Eric Vaughn Piano
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Eric Vaughn Piano

Las Vegas, NV | Established. Jan 01, 2017 | SELF

Las Vegas, NV | SELF
Established on Jan, 2017
Solo Jazz Avant-garde


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The best kept secret in music


"Point Reyes Light"

By day Eric Vaughn provides in-home care through West Marin Senior Services, but by night he sheds his delicate touch for that of a hard bebop and swing-playing pianist, preparing for the debut of his new album, Minor Relocation.

The album, which hits shelves August 17, is the sum of all inspiring sounds Mr. Vaughn has absorbed in his five decades as a musician, drawing from John Coltrane, Art Tatum, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. “It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” he said of the album, which he named after his move from Seattle to Marin County.

“I’ve done live club recordings and I’ve done avant garde. This one is straight ahead. It’s not too crazy and it’s not too mellow. It’s just right, I think.”

As a child, Mr. Vaughn was no stranger to musical instruments. His step-father, who played the flute, saxophone and piano, introduced him to his first music lessons when he was nine. But his life as a jazz musician wouldn’t begin until a year later. “My father had a lot of albums, some were R&B, but a lot of it was jazz,” he said. One day while going through the collection, young Mr. Vaughn played a record by an early jazz band called the Three Sounds. These soul jazz and hard bop musicians would be his introduction to the world of jive—along with the piano lessons he received from prestigious American jazz pianist, Sal Mosca. “He taught me jazz without me really knowing it. He taught me melodies, chord changes, and form fairly early on.”

Mr. Vaughn made his first buck playing music at around age 19, playing in club bands in San Francisco. “It was more than a dollar, but it wasn’t much, I can remember that,” he recalled.

He made a living for himself through this and tutoring lessons, and in 1985, eight years after earning his Bachelor’s degree in music and then his Master’s degree in music performance from the University of San Francisco, he headed to Canada, where he lived and played in Vancouver. “I couldn’t work there, so I just played music for 12 years,” he said. After a two-year stint with a blues band, traveling through the rest of Canada from 1990 to 1992, he was ready to move back to the states.

Mr. Vaughn chose Seattle, a city he had never visited. “There wasn’t enough music there,” he said. “That’s when the work started.” From painting to landscaping, he worked where he could in order to make ends meet while continuing to play music. Eventually Mr. Vaughn would find himself working for the bass player of his band, the late Mark Bullis, who is featured on Mr. Vaughn’s new album.
When describing his own sound, Mr. Vaughn notes that he plays differently for different situations. “I’ll sit down to play ballads or [avant garde]. I don’t sit down and play the same thing over and over again,” he said.

This philosophy comes through in Minor Relocation, with each track distinguishable from the next. The title track, cleverly playing off of its name, is composed almost entirely in minor. “Eric’s Samba is a song that I had been thinking about for a while,” Mr. Vaughn said, describing the fifth track. For him, the upbeat, samba-style song is about easy living. Another track recalls a blues tune.

“I listen to everything. You have to. Just recently I had to play “Imagine” by the Beatles for a wedding,” Mr. Vaughn recalled. “I don’t play Beatles music. But it was a nice tune, and who knows? I might use it again.”

Mr. Vaughn believes his listening audience is more sophisticated in general than the average music crowd. “[They’re] not the type that requests punk rock,” he said. But he also sees the diversity of his audience. “Some of the people that listen to my music are those that were never before introduced to the style. They just found it.”

His album has already been produced, but in order to promote the international debut of his music, Mr. Vaughn will need a little help. To contribute or learn more about Mr. Vaughn’s kickstarter campaign, visit and search for “Eric Vaughn.” - Shane Scott

"Cadence Magazine"

