I am, like everyone I suppose, many things.
I sing, I write songs, I compose, I make my multi-guitar jazz interpretations of Bach and others, I make my oddball Vocal Kaleidoscope projects, I teach and do comedy and fancy myself a philosopher and a healer and a theoretician.
But at the root and the center of all of this is my core identity: I am an improvising guitarist.
This album, then, is a glimpse into my daily life.
Solo guitar is a challenge, and it was a long time before I felt I could consistently play by myself and create music that felt complete and satisfying. I was always getting distracted, thinking ”uh oh, better put a chord in now” or some such. But gradually over time, the line between ”rhythm” and ”lead” guitar disappeared for me, and now it feels like it all just flows.
Connie Crothers, the great New York pianist who was my teacher for ten years, suggested to me one day in the late 1980s that it might be possible to improvise counterpoint on the guitar. I was boggled at the idea. It certainly did not seem possible to me. But her words stayed with me, and indeed still echo in my mind today, and it is the idea of counterpoint that motivates my conception of harmony, and I think that idea is what led me over time to achieve a certain amount of freedom as a solo guitarist.
I put in a lot of time working on scales in parallel, two, three and four voices; on scales in two voices in contrary motion; on holding one note common while moving two others; I spent many hours playing Bach’s solo violin works; and I sang the improvisations of Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano.
And, you know, I played quite a bit.
These recordings were made in early 2002, at a time when I was working particularly on developing some of the rhythmic and harmonic complexity that I admire so much in Lennie Tristano’s music. The turned-around phrase, the deceptive resolution, the long line. I have take taken so much pleasure in listening to these tracks of mine over the last ten years, sometimes counting time just to make sure the forms all really did stay solid. There are certain sections of this that still confuse me if I don’t do that (the second half of the second chorus of Autumn Lives is maybe my favorite), but I do think they are all right.
Not to obsess too much about such a subject, though. I always think if I like the music, an altered form is no mistake. It’s improvising! Change whatever you want.
I want to dedicate this music to the memory of my father, Wade L. Fite, a famous physicist in his day, and a pretty solid oboist, and a good decent man who watched out for his kids. He died Feb. 22, 2002, as I was in the middle of these recording sessions. Two days after his death, I tried a session, but I had a hard time playing. The one thing I got that day that I liked at all was the song of mourning You Don’t Know What Love Is (the one vocal here), and this one in particular I dedicate to Dad.
Feb. 23, 2012