Don Latarski & Rue D’Acoustic group background and history
Rue D’Acoustic is a trio formed from some of the core members of a group started in 1985 called Rue de Blues. This original group was made up of five musicians, Devin Sanders on organ, Marilyn Keller–vocals, Mark Schneider on bass, Jason Palmer on drums and Don Latarski on guitar. From time to time this group would expand to include a three-piece horn section. At other times it would shrink depending on the nature (and budget) of the gig. This is the norm for most groups that work in a variety of musical genres. You adapt to the realities of the market place.
Beginning in 1993 a stripped down version of Rue de Blues consisting of Latarski, Schneider and Palmer, held court at the Oregon Electric Station in Eugene, OR each weekend. The core group would occasionally expand to include Keller on vocals. It was during the period beginning in 1993 to 2006 that the trio known as Rue D’Acoustic coalesced. And as any seasoned musician will tell you, the best way to hone your skills is to perform as often as possible. Pure practice can never fully prepare you for the kinds of feelings, circumstances and unusual events that occur at a live performance. A mistake made during a solitary practice session just doesn’t have the same impact that it does when performing. A performance makes you focus your efforts in a very personal and immediate sense. You can’t stop and replay a missed chord, inverted rhythm, or blotched position shift. Whatever happens, you’ve got to carry on. The live experience teaches you how to make creative mistakes and shape them into a style.
In about 1999 Latarski became very enamored of the sounds he heard from such acoustic guitarists such as Leo Kottke, Tuck Andress, Pierre Bensusan, Pat Metheny and Michael Hedges. Latarski cites an opening gig in front of Michael Hedges and Tuck Andress as pivotal moments in his finger style approach to guitar. These two artists represent very different yet significant approaches to the guitar. Hedges represents the pinnacle of the contrapuntal, minimalist approach, which Andress is the jazzman with orchestral chops.
Latarski’s style is somewhere in the middle. His affinity for the blues is always present as is his appreciation for the vocabulary of the jazz musician.
Latarski doesn’t use fingerpicks, instead opting for a more organic approach. Because his natural nails are thin and weak and not up to the rigors of percussive acoustic strumming, he experimented with a process that converted standard flat picks into a type of glue-on supplement. This process was less than perfect and resulted in some very funny and embarrassing moments on some gigs where the picks would break loose and be instantly lost on stage. On more than one occasion, a string would become lodged in between one of these “nail caps” and the natural nail. This would cause the finger to be “stuck” to the string. All of these problems went away when a fan alerted Latarski to a commercially available nail-strengthening product actually being produced in his hometown.
Despite the initial problems with the homemade nails, Latarski found a very personal connection with the acoustic guitar. It just seemed to be a more immediate and direct way of expressing the music. He was also very drawn in by the percussive aspects of the instrument, but not in a tapping or slapping sort of way. Certainly those techniques have broadened the palate of sounds available to guitarists. But he was enthralled by the sound of “ghosted” notes, snapped strings (think funk bass), partially muted notes strummed to within a hair of their lives (a Hendrix inspired technique) and the ability to play more like a pianist, able to bring out voice leading and melodic lines within a chord. Let’s face it, in a trio you have to do more than strum a few chords and take a solo every so often, especially if you don’t sing!
And an instrumental trio is what Rue D’Acoustic is. Mark Schneider plays several different basses including the upright acoustic, a Clevenger upright electric and the smaller acoustic guitar style bass along with a battery of foot powered percussion instruments, which includes the tried and true tambourine (brilliantly outfitted with two large fang-like wood screws which stop it from sliding across the floor), and an instrument we fondly call the “ass crash,” which is a small crash cymbal mounted perpendicular to the floor.
Jason Palmer plays a potpourri of percussion instruments, from the all-important Middle-Eastern tambourine in place of a traditional snare drum, cocktail kick/tom combination, to the more conventional piccolo snare, cymbols and sock hats.
What they play is often called jazz, but this is a knee-jerk label that’s only one aspect of what they do. While it’s true that they are comfortable with the jazz vernacular (improvisation, modulation, extended harmonies and swing), they try not to be limited by this vocabulary. The musical influences that swirl around in this group ranges over punk, soul, blues, rock, funk, country, European classical, avante garde jazz, straight ahead jazz, gospel, African high-life, Americana, and Gregorian chant. In other words, any influence that feels right is fair game. They have no fear of the power chord, or the dominant13b9 chord.
