Saturday, March 15, 2014

Don Minasi 13 questions


Born on March 6, 1943, Dom is a 50-year veteran of the music scene, with a history and scope of activities as varied and jam-packed as his native New York City. Backing up top singing groups at rock 'n’ roll shows, church dances and the like while still in his early teens, Dom has maintained a jazz trio with bass and drums since he was 15 years old. But education has also played a major role in his overall musical activities.
"By the time I was 20, I had more than 100 students, but I cut it down to 95 so I could play six nights a week."

A lot of those nights were spent backing up, and providing musical direction for vocalists, something that Dom has continued to do since 1964 and almost exclusively until 1973, when his own trio began to really take shape, coming to the attention of George Butler who had taken the reins at Blue Note from the label's visionary founder and producer, Alfred Lion.

After recording two albums for Blue Note, When Joanna Loved Me and I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before, Dom felt the business of Jazz was not for him. So from 1976-1993, Dom involved himself in a variety of pursuits such as freelancing, recording dates as a sideman, and occasionally performing with the late, great pianist Dennis Moorman and his organ quartet featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith. Composing the music for a variety of off-Broadway shows, authoring three books for Sunrise Artistries, two books on jazz theory and chord substitution and one on improvising. Returning to school where he studied with Academy Award-winning (The Red Violin) composer John Corigliano at Lehman College, receiving his degree in composition in 1990.

He also composed over 300 vocal and instrumental compositions during those years, as well as creating Literacy Through Songwriting Workshops for grades one through six for the New York City Board of Ed.

That includes recording his own critically acclaimed album Finishing Touches and Dialing Privileges, co-led with Blaise Siwula & John Bollinger both for CIMP Records. Arranging all the music for the 1997 revival of Torch Song Trilogy; writing his fourth and fifth books The Singer’s Guide to Reading Rhythms and A Guitarist Ultimate Guide To Chord Construction and Substitution and publishing over one hundred new songs.
Deciding to keep total control over his career and what he musically produces, Dom and his wife, vocalist Carol Mennie formed CDM Records and CDM, Inc. (Can Do More, Inc.) a not-for profit organization where Dom is president and Artistic Director and Carol is Vice President and Assistant Artistic Director. CDM, Inc.’s mission statement is to promote music & theatre activities within the educational systems of public schools and colleges throughout the United States.

His 2001 CDM release, Takin' The Duke Out, recorded Live at the Knitting Factory in New York City, in 2003, CDM released Time Will Tell, DDT + 2, with cellist Tomas Ulrich and bassist Ken Filiano, augmented by John Bollinger on drums and vocalist Carol Mennie. Dom’s 2004 release, Quick Response was herald as one of the best recordings of that season. Topping it off, on the same day, CDM Records released Carol Mennie’s debut album I’m Not A Sometime Thing, an exciting project very close to Dom & Carol’s heart. This record was produced and arranged by Dom and to show the expansiveness of Minasi’s talent, Dom also played on and wrote all’s the arrangements and the music and lyrics to five of the songs.

Inspired by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Dom Minasi’s 2006 release, and considered by many his most adventurous outing since CDM Records came into existence, The Vampire’s Revenge is a double disc set of original through composed pieces. In September 2007 recorded The Jon Hemmersam-Dom Minasi Quartet featuring Ken Filiano (bass) and Kresten Osgood (drums). In April 2009 Dom recorded for, reKonstruKt, Records, The Dom Minasi String Quartet’s Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder which was later release on Konnex Records, featuring Dom on nylon string guitar, Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Tomas Ulrich (cello) and Ken Filiano (contrabass) is again another musical direction and a totally different sound. This group is a real combination of contemporary 21st century composition coupled with modern improvisation.

April 2010 reKonstruKt, Records released Blaise Siwula-Dom Minasi ‘Live’ At The Matt Bevel Institute followed by The Dom Minasi Sextet’s The Bird, The Girl and The Donkey and in September 2011 reKonstruKt, Records released Dom’s first solo recording, Looking Our Looking In. In 2011 Dom released Synchronicity on Nacht Records. Dom ‘s newest release The Bird The Girl and The Donkey II can be found on Unseen Records

Over his long career, Dom has worked with countless heavyweights, crossing all styles of Jazz. He’s performed in venues ranging from top jazz clubs to Carnegie Hall, The Montreal Jazz Festival to the White House for President Bill Clinton, but it’s musical expansion and personal growth that are his principal motivations

“It’s all about expression, learning and growth, whether it be in music or in life and to share what we learn and give back without expectations.”

Hans Tammen & Dom Minasi performing @ The Downtown Music Gallery

What do you remember about your first guitar?

