Denver Jazz Music Examiner August 5, 2011
Colorado guitarist Jim Stahlhut will be performing with pianist Wes Leffingwell and bassist Andrew Ryan at the Georgetown Mountain Jams this Saturday, August 6th, from 3-4:30 p.m. They will be performing at the Library Corner Park at 6th and Rose streets. This is the first year of this event, so please show your support!
I recently talked to Jim about his music career. At the age of 7 he studied classical piano, and when he was 12, he began playing guitar. He had many influences including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. He said, “listening to Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane as free improvisers eventually led me into jazz.”
Among his many successes, Jim released The Angle of Incidence, and was added to the main playlist at KUVO. He has played all over the U.S. and has spent a lot of time in New York City, and told me that he loves playing with the musicians there. His most recent release, Possible Harmonies, was released in July 2010. You can hear this on KUVO.org (streaming live on the web), as well as other radio stations across the country. This modern jazz CD was recorded in Brooklyn, New York at Systems Two with Matt Parker on saxophone, Dave Easley on pedal steel guitar, Bob DeBoo on acoustic bass, and Chris Higginbottom on drums. The CD is available on Amazon.com. For more information on Jim, please visit http://www.jimstahlhut.com
Jim has been living his dream for over 32 years, and has so many great successes with many more to come. Be sure to check out the show in Georgetown this weekend. This is a free event and a great place for a family day out. Great jazz, mountains and cooler weather...you can't ask for much more!
We’re talking with Jim Stahlhut, the man behind the very successful ‘Jazz Room’ that has been running for the past 2 years at Scotty’s International Steel Guitar Convention. Jim, himself, spent many years playing jazz steel guitar and wrote many instructional articles on C6 and jazz for Scotty’s Steel Guitar International newsletter. He now devotes his time to playing jazz guitar but has maintained his keen interest in promoting jazz steel and has recently recorded jazz CDs with both Maurice Anderson and with Dave Easley..
SGJ: Jim, how did the idea for the ‘Jazz Room’ at ISGC come about?
JS: It was an interesting beginning for the Jazz Room. It all started in January and March of 2006. Doug Jernigan and I were talking about how we should find a room so he and I could get together and play some Jazz. After the Texas Steel show I told Doug I'd try to find a small room at the St. Louis Convention in September where we could just close the door and play Jazz just for fun. So I just let it bounce around in my head until about June of 2006. That's when I thought to myself, “There's a Hawaiian Room at the ISGC, why not a Jazz Room?” I emailed my old buddy Scotty and proposed the idea of a Jazz Room. I told him of course we didn't have time to do it in 2006 but if he liked the idea we could do it at the ISGC in 2007.
SGJ: But you did start in 2006!
JS: Well, to my surprise Scotty immediately replied and said "That's a great idea, let's do it at the ISGC in 2006!" I thought, ‘Oh boy is this going to be a lot of work in a short period of time.’ What I wanted to do is get a REAL Jazz rhythm section (people who play jazz for a living) together and put steel players on one at a time with the rhythm section so they could interact as an authentic Jazz band would.
SGJ: That does make a big difference, for sure.
JS: Yes it does. The time-feel real jazzers use is way different than what commercial players use when playing Jazz. This is why I wanted that rhythm section of professional jazzers -the time is the key. And I wanted one steel player at a time so it wouldn't be a steel battle but a Jazz Show.
SGJ: How did you find the rhythm section? They were terrific! And they’re from St. Louis too, right?.
JS: Luckily my buddy Bob DeBoo had just moved from New York City to St. Louis so I had my Bass Player (as you know, he's KILLER). I let Bob pick a drummer because he knew the St. Louis Jazzers. Thus came Kyle Honeycutt (who was just what I was looking for). Now I had a place for Doug and me to play. He was the first one I asked to play and of course he said yes. I asked my buddy Maurice "Reece" Anderson to play too and on we went. Bob Taillefer and Jim Cohen were asked because they were good friends who I knew played Jazz great. My other buddies David Wright and Russ Wever filled out the first year’s list of players. Everyone played great and it went over fantastically.
SGJ: What about the future, Jim? Can we count on the Jazz Room becoming a permanent fixture at the ISGC? I know there are an awful lot of people who are starting to look forward to it every year. It’s becoming one of the big highlights for a lot of people. You can be proud of that!
JS: Before I left the ISGC in 2006, Scotty had already confirmed it for 2007 and on into the future. I'll never forget in ’06, just before we were going to start playing, I tuned up my guitar and then turned around and the room was full and it stayed that way until the end, which is the way it was in 2007. I was the lucky one because I had the best seat in the house AND got to play with all these guys, playing actual Jazz, my favorite music. I actually love playing Jazz with steel in the band as you can tell by my last two CDs.
SGJ: Speaking of which… you’ve recorded two great jazz CDs in two years, one with Maurice Anderson and one with Dave Easley. Where can folks buy those, Jim?
JS: They’re both available at my website at www.JimStahlhut.com Incidentally, at that website, you can also order my old C6-Jazz instructional material that I developed for Scotty’s SGI newsletter.
SGJ: That’s great stuff, Jim. I studied a lot of your material when I was starting to learn C6. Thanks for talking with me today and thanks for everything you’re doing to help promote jazz music and jazz-oriented steel guitar!
JS: My pleasure!
Bill Evans, Jim Hall, John Scofield, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, and Paul Warburton. They have taught me the complexity and meaning of Jazz. Maurice Anderson, Buddy Emmons Doug Jernigan, Hal Rugg all gave me an appreciation of the pedal steel. Bobby Caldwell, Tom Morrell, and Bobby Black have also been influential.
I studied classical piano from the age of 7 until I was 12 then I started playing guitar at 12. I also took 3 classical music theory classes in college but basically I learned by playing on the bandstand. I always tried to play with players that were better than me. I studied Jazz theory with Paul Warburton, who played with the great Jazz pianist Bill Evans. Paul taught me things I did not even know existed.
I play Gibson guitars. My main instrument is my Les Paul Supreme. I use Mesa Boogie amplifiers. I used to play MSA pedal steel guitars; I wish I still had one!
“Deep Song” by Kurt Rosenwinkle, “Enroute” by John Scofield. These two CDs demonstrate the freedom and openness of Jazz. Lots of Jazz because I like the freedom of Jazz.
I have been performing professionally for about 32 years. The band I recorded with Maurice “Reece” Anderson got together for the first time this summer. Chuck Lettes and I have played off and on for 20 years.
“Out of Nowhere” with Maurice “Reece” Anderson, “Duets” with Chuck Lettes, “Tribal Tradition” with my son Matt Stahlhut, and "The Angle of Incidence" with Jim Stahlhut and Seamus Blake, Dave Easley, Alan Hampton, Reggie Quinerly.
I try to play as freely and as Jazzy as I can. Of course doing that as musically as I can, being musical is essential.
I have been married to Barbara for 33 years and have two children, Matt and Susan.