Such free roaming music oftentimes makes the jazz aficionado very uncomfortable. Is it jazz or something else?
Whatever you call it, it’s always approached with a questing, innocent and experimental attitude. They are always listening for the spark that can turn the music in a direction worthy of further exploration. While they try not to sacrifice the song in the process, there are times when it’s necessary to jettison the form for the sake of finding out what’s around the next bend in time.
Unfortunately, capturing this type of musical experience on a recording is nearly impossible. The songs recorded here can never be played quite like this again. So it’s best to think of this recording as a snap shot, a few frames of a movie that will continue on as long as the group chooses to perpetuate it. The goal of the record was to capture the essence of the music. The jamming sections are shortened and somewhat subdued from what happens at a live show.
The music is driven on several levels: melodically, harmonically and rhythmically. All the musicians are free to contribute on each level. Since all the members are composers and highly skilled and experienced improvisers, there is a perpetual conversation from the first note. This spirit of adventure combined with a great deal of study, experience, experimentation and practice results in music that is joyous without being trite, spiritual without gimmickry and original without being overly derivative.
Professional Highlights - Don Latarski, guitarist/composer/educator
Don Latarski is known nationally as a gifted performer, composer and author. His recordings include: “Haven,” “Lifeline,” “Private Affair,” “How Many Ways,” “NorthWest of December,” “Deep Play,” “Rue 2,” “Natural Instincts,” “Eden Hall Sessions,” “Fab 4 on 6,” “Fab 4 on 6 vol.2,” “Guitars on Holiday,” “Nightingale” and “Don Latarski & Rue D’Acoustic.” He’s been playing the guitar since 1963.
His numerous Alfred Publications include: "Introduction to Chord Theory,” "Scale Patterns for Guitar,” "Movable Guitar Chords,” "Arpeggios for Guitar,” "Chord Orbits,” "Chord Embellishments,” "Practical Theory for Guitar,” "Guitar Theory Basics,” “The Ultimate Guitar Chord Big Book,” “Blues Chords,” “Jazz Chords,” “First Chords,” “Barre Chords,” “Blues Guitar,” and “The Ultimate Guitar Chord Gig Bag Book.”
He has led his own jazz group, The Don Latarski Group featuring Marilyn Keller, since 1982. With this group he has performed at: The Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, Salem Arts Festival, Eugene Celebration, DaVinci Days, Linn-Benton Community College, Lane Community College, Portland Art Museum, Portland Zoo Series, Eastern Oregon State University, Boise State University, University of Idaho, Salmon Arts Council - Salmon, ID, Portland Community College, Utah Arts Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Eugene Concert Choir, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Hinman Winery Jazz Festival, Ponzi Winery, Knudsen-Erath Winery, Springhill Winery, Zoo Jazz Series, Filbert Festival, Art in the Vineyard, Henry Estates Winery, Gleneden Hall, Oregon State Penitentiary and the Prescott Arizona Arts Association and at other universities, community colleges and jazz festivals throughout the West. The group has also opened shows for Ray Charles, Tuck & Patty, Stanley Turrentine, and Tom Scott. In addition, Latarski's group has had a steady gig at the Oregon Electric Station since 1992.
As a featured performer, Latarski has appeared with: Eugene Symphony Orchestra (Mason Williams, "Seven Deadly Sins" and with Marvin Hamlisch) as a guest artist with South Eugene High School Jazz Band, Swing Shift Big Band and the Western Oregon State College vocal jazz choir and big band. He has also been featured with the Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble under the direction of Diane Retallack.
In 2003 his music and group were the featured artists on a Valentine’s Day program of music with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra.
He also leads a rhythm and blues groups called Don Latarski and Rue de Blues. This band performs music in a variety of blues genres and to date has released three critically acclaimed CD’s: Deep Play (1996), Rue 2, (1998), and Eden Hall Sessions, (2001).
