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An Exciting Young New York Guitarist, Adam Moezinia



JGT contributor Joe Barth talks jazz guitar with New York guitarist Adam Moezinia.

Adam Moezinia grew up in the Los Angeles area before moving to New York City to study at the Juilliard School of Music.  He has worked with Bobby Watson, Freddie Cole, and George Coleman, as well as the Who’s Who of Jazz.  I connected with Adam at the jazz club, Boxley’s, in North Bend, Washington when he was on a West Coast tour.

JB:  Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, what inspired you to play jazz guitar, and what was most helpful in your personal development as a guitarist?

AM:  Honestly, in terms of jazz, there was a lot happening in that vein in the Los Angeles/ San Fernando Valley. One thing that sticks out is John Pisano’s “Guitar Night” which would happen every week at an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks called Spazio’s. He would host a guitar quartet (two guitars, bass, and drums) with a new guitar guest each week. I remember vividly seeing some of the greats there including Bruce Forman (still a good friend/mentor of mine) and Scott Henderson. As a teenager just starting to learn about the jazz idiom, those shows inspired the hell out of me. 

JB:  What did you benefit most from your studies at the Juilliard School of Music in New York?

AM:  One of the best things about going to Juilliard was just being around the students who were playing at such a high level. That was both intimidating and very motivating at the same time. I was practicing a lot during those years, of course, to find my own voice and keep up with my classes but also just to keep up with the students and be able to hold my own with them. Of course, the teachers there were also top-notch. There was a lot of tough love, but looking back I think it was beneficial. Whatever you decide ultimately to do with your music, learning the roots of whatever genre you’re playing is always a good thing. Even though what I do with my group these days is a bit of a stray from the tradition, I still find myself cherishing those values and even preaching them on occasion.

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

AM:  Oh wow, that’s a tough one. Well, firstly The Poll Winners Ride Again had a huge impact on me. Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne… I wore that one out in my college years. To me, that record is a master class in guitar trio arranging/playing. The depth of orchestration and variation that Barney displays there is incredible.

Another one that had a huge impact on me in my formative years is the Joe Pass/Herb Ellis duo album Two for the Road. The blend and interplay on this album are amazing. They’re so in sync on that album, it almost sounds like one person. It’s also very informative for a young person learning the basics of jazz guitar as they’re each playing burning bebop lines and essential jazz language but also laying down some serious comping and rhythm guitar which I imagine feels like a blanket of clouds to play over.

Jim Hall’s Live is also another amazing one. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a jazz guitar trio fanatic so this one is right up my alley. This one is definitely a departure from the Poll Winners as it’s much looser-more experimental but Jim orchestrates and develops those tunes in just as much depth in his own way. Jim to me is also the father of modern jazz guitar in that he opened the door musically for people like Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel.  So, I think this is a must for any aspiring jazz guitarists as well as any jazz guitar enthusiasts.

JB:  Practice and listening aside, can you pinpoint one or two things’ that really boosted your profile and career toward where its at today?

AM:  Well one of the biggest moments in my career to this day is getting to play with Cecile McLorin Salvant back in 2015. She is obviously a brilliant singer/interpreter of songs and it was a real treat to get to play with her even for just a few gigs. Another big one was playing with the late, great Freddy Cole. I got to play with him quite a bit for a few years, all around the country and internationally. That was a true learning experience in terms of playing with subtlety, interpreting the American Songbook, and blending dynamically in a small group. He was an incredibly respected figure in the jazz community. Anyone who saw you playing with him or heard that you were immediately showed you a certain amount of respect. 

JB:  Tell us about your goals in making your album Folk Element Trio with drummer Charles Goold and bassist Dan Chmielinski?

AM:  There were a few goals there… The main tipping point that led me to do that was our week run at Dizzy’s Club (Jazz at Lincoln Center) shortly before that. I had been toying with this “folk element” concept and cementing that repertoire for a year or two before that but the sound really started to come together during that week. Immediately after that, I was inspired to document what we had created. Also, as I was coming up on thirty then, it was about time to put my music out into the world. I had seen friends putting out albums before me but throughout my twenties, I just didn’t feel like I had anything unique to offer the world in terms of the music I was creating. With this concept/project, I definitely started to feel that urge. I’m starting to feel it again too so stay tuned!

JB:  I love your rendition of Bob DylanDont Think Twice, Its All Right.”  Talk about how that song ended up on your album.

AM:  I would say that song/style was one of the original aesthetics that I was drawn to which inspired the inception of the Folk Element Trio. That sort of tremolo/mellow sentimental Americana vibe was always something that I loved. To be honest, it’s kind of straight out of the Bill Frisell Playbook… He has a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” on his album East/West that immediately grabbed me. “Don’t Think Twice…” is from the Dylan album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan which has been a favorite of mine since high school. There were also some other inspirations in terms of aesthetics for that arrangement, like Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me album (also featuring Frisell) and Herbie Hancock’s The Joni Letters also come to mind. I think I was just inspired to learn that song at the time and then all of those influences started kicking in, some more consciously than others.

JB:  Tell us about the guitar and amp that you use.

AM:  I mostly play my Sadowsky SS-15 these days… I also have a 1951 Gibson ES-175, but I mostly use that for more old-school/traditional jazz gigs. The Sadowsky is very versatile. Although it may not look like it, it is fully hollow so it gets that deep sound you want in an arch top but it’s still pretty thin so it’s versatile and works well with pedals. In terms of amps, unfortunately, I’m hooked on Polytones. At home in NYC I have a Mega Brute from the 90s that I love but, on the tour, I picked up a Mini Brute in LA. I love the sound of the older ones but they’re very fragile. 

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