I was seven years old and the guitar was blond and it was very small.  I don't remember the make at all, but is pretty loud for a small guitar.

Why do you need music?

That's like asking why I need air or food. Music fils my heart, soul and spirit. It s the creativeness within me and without it I would whither and die.

So, why do you love the guitar?

I fell in love with the guitar the first I saw Roy Rogers in a movie singing and playing. That was 1947 and that love has not dwindled at all.

Which work of your own are you most proud of, and why?

There are many I am proud of but I would say The Vampire's Revenge. It was the most challenging to compose and record and I had a chance to play with the best avant players in the world.

Do you play electric and acoustic, do you approach the two differently?

Yes I play both. I mostly use a pick with my archtop guitars  because of the different sound effects I can get and the incredible tempos I play.
I've been using a pick since I was seven and am very comfortable with it. When I play nylon string I use my fingers for chords and my thumb for soloing. I never really had the time to develop a classical right hand technique and for me this is the best of both worlds as far as the sound of the guitar goes.

Dominic Duval - bass, Mark Whitecage - sax, Dom Minasi - guitar, Jay Rosen - drums, Michael Jefry Stevens - piano.

What was the first solo you learned from a record — and can you still play it?

I never learned a solo from a record. Of course I would listen, but my intent was never  to copy. I rather listened for intent, spirit and and a sense of musical value.

What’s the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar?

That's a loaded question. If we are talking jazz then I expect to hear and see a good technique. Harmony and historic value and depending on what type of jazz it is Bop-swing. Modern Bop sing and free-form-what I call and another type of swing and most of all complete control of the instrument and he/she must be musical.


What are the challenges and benefits of today's music scene?

 I think there are only two challenges.  
  1. Sound like yourself
  2. Make a living.


What quality do you admire most in a musician?

A good sense of self.  I especially admire musicians who can not only play, but who read, transpose and know harmony.

A valuable advice that someone has gifted to you in the past?

The only advice I ever I got was from and old friend and great musician Harry Sheppard. I once asked him how was it he always sounded great and he said , " I approach every performance like it's Carnegie Hall".


What's your fetish device in the sound chain?

The only pedal I use is a Boss Digital Delay.  As long as I have a decent amp, I get my sound.

Where are your roots? What are your influences?

My roots go way back. My first jazz influence was in 1957 with Johnny Smith's  Moonlight In Vermont.  After Johnny I graduated to every known guitar player that was around in those days such as Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlowe, Chuck Wayne, Kenny Burell and Wes Mongomery. Then early on I started listening to and began being influenced my Monk, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Jim Hall, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and then in the sixties it became Cecil Taylor and in the eighties it was the classical composers such as Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Stravinsky.

The Dom Minasi Trio "Free Improv" 2011 Albey Balgochian-bass and Jay Rosen-drums

What’s your latest project about?

Just released two duo records on two different labels with two different players.

Michael Jefry Stevens - Dom Minasi: Angel's Dance -Improvisations for  Piano and Guitar on Nacht Records
Dom Minasi, Hans Tammen: Alluvium - Free form improvisation for two guitars on the Straw2gold pictures record label
Coming out soon : Blaise Siwula, Dom Minasi: The Sun Don't Mind Me Singing on Nacht Records
Anthony Braxton - Dom Minasi: Moments In Time on Solyd Record
I am also getting ready to record with pianist David Arner and I am in rehearsal with cellist Tomas Ulrich  for a duo recording.


Solo DISCOGRAPHY...... .............................. ........................... ............................
Dom Minasi & Hans Tammen
Dom Minasi & Michael Jefry Stevens
Angel's Dance
The Girl, The Bird and The Donkey II Dom Minasi & Karl Berger
Remi Alvarez Quartet feat. Dom Minasi
Live at Vision Festival
Looking Out Looking In The Girl, The Bird and The Donkey Minasi-Siwula
Live at The Matt Bevel Institute
Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder The Vampire's Revenge Quick Response Time Will Tell
Goin' Out Again Takin' The Duke Out Finishing Touches Hemmersam
Minasi Quartet

I Have A Feeling I've Been Here Before When Joanna Loved Me with Carol Mennie
I'm Not a Sometime Thing


Joe Giardullo
Red Morocco
Ernie Andrews
Girl Talk
Dennis Moorman
String Duets
Blaise Siwula
New York Moments
Blaise Siwulas
Dialing Priviledges
Stan Edwards
Play Me Hearts & Flowers
Dominic Duval/ Michael Jefry Stevens Quintet
New York Moments
Total Improvisation

Ron Smith
Ron Smith Quartet