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Dallas’ Jazz-Rocker Andy Timmons



JGT contributor Joe Barth talks to Andy Timmons about The Haas Company’s new album Galactic Tide.

Above photo courtesy of Psychiatric Records and Tapes LLC

As a young guitarist in Evansville, Indiana, Andy Timmons dreamed of becoming a studio guitarist like his heroes, Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton.  To develop his technique and artistry he entered the guitar program at the University of Miami.  He eventually ended up in Dallas, Texas, and the studio scene there.  Andy has traveled the world with his pop-metal band Danger Danger as well as with other musical artists.  He has seven albums out as a leader.  Recently his improvising skills have been featured on The Haas Company’s new album Galactic Tide.

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

AT:  My earliest musical memory was the guitar solo in the Beatle’s “I Saw Her Standing There”. I’ve always been attracted to the sound of electric guitar, particularly lengthy solos such as The Doors “Light My Fire” (LP version) Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” and Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like I Do”. Self-taught from the age of 5, I began taking lessons from a wonderful teacher in Evansville, Indiana named Ron Pritchett. He taught me how to read music, but also began exposing me to his favorite players like Barney Kessel, Joe Pass and Howard Roberts. I was smitten, and I still listen to Barney, Joe, George Benson, Wes and many others to this day.

Photo courtesy of Psychiatric Records and Tapes LLC

JB: The University of Miami has a fine music department, was John Hart teaching guitar there when you were a student?

AT:  I studied at U of M from 1983-1985 and John had been a student there but had just recorded his debut for Blue Note. He came and did a concert on campus during my first year there. Randall Dollahon was the head of the guitar department and was a great teacher. I grew leaps and bounds during my two years there, partially due to the curriculum but equally to do with the many great players attending at that time. We all hung out together constantly and learned from each other. 

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

AT:  If I’m staying in the “Jazz World” I’d have to say A Dynamic New Sound by Wes, Travels by Pat Metheny, and Miles Davis’ live album We Want Miles featuring Mike Stern. 

I love this organ trio album of Wes’.  Wes of course redefined the sound and approach to jazz guitar. This version of “Round Midnight” is one of the great jazz recordings of all time…what a vibe!. 

Metheny’s Travels record for me is a benchmark of incredible songwriting, ensemble playing and incurably expressive and lyrical improvisation. 

Mike Stern’s playing on We Want Miles (as well as “Fat Time” on Miles’ Man With the Horn) was for me the first real fusion guitar playing. Completely authentic Hendrixy blues rock married with bebop and modern vocabulary. These are the three records that have influenced me the most, even in my rock playing: Playing jazz informs everything I do, particularly the swing feel and voice leading.

JB:  Tell us about your goals in making your new album Galactic Tide with drummer Steve Haas and Pete Drungle on keyboards. 

AT:  My goal with any recording project is to do my best to enhance the music in any way I can. Whatever seems appropriate. It was an inspiring set of music with some great players so it made it easy to improvise and try to express to the best of my abilities.

JB:  Did Pete Drungle compose this music with this project in mind? 

AT:  I believe Pete composed much (if not all) of the music specifically with me in mind. I’ve known Pete since the mid-1990s when we played in the band Tin Man together and I’ve always been blown away by his playing and writing skills. He knows my playing quite well and he put together some cool vibes for us to explore. I’m particularly fond of “Ballad For Andy”.

 JB:  What do you appreciate most about working with Steve Haas as a drummer?

AT:  Steve’s got great feel and energy and of course, that’s everything when it comes to this kind of music (well, for any music for that matter!) He made it easy to play and have fun.

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

AT:  I’ve been playing my main guitar for 30 years now! It’s a prototype that Ibanez built for me in 1994 and eventually became my signature model. It’s quite a versatile instrument and I can literally play any gig with it from jazz to blues to rock to you name it.

JB:  You have a wide variety of tour experiences from Danger Danger to being music director for Olivia Newton-John and everything in between.  You find rewards in each of these experiences. Tell us about some of these.

AT:  I treat every gig the exact same way: this is the most important gig I’ll ever do! To go from Olivia shows to Simon Phillips fusion gigs is quite a leap musically, but no less challenging to really get right. As long as I’m with people I resonate with personally and musically, I know it’ll be good.

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