With a career spanning over 35 years, Ken Arconti is recognized as an accomplished guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and educator. Residing in Santa Cruz, California since 1978, he has performed extensively in clubs, concert halls, and festivals throughout the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas. Ken has released three CDs on his own Jungle Beach Records label, and has taught guitar in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and the Santa Clara Valley.
Growing up in Los Angeles, California, Ken was exposed to music at an early age. He began playing the violin at age eight and performed for several years in his school’s orchestra and chorus. With the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the United States, Ken found himself drawn to the sound of the electric guitar. He began teaching himself to play at age eleven, and was soon performing in bands and absorbing the sounds of the ‘60s. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the soul of Stax and Motown, the blues of B.B. and Albert King, and jazz artists Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery were all influences.
Upon relocating to Santa Cruz, Ken began playing in clubs around the Bay Area. He has performed everything from country to jazz, to rock, to rhythm & blues. At home in almost any musical environment, Ken’s ability to seamlessly blend styles is evident on his CD releases. His latest, “Catbird Seat” (2011), is an intimate recording of Ken’s solo acoustic guitar playing and singing. The album features two Arconti originals plus renditions of songs selected from a list of diverse writers including Bob Dylan, Chester Burnett (aka Howlin’ Wolf), and Stevie Wonder. “Catbird Seat,” along with the no-holds-barred, searing blues of “As The Years Go Passing By” (2007), and the soulful sophistication of the jazz-tinged “Samsara Blues” (2003), provide a glimpse of Ken’s tremendous versatility as a performer and composer.
As the driving force behind the Ken Arconti Band, Ken has performed at renowned festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Monterey Bay Blues Festival. He has shared the stage with the likes of John Mayall, Chris Cain, and Coco Montoya. The list of artists he has opened for reads like a “Who’s Who” of the Blues, including Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Albert Collins. As a sideman, Ken has filled the guitar chair with legendary New Orleans master drummer, Zigaboo Modeliste (the Meters), soul rockin’ tenor sax man, Terry Hanck, and rhythm & blues/soul singer John “Broadway” Tucker.
Always ready for a new musical adventure, Ken accepted an invitation from Maestro John Larry Granger to perform as a guest soloist in the Santa Cruz County Symphony’s 2009 presentation of “The Colors of Music.” The symphony was joined by the Santa Cruz Youth Symphony as Ken led them through some crowd pleasing electric blues. “There is nothing quite like having the massive sound of a symphony (or two) behind you! The concert not only provided me with the opportunity to compose for the symphony, but perform with the most unique, if not largest blues band ever. It was a very exciting and memorable experience,” Ken recalls.
As an educator, Ken has been teaching guitar for 37 years and maintains a consistent clientele of 20-30 private guitar students on a weekly basis. He has taught in public schools as the Music Director and Guitar Instructor at Cypress Charter High School in Santa Cruz.
Ken has been active in the California Arts in Corrections Program since 1992. He has taught guitar, music theory, improvisation, and performance at Soledad and San Quentin State Prisons. He was the recipient of a prestigious Artist in Residence grant from the California Arts Council from 1999 to 2002, establishing a multi-cultural music program at Salinas Valley State Prison, which was featured in the 2002 VH1 documentary “Music Behind Bars.”