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," "Acoustic Evidence," and "Guitars on Holiday." He's been playing the guitar since 1963.
His numerous Warner Bros. 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."
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 rock and 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 jazzbo's, he immersed himself in the slippery language of jazz. Too poor to take lessons, he 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.
In time, what emmerged 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 usually played with a pick. In 1998, he gave up using a pick entirely and began working exclusively as a fingerstylist.
His grasp of many genres of music has enabled him to perform and record in many different settings, from folk, rock, pop, blues and jazz. 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 ensembles. Most recently, his groups recorded version of "I'm a Woman" was chosen for inclusion in the SONY pictures movie "Little Black Book."
Since 1998, he has focused exclusively on fingerstyle guitar and has developed a distinctive sound that treads the genres of americana, blues and jazz. 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 play on his (Hedges) next LP), John Scofield, Leo Kottke, Wes Montgomery and James Brown.
A strong current of rhythmic interest 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. You are just as likely to hear a simple triad as an obtuse jazz chord in one of his arrangements.
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.
Latarski is also adjunct instructor and head of guitar studies at the University of Oregon School of Music. He's been a faculty member at the university since 1982. He holds degrees in Political Science and Music from the University of Oregon.