Dave Devine, Denver’s guitar guru, on Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin and new jazzBy Sam DeLeo | December 17th, 2012 | No Comments »
Like many guitarists, Dave Devine shrugs and laughs at the question: How many? “Well, I have 15 guitars now, but none are duplicate instruments,” said Devine a bit sheepishly. “At shows, I bring a 12-string electric, a baritone, an alternate tuning guitar and my main guitar, a Les Paul.”
If every music scene requires a guitar god, a case can be made that Denver’s is Dave Devine. Possessing a musical range that reminds one of Bill Frisell and resembling a younger Thurston Moore in appearance, Devine has been deeply involved in both the jazz and rock music of Denver for the last decade. He was a member of long-time Denver rock group The Czars and also played in jazz trumpeter Ron Miles’ band. In the rock band Delby L, he worked with legendary producer Steve Albini. He’s been a member of the Ninth & Lincoln Orchestra, and, when not playing gigs in Denver, Devine often performs in New York and has appeared on the BBC in London.
A guitar wizard needs a sphere of influence, also, and Devine’s has come through teaching at Metro State University and the University of Colorado-Denver. In his tenures he has taught many of the musicians who make the Denver music scene vibrant, including members of Rubedo, ManCub, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Varlet, Achille Lauro, Paper Bird, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Bad Weather California.
We spoke with Devine in advance of his show tomorrow (Dec. 18) at Dazzle with his group Relay.
Q. How would you describe the music of your latest project, Relay?
A. I always describe it as instrumental but song-oriented, as opposed to blues or jazz, where you have a brief melody introduction followed by solos. It draws a lot from rock, ambient and electronic music.
Q. What is your favorite guitar right now?
A. The Les Paul. I feel I can play almost anything on it, or there’s a comfort level I don’t have with the other guitars.
Q. What guitarist — or other instrumentalist — have you learned the most from?
A. When I was a kid, it was my dad, who played guitar in a ‘60s rock band. We played together at home just for fun. As a teenager, it was people like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. I had no teacher until I went to college and studied classical guitar. And then after that, it was these 80-year-old black guys at jazz jam sessions in Indianopolis where I grew up. They had played with Wes Montgomery and other big jazz names, and they would yell at me with this very specific, cryptic advice: “You gotta take that classical stuff and put a blues take on it,” or “You gotta learn the chord inversions!” And you listened, or they wouldn’t let you play!
Q. Who have you been listening to lately?
A. Low is one of my all-time favorite bands so I always listen to them a lot. Also Earth, Elliot Smith, who I think is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, Bibio and Squarepusher — I love his bass lines and production.
Q. Do you hear a new combination of rock and jazz happening?
A. I do. In the past, I think it was more, “Let’s take a rock song and play it like a jazz song,” or vice versa. If I play a Led Zeppelin or Miles Davis song, (both) are equally important to me. Today I think there’s an effort not to just adapt either style, but to start with the song itself and see where it can go from there.
Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and recently completed his novel, “As We Used to Sing.” His selected work can be read at samdeleo.com