Pianist Eric Vaughn is a native of the New York City area, studied and obtained music degrees at the
University of San Francisco, and is currently based in San Francisco. Vaughn has played with jazz
greats Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, and Bobby Hutcherson, has performed in California,
Washington, Vancouver, and internationally, and has at least three recordings out as a leader (one in
1977, two in 2007). On this release entitled “Minor Relocation” (2), Vaughn performs several original
pieces along with three standards (with two takes of two of them). Offering an interesting combination
of attributes and influences, Vaughn's playing is creative, expansive, clever, ranges from simple to
complex, and has hints of Monk and Shearing among other traditional influences. His six compositions
are varied and include a blues, a samba, a minor ode, a waltz, a bossa, and a McCoy-influenced piece,
the common element being that each is an ear-catching and fine jazz vehicle. Working effectively with
Vaughn are three different bass/drum combinations, while tenor player Bob Kenmotso and flutist
Bernie Williams each contribute strong performances on their respective appearances. While the
recording quality suffers from a mediocre piano sound and an overall “made at home” character, this
does not fundamentally detract from the outstanding music Vaughn provides here.
Don Lerman
CD review from Volume 39, No. 1: July issue - Don Lerman

"Jazz Weekly"

I like this guy! Pianist Eric Vaughn has a spry and joyous touch to his ivories, with just enough dash of elliptical sounds to make you realize it’s part of his dna, and not a gimmick. He’s featured in mostly a trio context here with a rotating group of drummers and bassists. Pieces like “Jackpot Blues” and the title track have a hip snap to them, with Nate Omdal/b and Nicholas Quitevis/d cracking the whip like Walter Brennan. Some lithe flute work mixes with Vaughan’s percussive and dainty touch on the bouncy “Eric’s Samba,” and Bob Kenmotso’s tenor is rich and creamy on an upbeat “Stella By Starlight.” Not a copy of anyone, this guy’s gotta be a good one to catch in a club. Look for him. - George W. Harris

"Jazz Corner"

Eric Vaughn has devoted most of his life to jazz, but recognition for his distinctively personal music has long eluded him. Vaughn's luck can be expected to turn, however, with the release on August 7 of Minor Relocation, the 58-year-old pianist/composer's first nationally distributed album.

The new CD, released on his Vaughn Music label, serves as an introduction to a fresh and intriguing voice on the piano. Vaughn describes his music, which fuses elements of Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum, McCoy Tyner, and others, as "hard bop to modern-esque." "I've definitely learned from the traditional players," he says. "I've taken from a little bit of everybody and I've taken some classical and I've put it all in there."

The "minor relocation" of the disc's title refers to the pianist's 2009 move back to the Bay Area from Seattle, where he'd resided the previous 12 years. Vaughn recorded the CD over a three-year period in both locales, working in Seattle with bassists Nate Omdal and Mark Bullis and drummers Nicholas Quitevis and Jamiel Nance, and in the Bay Area with tenor saxophonist Bob Kenmotsu, bassist John Wiitala, and drummer Kent Bryson. "I hadn't seen them in 35 years," Vaughn says of the three latter musicians, with whom he once worked in San Francisco's North Beach.

Most of the CD's repertoire consists of Vaughn's striking originals, including the swinging title track, the minor-blues-based "Tune for Trane," and the bossa ballad "Joyce," as well as his takes on "Stella by Starlight," "Alone Together," and "On Green Dolphin Street."

Bronx, NY-born Eric Vaughn grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he moved at age 7 with his mother and stepfather, a semi-professional musician. When Eric was 9, both he and his stepdad began taking piano lessons from Sal Mosca, the Lennie Tristano disciple noted for his recordings with Lee Konitz, among others. The younger Vaughn continued his studies till he was 14, when basketball became a primary focus.

A basketball scholarship brought Vaughn to the University of San Francisco, but knee injuries thwarted his athletic ambitions. He applied for, and won, a music scholarship, despite having been away from his musical studies for nearly five years. Vaughn went on to earn his Bachelor's degree in music and a Master's in music performance, both from USF. Several years of classical piano lessons during this time "influenced my technique for sure and my ideas as well," he says now. "It's useful for improvising and my chops and reading."

Vaughn spent two years in the early '80s playing in Europe with bassoonist Michael Rabinowitz, another former Mosca student, then moved to Oakland and became part of a circle of avant-garde players that included saxophonists Ghasem Batamutu and Julius Hemphill, trumpeter Rasul Siddik, and bassist James Lewis. In 1985 he moved to Vancouver, BC and remained there for 12 years, performing regularly at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and working a steady club engagement with trumpeter Gabriel Mark Hasselbach. He also spent two years in the early '90s touring as a member of former B.B. King bassist Russell Jackson's blues band.

