'One musician who really inspired me as far as phrasing goes was the trumpet player Clifford Brown - I really learnt a lot from him. To me, the way he played eigthth notes with a jazz feel is still the model way of playing. It's a difficult thing to do on the guitar and I think we have a lot of similarities with trumpet players and brass players - tonguing and picking are very closely related and I would definitely recommend that people listen to him.
'Ornette Coleman is also very inspiring, not only for what he played but also for the deep seach for individuality that he went through and I guess even now he's still evolving his style. [Ornette Coleman wrote the soundtrack for the film 'The Naked Lunch'.] I really love the fact that he would only accept original ideas from himself. He really searched to develop his own vocabulary and never immitated anyone else. He built his own music from the ground up which I find more inspiring than anything he actually played although what he played is pretty impressive to!
'I've always been a big fan of Steve Reich [American so-called 'minimalist' composer] and the day he called me to ask if I would play on 'Electric Counterpoint' I was so excited, even just to speak to him! The process of working on that piece was really interesting 'cause I had never really hung out with a composer - most of the people I've worked with have been tune writers or jazz guys. With Steve, every single note had to be accounted for - and it's not always like that, you know!
'Milton Nascimento is one of my favourite musicians of all time. He's right up there with the Beatles and Stevie Wonder - just one of the best. His two record set 'Clube da Esquina' [available on EMI CD] - it means 'corner club' - is to me one of the greatest albums ever made by anyone in any style.
'And of course, with guitarists I would have to recommend Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall if someone doesn't already know them - to me I sound so much like those guys it's almost embarrassing! The 'Question and Answer' record is so much of a Jim Hall kind-of-a-thing that I almost feel like I should send him royalties!
'With the Wes Montgomery influence, I don't play in octaves and I don't use my thumb 'cause I think it would be disrespectful to do so - I don't like people who do blatant imitations. The thing about Wes for me is that he was one of the few improvisers on the guitar who could really make it sing. He could play melodies and develop ideas that last for long periods of time - he didn't just play a bunch of short phrases. Everything he played really connected together and had a flow to it. That quality is very inspiring to me and I think you can hear that in my playing on 'Spring Ain't Here' from 'Letter from Home'.'
This interview was originally published in 'The Guitar Magazine', Vol 2 No 5, August 1992.
Copyright Douglas J Noble 1992