Chris Standring is a well known jazz guitarist who has performed live and done a great deal of session work with many super stars of smooth jazz. Today he performed in Avalon on Catalina Island at the 13th Annual Jazz Trax Festival. He played music from his current CD, Velvet, and his soon to be released CD, Hip Sway. The performance was first class as his band masterfully blended Hammond B3 and Saxophone voices with Chris's custom Benedetto guitar. My favorite song "Big Pant People" beautifully merged the sounds of hip hop into jazz. What a treat.
He trained classically at the London College of Music. Chris played ten years in London prior to engaging into the Los Angeles music scene. I asked, " when did you first become interested in music?"
At the age of two he was playing toy guitars and began on a real guitar at six. He said that he remembered listening to Glen Campbell when he was six to nine years old. While he was practicing he recalls that his parents would tell him that Glen Campbell was on TV and then he would hurry over to watch. Chris explains in his British accent, " Here was this great guitar player, playing this instrumental stuff......it was little things like that that just inspired me to continue." He took classical guitar from six to thirteen years old, then he became interested in rock and roll.
He went to music college as his interests became stronger. He took a year away from college, went to L.A., saw greats such as Robben Ford and Larry Carlton performing and he says, "that did it for me.....this is what I need to do, this is the standard that I have to attain." He went back to London College of Music and spent the next three years practicing hard while attending college. He played in London for ten years before coming to L.A., to work as a musician.
We talked about practice and how much he required.
Chris feels that he should practice more, but he believes that his technique is about as good as it is going to get. He feels that it would be nice if he could improve technique, but he believes that it is more important to get better at writing and improving his "melodic sense." He said that he is not really a great fan of very technical guitar players. "They leave me a little cold", he said. He is not interested in taking technique to a ridiculous level because it takes away from the musicality and "he wants to basically communicate to an audience of people who have no musical knowledge." He wants to make his music accessible to anyone at all. Chris believes that putting on a show is important, and he is just learning how to do this well. He wants to make something fresh by crossing genres and blending musical forms.
What would Chris be doing if he was not performing music?
"That's a very interesting question because for the longest time all I was interested in was in making it. I was very obsessive about my career. It took over everything.....I feel like I can sort of relax a little bit now and get interested in other elements of life, which I am hoping is going to help the music as well." Chris is very interested in web design and he thinks that the internet is an important factor in music. Chris has a very good site, chrisstandring.com, and is beginning to use it more. When he meets people such as at CD signings, he gets their email addresses so that he can communicate to them when he is going to be in their town for a concert.
How did Chris make the transition from a sideman and session musician to doing his own act with his own band?
He has always enjoyed being a sideman and he has recently played with some great performers such as Richard Elliott, Rick Braun and Marc Antoine, but he wants to be an artist, performing his own music. He most recently has played on the Richard Elliott tour, he believes this is Richard's best record by far. Even though one can make a good living as a sideman putting the same energy into performing one's own material is more rewarding. "I feel like I am doing something that other people are not doing musically, so that is a driving force."
I asked Chris to compare his experience of the 1998 versus the 1999 Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival.
He felt 1999 was a lot easier because people knew him and performing music under those conditions is more enjoyable.
What inspired your soon to be released CD, Hip Sway?
Chris explained that his very first album Solar System was a "hard core acid jazz" recording that was a bit too funky to do well on radio, but he loves that type of music. So he has now merged his mellow melodies with more funky grooves. "In order to make the music accessible it has to be infectious."
What effect do you believe that Art Good, from JazzTrax, has had on the jazz world?
"Personally, Art Good is responsible for "Smooth Jazz". Literally he started this whole format out of a studio in San Diego and it just went crazy, we have a lot to thank him for. And also, the great thing about Art is that he is an entrepreneur in his own right, he is not interested in following trends that anybody set....he does what he wants to do. He plays things that he wants to hear." Chris is sure that Art will play his own favorite tunes off of his new album Hip Sway when it is released.