TheArdvarkFelon / Blog

Part two of my introduction

I can't be happy just being a rocker or just by being a “jazz” musician (whatever that means) and it doesn't make sense to pigeon-hole myself like that anyway. Labels are stupid, right? But somewhere in between the two, that's where you'll find me. Lots of people who have gone though music school will tell you that once you've graduated the only way to get back to really making music is by forgetting everything that you've learned. And that's true to a certain extent, but I think it's really about making all those heady concepts natural and internalizing them to the point where you don't have to think about them. I've found that for me the key is to listen to what you're playing as you're playing it. Play with your ears, not your mind. Listen as though you were listening to someone else play or talk. When you're really listening you are not thinking.

In May 2010 I graduated from Temple University with a bachelors degree in Jazz Performance. I play regularly around the Philly with different groups. Throughout most of college I was playing in this group that I started with 4 friends called Erronious Krunk!! We had a good run but lacked direction and common goals. So it goes... We went through a period where we played at Chris’ Jazz Cafe' fairly regularly, once or twice a month. We were featured on WRTI's The Bridge with J. Michael Harrison, and we made it to the final round of World Cafe' Live's Philly Rising Battle of the Bands where we got to play downstairs(!). Apparently there’s some cats running around with basically the same name, so just be aware that they're copy cats. Don't trust them! No, I'm sure they great. I guess that's why it's important to trademark names and such...

After Erronious Krunk, the three original members, Rob Parks, Alex Maio and myself continued playing together. We called ourselves the FAR Trio (F for Frank, A for Alex and R for Rob). Typical musician hummor, we loved the name because maybe we're not the FAR Trio, but the FART-Rio! The stars aligned. (But dig this, when Tal Shtuhl joined the group it became not FAR, but FART. And then when Samantha Rise joined the group, well you know... We were either going to be Erronious Krunk, or FARTS!!) The Far-Trio is the core of the Ardvark Felon. In addition, Mike Frank, plays keyboards. and the horn section consists of Patrick Hughs, Tal Shtuhl and Ben Lupinacci.

My musical Background: How it has influenced my teaching

I am a musician/artist, composer and educator stationed out in West Philadelphia. I have been writing and arranging tunes for groups and bands since I picked up a guitar for the first time at age 12. Luckily, no one ever told me that I didn't know enough to create! (Believe it or not some institutions run under the premise that you need to know what you’re doing before you can start making music. In reality, this is not the case.) I give a lot of guitar lessons, so I constantly see the barriers to entry that people struggle with and it never has to do with not being able to play music.

I'd say that no three artists have had a stronger influence on my early musical development than The Beatles, “early” Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Maybe you can pick up on that in my playing. Freedom, innovation and creativity (cool sounds!) are what I have always been drawn to in music. Though there were times (and maybe there still are) when I wish was a Beatle, I strive for originality in my own playing and do my best to nurture it in my pupils. I suppose you could now say that I emulate my idols by doing my own thing, just like they did.

For me, Clapton and Hendrix functioned as a terrific gateway into the world of improvised music. Yes, little did I know that by trying to sound like my musical heroes I began an endless journey of self-discovery and enlightenment (talk about getting more than you bargained for!). To me, the process of “figuring it all out” is where the art happens - not necessarily in achieving what I originally set out to do. Trying to figure it out, however, led to an extensive study of jazz harmony, rhythm, world and avant-garde music and more and more, philosophy and psychology. Now, late Coltrane and Hendrix don't sound so different! It all comes from the same Place.