During his years in Seattle (1997-2009), Vaughn played with his own groups and those led by tenor saxophonist Bert Wilson and conga drummer Billy Poindexter (son of Pony Poindexter). He recorded three little-noticed albums -- a solo piano date titled Reflections: Past and Present; the trio session A New Beginning; and The Chaotic World We Live In, on which he overdubbed piano and melodica parts. With Poindexter's quartet, he recorded Live at the Birkshire (2007).

Vaughn's "minor relocation" back to the Bay Area in 2009 marks an exciting new chapter in his musical life. A Kickstarter campaign is supporting the release of his new CD, and higher-profile gigs are coming his way. To celebrate the release of Minor Relocation, Vaughn and his quartet (Bob Kenmotsu, John Wiitala, Kent Bryson) will be performing at 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on Thursday 8/9 at 8pm. He's also set to appear at Rasselas in San Francisco on Wednesday 8/15 at 8pm, and at Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland on Saturday 10/13, 8pm, with more bookings in the works. - Terry Hinte

"All About Jazz"

The "Rising Star" status usually goes to those of the youthful fresh faces, possessed of recent degrees from one of the major music schools. But, 58 year-old pianist Eric Vaughn, now San Francisco-based now after a dozen years in Seattle, could easily take that prize. With his major distribution debut, Minor Relocation, he could be called a newly discovered star. He's mostly unnoticed in the Bud Powell/Thelonious Monk constellation, but he's one star that shines brightly.

Powell and Monk, the iconoclastic bebop pioneers, influence Vaughn's craggy, quirky pianism on the ebullient title tune and "Funny Waltz," while a channeling of pianist McCoy Tyner muscularity surfaces on the Great American Songbook gem, "Alone Together." Here, the disc's core trio's is joined by saxophonist Bob Kenmotsu for a rollicking take on the familiar tune.

An exuberant and joyful player, Vaughn also proves to be a first-rate songsmith. He penned six of the eleven tunes including the beautiful "Joyce," a lilting bossa ballad, the free-swinging "Jackpot Blues," and the explosive "Tune for Trane."

Mixing of lineups on a disc can sometimes be a mistake. Vaughn turns it into an asset, offering three trio workouts with three different drummers and bassists. Kenmotsu also sits in on five tunes, and sounds particularly fine on the standards "Stella By Starlight " and "On Green Dolphin Street." Bernie Williams contributes some zingy flute work on the Vaugh-penned "Eric's Samba."

Expertly put together, Minor Relocation's originals and well-chosen standards are sequenced nicely, and played with an obvious joy that marries the willingness to take risks and just "go for it." Eric Vaughn could be classified as one of the year's top discoveries. - Dan McClenaghan


Still working on that hot first release.



San Francisco jazz pianist Eric Vaughn began studying music at age 9 with Sal Mosca, student of Lennie Tristanio. In 1977, Vaughn earned his B.A. degree in music and M.A. degree in music performance from the University of San Francisco. Vaughn has been playing piano professionally ever since. Vaughn has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Eddie Moore, Bert Wilson, Billy Poindexter, and Santana, among others. Vaughn's music is inspired by a variety of artists including Art Tatum, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, yet has a flavor all its own. Vaughn's fascinating technique reflects his high level of expertise and years of experience. The array of emotions inspired by Vaughn's music is the quality that keeps you listening, along with the insurmountable energy and fury with which he plays. Vaughn has performed across the U.S., Europe, North Africa and played for the U.S. forces in Guam and Hawaii. For eight consecutive years, Vaughn performed at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Vaughn released two CDs in 2007. In 2009, he celebrated his first national release, "Minor Relocation". In recent years, Vaughn has been performing solo, as well as playing with The Eric Vaughn Trio and the Billy Poindexter Quartet. Currently he resides in Henderson, NV.