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Jazz Guitar Today Interviews Indianapolis Jazz-Rocker, Joel Tucker

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JGT contributor Joe Barth talks to guitarist Joel Tucker about his influences, as well as recent album projects.

Indianapolis is known to the jazz guitar world as the place where Wes Montgomery came from. Since Wes died in the late ’60s, there have been several other great jazz guitarists who have made Indianapolis their home.  One such guitarist is Joel Tucker.  Joel keeps himself busy playing around town as well as abroad. In 2017 he played the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and France.  Joel is often seen around town with his bassist brother, Nick, with their Turner Brothers Band, especially on Wednesday nights at the Chatterbox, a favorite Indy place for great music.  Joel is also a lecturer of jazz guitar at Ball State University.

JB:  What inspired you to play jazz guitar and what was most helpful in your personal development as a guitarist?

JT:  I started playing guitar after hearing Pat Martino’s 1970 album Desperado.  I began playing jazz in high school and decided to pursue it as a career.  My teachers were definitely the most helpful in my development as a guitarist, and they’re also the reason I decided to pursue teaching as a career.

JB:  Indiana University has a fine music department, was Dave Stryker teaching guitar there when you were a student? 

JT:  As an undergrad, Corey Christiansen was my teacher.  When I went to grad school, Dave Stryker was there.  Both were excellent people to study under.

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

JT:  Desperado by Pat Martino.  I had never heard a guitar played that way before I heard that album.

Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio: Reflections.  This album got me thinking about playing in a trio setting without other chordal instruments, which I’ve done ever since.

Perceptual by Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band.  It also features Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar and Dave Easley on pedal steel guitar.  This album changed the way I approached my own writing, and I still listen to it multiple times a week. 


JB:  Tell us about your goals in making your new album Live at Chatterbox.  I know that you and your brother play at the Indianapolis club weekly.

JT:  We decided to make this album because we’ve been playing there weekly for many years.  We just wanted to highlight some of our favorite original songs and standards from the time we’ve been playing there and have a product to sell at our weekly shows.

 JB:  You do wonderful renditions of “Skylark,” “Caravan,” and “You and the Night and the Music.”  Talk about what led to these three songs being included.

JT:  They are just some songs we’ve enjoyed playing over the years.  The version of “Skylark” that we play is paying tribute to a version by guitarist Lionel Loueke.  Nick came up with the version of “Caravan” on the record, and “You and the Night and the Music” is just one we’ve been playing for a while.  We do many standards, but we chose these three because they’re ones we’ve been doing for a long time.

JB:  Drummer Carrington Clinton and your brother, bassist Nick Tucker, are a great rhythm section.  What do you appreciate most about them as players?

JT:  They lock in really well as a unit.  I really enjoy getting to be part of the rhythm section with them, and they inspire me to get better each time we play together.  What I love most about them is their attention to time and how they interact with soloists.  

JB:  What do you appreciate most in sharing the front line with saxophonist Sean Imboden?

JT:  I love the timbre of the guitar and tenor saxophone lines together.  Sean also has an interesting sound that I believe blends well with guitar.


JB:  You have a more rock-pop approach with the Commodore Trio. Talk about your goals in recording your new EP Communal.

JT:  This was a project for fun to dive into new musical territory.  We draw upon elements of post-rock, art rock, math rock, and improvisation.  I went into recording this project with no outcomes in mind other than having fun with my trio and creating a solid finished product.


JB:  What do you appreciate most about the main guitar you play? 

JT:  I mostly play my Gibson ES137, but I also really love my Strandberg 8 string.  They’re both great instruments that I’ve spent a lot of time working on lately.

JB:  Reflect upon your experience performing at the 2016 Indy Jazz Fest tribute to Wes Montgomery and the fellow guitarists you shared the stage with. 

JT:  That was a really great experience getting to meet Pat Martino.  We had great conversations about life and his approach to music.  I remember him telling me that “no matter what happens in life, you’ll always have your instrument”, and that really stuck in my mind.  It’s helped me through a lot actually.  (haha)

JB:  As a gigging musician, talk about the jazz scene in Indianapolis and the kind of places where you play when you travel.

JT:  It’s a good scene here, but I am so consumed with teaching and my own gigs that sometimes it’s difficult to connect with everyone in a way that I truly want to.  When I travel, it’s usually just as a sideman rather than a bandleader, but I am hoping to get the Commodore Trio on the road sometime this year to play regionally.  I have been taking steps to make that work, and hopefully, I’ll be able to set up a summer tour.  

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