His acoustic group, Rue D’Acoustic, released their first CD in April 2007 entitled “Don Latarski & Rue D’Acoustic”.
Latarski is also in demand as a studio musician having logged numerous sessions as a sideman. His ability to play in a variety of styles - country, jazz, blues, rock, reggae, pop, soul, funk, rhythm & blues and gospel, has kept him extremely busy.
Born and raised in the shadow of Motown in the small town of Romeo, Michigan, Latarski moved to Oregon in 1973. He quickly established himself in the blues scene and soon realized that he knew nothing about playing jazz. Out of frustration at not being able to sit in with the local jazzers, he immersed himself in the slippery language of jazz. H taught himself by listening to the local NPR college jazz station and by hanging out with other players with a better grip on the vocabulary and by attending as many jam sessions as possible. In time, what emerged was a style that had one foot in blues and the other in jazz.
Latarski’s exposure to fingerstyle guitar began in earnest in 1979 when he enrolled in the Univ. of Oregon School of Music and started studying classical guitar. Until that time, he’d played with a pick. In 1998, he gave up using a pick entirely and began working exclusively as a fingerstylist.
He’s also a prolific composer having written numerous songs for radio and television advertising, computer games, musicals, video and film usage and for his various bands. Most recently, his groups’ recorded version of “I’m a Woman” was chosen for inclusion in the SONY pictures movie “Little Black Book.”
His genre bending approach has been influenced by Aaron Copland, Pat Metheny, Michael Hedges (who after hearing Latarski perform at an outdoor concert, inquired if he’d (Latarski) be interested in playing on his (Hedges) next LP), John Scofield, Leo Kottke, Wes Montgomery and George Benson.
A strong current of rhythmic vitality combined with a playful and adventurous sense of harmony form the cornerstone of his style. This is not a style born out of the Travis fingerstyle approach. Latarski’s many years experience in the realm of jazz and blues is at the core of his approach.
In the summer of 2004 Latarski arranged and recorded his first guitar chamber orchestra recording. The CD that resulted is called “Guitars on Holiday.” The focus of this disc was to create lush orchestrations using only guitars. The style clearly owes much to Aaron Copland and is reminiscent of Appalachian Spring in mood and feel.
Latarski is also adjunct instructor and head of guitar studies at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance. He’s been a faculty member at the university since 1982. He holds degrees in Political Science (B.S.1975) and Music (B.S.1979) from the University of Oregon.
More info. downloads, books, photos and CD’s, at www.DonLatarski.com
Jason A. Palmer – drums/percussion
Jason Palmer is a Eugene native who performs and teaches throughout the northwest and internationally. He attended the University of Oregon where he received both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Music. As a student, Jason had the opportunity to perform in a variety of ensembles as well as with guest artists like Nancy King, Bobby Shew, Gary Versace, John Hollenbeck, and Toby Koenigsberg.
These experiences led to an active performing and teaching career in the region after graduation. Since 1995, Jason has performed and recorded with such jazz artists as Dave Frishberg, John Zorn, Ruth Brown, Dick Hyman, Ken Peplowski, Randy Porter, Don Latarski, Tom Bergeron, Ben Darwish, Mike Denny, and Dan Tepfer. His pop and rock experience includes work with The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Mason Williams, the Justin King Band, Mark Alan, and Satin Love Orchestra. His performances include appearances at the Knitting Factory in New York, the Rochester Jazz Festival, the High Sierra Music Festival, Jazz Festival Calgary, and the Oregon Festival of American Music.
Palmer has been an integral part of the group since 1993.
Mark Schneider - bass
Schneider is one of those rare individuals who embodies an innate musical core. He can write and arrange music, pen lyrics, play drums, guitar and sing. His bass playing is always characterized by a deep commitment to the groove and he has a special affinity for blues, gospel, Afro-Cuban, jazz, soul, R&B and pop. Such versatility is hard to come by and his many years of gigging have honed his improvisational and rhythm section skills to a very fine edge. His musical skills are always spot on and his bass lines are reminiscent of such players as Jerry Jemmott and Ron Carter. He’s known as an animated and vivacious performer and has logged thousands of dates as a sideman both in the studio and on stage. He’s been working with Latarski since 1975.