Nat Janoff Interview
New Jersey native Nat Janoff is a guitarist with a wonderful talent. Whether he is playing jazz or fusion with the likes of Matt Garrison and Gene Lake or wowing audiences with his acoustic forays with fellow guitarist Jake Schwartz; Janoff is making people sit up and listen. Nat has released two well-received CD’s and has plans for more. Janoff plays his axe with a proficient speed countered and augmented by a sensitive and nimble touch. Senior Abstract Logix writer Walter Kolosky recently obtained his views on the music business, his playing style and what’s ahead.
WK: How does a New Jersey jazz guitar player find a way to make a living these days?
NJ: Well I have a really great teaching practice that I have built up over the many years. I’ve been teaching for 17 years. I also play jazz gigs with my group Berkana, The Nat Janoff trio, The Nat Janoff Quartet, my duo with Jake Schwartz, and a host of other players who hire me for their own gigs and private events. I also play high end parties with my friend Jake Schwartz, people really dig our blend of styles and playing, and it’s something different than what a lot of people normally have. I also sell CD’s, that is the smallest part of the revenue stream right now but I’m working on changing that.
WK: You have released a couple of outstanding albums. Looking Through, from the Nat Janoff Group, features some swinging electric jazz. Then you and Jake released Nat Janoff- Jake Schwartz Live which was all acoustic. You tackled the world inhabited by McLaughlin-DiMeola- DeLucia on that one. How have these CD’s sold and how did you wrap your hands around ideas for marketing your music?
NJ: The CD’s have sold well for someone who has had very little exposure and basically no promotion through any major media channels. I have ideas for promoting. I need to be more aggressive about implementing these ideas. I’m also always open to hearing peoples’ ideas on promoting music.
WK: When you grow-up listening to your musical heroes, influences have to ultimately appear in your music no matter how honed your own style has become. Have you fully developed your style to your satisfaction by incorporating those influences or diminishing them?
NJ: I let my style evolve by playing things I like. If my style has traces of the players I love it’s just because I am attracted to something in their playing that resonates with me. I don’t feel my style is fully developed per se, I feel it’s a constantly evolving thing. Just like writing music, I feel the same way in that as a composer my music will be in a ever evolving state to. I would only incorporate or diminish some influence if I felt it wasn’t something that was a part of me anymore. You know I remember hearing some musicians telling me that when they were recording a CD they were so conscious of what other players on their instrument would think. That’s understandable, but I have to say when I’m playing for anybody I just try to get out of my own way and be myself, just play what I’m hearing in terms of what I want to say. You can’t get into thinking about what other people will think, you have to play your truth. You have to be yourself in the moment for better or worse, not everyone is going to love what you do. That’s just life. Not everyone will like you as a person what can you do, try to have everyone like you? You will lose yourself if you get into that and the best thing about music is turning your own self on (and hopefully others) to what you love in music and presenting it to the world.
WK: How does playing with such musicians as Matt Garrison, Jake Schwartz and others push you?
NJ: Playing with great musicians like Jake Schwartz, Matt Garrison, Gene Lake Rave Tesar, Ray LeVier etc!!!!!!! Is such a great joy! It is also such great learning experience, I always tell my students who want to improve rapidly that you must play with players at your level or above because they will push you and make you play better! I will keep searching out and playing with the best players I can.
WK: What’s on your musical horizon?
NJ: Well the group I have with Ray LeVier on drums and Rave Tesar on keys and left hand bass is called BERKANA. It’s a killer funk, jazz, fusion group. We have just recorded 8 tunes and Rave and I have to do some overdubs then mix, master and press it. I hope to have that out in late October. I’ve been playing with some great straight ahead jazz musicians and I would love to do a straight ahead jazz recording so I’m writing some things for them, I probably will record them but not this year. I also will do another CD with Jake Schwartz, Jake is such a great player and writer and I think we have such an awesome chemistry that I want to do another duo CD exploring some new ground. That will probably come out next year. I also have some tremendous ideas in the music education field I have been teaching for a long time and I think I have some book/CD ideas that could a tremendous help to the beginning /intermediate guitarist. I will be getting those books out either through a publisher or I will self publish. I talked to William Bay the head of Mel Bay the huge music publisher and he was interested in me sending my proposal to him. I just want to be the player/teacher/composer I can be, and just keep growing as a person and musician.
WK: Do you have some gigs coming up so that some of our readers can go and check you out?
NJ: For all my shows you can go to www.natjanoff.com