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,” “Don Latarski & Rue D’Acoustic,” TUO (with jazz guitarist John Stowell), and “Acoustica Funkus.” He’s been playing the guitar since 1963.
His numerous Alfred Publications guitar instruction books 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,” “The Ultimate Guitar Chord Gig Bag Book,” and “The Guitar Scale Picture Book.” Other books include: “Sight Reading Strategies for Guitar,” and “The Guitar Chord Method vol. 1.”
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.
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. His original compositions were featured with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra on a special pops Valentines program in 2003.
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).
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 - 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 ernest 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 1984. He holds degrees in Political Science (B.S.1975) and Music (B.S.1979) from the University of Oregon.