play jazz guitar and what was most helpful in your personal development as a guitarist?
My parents bought me a Spanish guitar when I was about 10, the best present ever. After a couple of years in the music school, I got bored with my teacher and the methods, so I switched to the electric guitar hoping for some more freedom and fun. My new teacher gave me some cassette copies of great jazz guitar records, we had no internet back then, and from this moment on I’ve been absolutely obsessed with all things involved with this instrument and music. I think the most helpful thing in my development has been a very deep desire to learn from the very first moment. After this, the huge impact the great records made on me at a very young age, my teachers and companions, and being very active have been the most helpful.
You have had some masterclasses under some of the biggest names in modern jazz. Tell us about one or two that were most helpful to you and why?
I feel so blessed to have had all these opportunities. Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Pat Martino, Dave Liebman, and younger cats like my friend Peter Bernstein among many others. But I have to talk about Pat Martino because it has been like closing a circle. Pat was the main reason for me to want to become a guitar player as a kid, and more than 30 years after, we have been together the times he has been in Spain. In the last masterclass he did in Barcelona he asked me to assist him and also translate for the students. I also was the translator for his press interview that same day, after that, I drove him to the soundcheck and I remember ending a couple of nights at the bar, sharing some beers, and listening to the man himself in a very intimate relaxed environment for hours. The last time I saw him he gave me his number and asked me to visit him if I ever was near Philadelphia, but unfortunately, I never did. Such an incredible lesson, I’ll never forget.
What are three of the most influential jazz guitar albums and why?
There are so many great records that it’s almost impossible to choose from… As I told you, one of my first teachers gave me some cassette copies when I was really young, the first jazz music I ever listened to was Wes Montgomery’s “Boss Guitar”, Joe Pass’ “Blues for Fred” and Pat Martino’s “We’ll Be Together Again”. There are many things that these records have in common; unbelievable guitar tones, perfect rhythm, and playing “in the pocket” and they all have such an extremely unique and beautiful voice. It seems and sounds easy! All these aspects made me want to become a guitar player from that very first moment and gave me the energy to work until today.
Talk about the impact of George Van Eps upon your playing.
I discovered George Van Eps through Ted Greene’s playing, trying to understand what he did and how, he is unbelievable, untouchable. I felt that to understand more from Ted I needed to begin with Van Eps, so I bought and listened to all his records and read all his interviews and methods. I transcribed him a lot over a couple of years and that brought me to write my book and cd “The George Van Eps Transcriptions” in 2008. A lot of people have used it everywhere, I’m really proud of this work. The main things that impress me about Van Eps are his orchestral approach to the instrument, his total command of voice leading, his amazing clean and perfect technique, but also his taste and elegance and sound. A very unknown player in my country. His influence on my playing and thinking has been huge.
Which of your CDs best represents your playing?
Every project is different and involves different people and energy, and it captures just a moment in our development, resources, and interests. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to record with many different musicians and I try to learn and grow from every situation, from solo playing to big orchestras to soundtracks.
To just say one I’m especially happy with a ten-minute single I recorded a couple of years ago called Bluesions. Just my guitar with the string section of the great Warsaw Philarmonic, to be able to mix some jazzy/bluesy guitar with an astonishing classical European orchestra, I can’t believe it yet.
Tell us about your goals in making your new duet album Image of an Evening with John Stowell.
John and I have become very good friends during the last few years, we have played and taught together many times when he comes to Spain. I love John, his attitude toward music and life, and his unique artistic personality. He is a master. We just wanted to capture how we sound together at this moment, playing a few beautiful tunes we like, and enjoying a musical conversation, without artifacts, strategies, or production. Just what it is happening at the moment and share it. I’m very happy with the result and being able to release it on my little label MoojalRecords too. We’ll be able to see our development as a duo in the near future, there are many good things to come with John. I’m very lucky and grateful for his generosity.
You play a Fender Telecaster. Tell us about it and the amp that you use.
I’ve two telecasters. One is a 2011 Custom Shop Esquire that I modified myself, absolutely amazing instrument, one of a kind old sounding, very lightweight, and resonant guitar I found. The other one is an amazing reproduction that my close friend and great luthier Josep Melo built for me. I’ve played Josep’s instruments, mainly archtops, for more than 20 years now. Several years ago I felt the need for a change, searching for a more kind of flexible instrument, like an empty canvas to keep developing my musical personality. With these teles I feel that I can forget the instrument and focus just on the music and the ideas, It helps me in many different ways than the archtop. It’s not easy to get a good, big warm, and soft sound from a Tele, but it’s possible and it can be really amazing, listen to Ted Greene, with lots of dynamics, deepness, and clarity. About the amplifiers now I’m using my own signature tube models, made by MPF/MELO company, here in Barcelona, very well built under my specs after many years of hard work and research. I’m obsessed with my sound, the tone, and response. I’m very satisfied with the results and the opportunity to share them now too.
As a gigging musician, talk about the jazz scene in Spain.
This is the most difficult question to answer. I feel we are living in a great contradiction, at least here in my country. Every year there are more new musicians and students, more schools, and very interesting projects and ideas, and recordings. Some of these young guys can really play great and they will become amazing musicians if they keep working hard, but at the same time every year, there are fewer places to play and less money for our work. We could talk about that for hours. My country is living through a great crisis at so many levels, not only economic but especially cultural, I’ve never seen that before. So It’s difficult for music and art to survive and grow in this kind of context. I can’t complain because I can play music and I really love to teach too.
I’m sure all of this is going to change for the better, we all need good music in some way or another, and there is an amazing amount of energy from a lot of incredible people around. So keep working, playing, listening, learning, and sharing – and things will happen. That’s my humble thought.
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