I guess I’d just like to start off with
your beginnings. Where were you
born and raised?
I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I
got interested in music by the Beatles growing up. I may look young, but I’m kind of an
older cat—I’m forty-five, born in 1963, and I
remember distinctly the Ed Sullivan Show and
Tom Jones and all of that. My parents had
the Beatles’ second album. A friend of mine
down the street had the Hey Jude album,
and we used to play it all the time. I used to
love “I Should Have Known Better.” AM radio
was the thing back then; KTSA was the big
radio station down there. Slowly, I shifted…
when I was fourteen years old, I got a job
working as a bus boy in a restaurant that
featured jazz musicians. That’s when I started
getting into jazz.
It’s interesting that you had such an eclectic musical upbringing—coming from the
heart of the blues scene and listening to
your stuff, you’d think you grew up in a
house full of blues musicians.
You know, I didn’t really start getting into
blues until I was like seventeen. I moved to
Austin on my own when I was sixteen years
old, and I started networking with musicians.
Blues just seemed to be the big thing at the
time. The T-birds were a real big band at the
time, and Stevie Ray was coming up. The
Cobras with Paul Ray were big. But I didn’t
think much of it. I always thought, “Jazz is so
sophisticated and complex,” and that’s where
I was with it. But in truth, I really couldn’t play
the stuff at all. I played more jazz-rock stuff,
honestly. I was a huge Yes fan… Steve Howe
was like my first real big guitar hero.
That’s not a bad first guitar hero to have.
You both have a diversity of influences—
Howe was a big Barney Kessel fan.
Oh yeah. I remember Steve Howe winning
“Best Overall Guitarist” in Guitar Player like
five, six years in a row. “South Side of the
Sky,” “Going for the One,” “Heart of the
Sunrise,” I used to plug away at all that stuff.
And I remember a long time ago before
that, too. My neighbor next door when I was
still in San Antonio… this kind of eclectic,
hippy guy… he was smoking a joint and
put on “Birds of Fire” and said, “Check
this out.” I was completely stunned, like
“What the hell is this?” It jumped out at me
because of its sheer ferocity.
Also, back in 1978, somebody got me Land
of the Midnight Sun by Al Di Meola. And I
had never heard anybody who played guitar like that. So I was completely like, “This
is what I want to do. I want to play like
this.” I mean, I love Santana and all of that
rock stuff, but hearing those notes blow by
like that with such power and ferocity… I
thought, this is what I want to do. That’s
kind of when I moved to jazz, right before I
moved to Austin.
Were you playing prog rock stuff when you
began playing in bands in Austin? Or were
you playing the blues because that’s what
everyone else was doing?
Well, unfortunately that wasn’t the stuff we
were playing in clubs, but I would sit in with
some friends. I used to hang around with
David Murray, who is a celebrated guitar
player and a really good friend of mine…
with Denny Freeman and Derek O’Brien.
They used to all go down there. And I used
to play with Bobby Mack—we were playing
the Holdsworth stuff off of Tony William’s
Believe it album, like “Snake Oil.”