Jazz in a Tiny Room

The last time I saw the Nik Svarc Trio they blew my ears off. In a good way. We are so lucky to have these guys in Leeds.

My love of jazz guitar is in no small part encouraged  by our own local jazz musicians. I think I’ve seen all these guys play in the tiniest (but best) jazz venue in Leeds: Cafe Lento.  The venue holds around 25 people sitting, plus the band,  but I’ve seen it with twice that, and more dancing on the pavement outside.  I joked last week with cafe owner about getting a heavy metal band to play, wondering if the walls could stand it.  But come to think of it, the last time I saw the Nik Svarc Trio there, it blew my ears off.  In a good way.  A very good way.  We are so lucky to have these guys in my home city of Leeds.

Nic Svark, Jiannis Pavlidis, Jamie Taylor, Sam Dunn

George Benson and Marcus Miller

What a duo!  I love this recording.  The guitar, the bass, the voice!

To children of the 70s George Benson is a soul singer, and that’s it.  But long before he took the microphone, he was an outstanding jazz guitarist.  And when I say “was”, clearly I mean “is”.  Recently a judge on Sky Arts’ Guitar Star, his playing has become better known.  He’s certainly one of my guitar heroes.

There’s few bass players to top Marcus Miller.  Jazz composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, he’s played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Luther Vandross and David Sanborn.  It would be easier to name big names he hasn’t been a session musician for than those he has.  But he also has an outstanding solo career, wining Best Contemporary Jazz Album for his solo instrumental album M2.  For those of you who need to know these things, his go-to is a Sadowsky-modified Fender Jazz Bass.


Elizabeth Cotten

Elizabeth Cotten was an outstanding folk musician and composer. She toured extensively right up to her death in her 90s.

Elizabeth Cotton isn’t a widely known guitarist, even in the Folk world.  And yet she was an outstanding musician and composer.  She toured extensively in North America right up to her death, and composed some of folk’s greatest tunes.  Smithsonian Folkways describes her as a “Master of American folk music”.    As you will see from the video she had a unique left handed guitar style.

For a time in her 30s she lived with the Seeger family.  Charles and Ruth were both musicians and encouraged her to play.  They discovered she had remarkable musical skill and son Mike (brother to Peggy and Pete) recorded her playing.  She continued to tour until her death in 1987 aged 92.

B.B.King with Jeff Beck

I make no bones about my love of Jeff Beck’s playing.  This is a dream combo for me – Beck and B.B.   Beck always brings brilliance to a song without ever upstaging the other musicians on the stage.  He’s been called the greatest guitarist, the greatest guitar innovator, the best in the world etc etc, and who’s to argue.   And B.B. of course had one of the most distinctive guitar sounds ever.   What a combo!

Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi is an astounding guitarist. She’s been compared to Jimi Hendrix for her virtuosity and inovation.

Anna Calvi is an astounding guitarist.  She’s been compared to Jimi Hendrix for her virtuosity and innovation.  Her first instrument – the one she studied at University and has a degree in – isn’t guitar at all.  It’s the violin.

She has a particular style of playing. She strums the guitar in a circular motion rather than up and down, producing a very orchestral sound.  Her influences come from the classical and jazz world as well as classic rock.  And it shows.