Jackie King
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Jackie King

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


“Jackie King plays with easeful command of jazz time, phrasing, and free-flowing imagination.” - Nat Hentoff


"A musical great ... superb guitar mastery." - .


"Transcends the ordinary and is at once daring, elegant and compassionate." - .


"Without question, King is a world-class player." - .


"... nine cuts of heavenly splendor. A masterpiece of guitar music." (cd: Moon Magic) - .


"King is a masterful technician ... he blends melodic inspiration with harmonic sophistication. 'The Gypsy' is a fine recording from a guitarist who should have stepped into the spotlight years ago." (cd: The Gypsy) - .


“Back to the tried and true - ...Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I first played this tune when I was still in kindergarten, and through the years I have enjoyed hearing the many choral, orchestral, and jazz versions. Now here comes Jackie King with his guitar and the song takes on a different, more soulful sound. Jackie has a way of bending notes and giving a slightly mellow flavor to what is actually a hymn. Under his magic fingers, these herald angels do sing!” (cd: NPR's Jazz Christmas II)
- Marian McPartland


“Actually, I think of myself more now as a songwriter than I do a guitar player because of guys like Jackie King and Django Reinhardt and all the great players. It’s humbling to be in the presence of that kind of talent.”
- Willie Nelson (interview)


'It was that rare jazz magic and Baker came down shaking his head at the astonishingly fluid, long guitar runs Jackie King had laid down. 'That King is a bitch. I haven't been this surprised by jazz in a long time." - Chet Baker (interview)


“Jackie King is one of America’s most sought after players and teachers of the guitar ... one of today’s truly unique guitarists.”



- Arlen Roth


Discography

Shades of Joy (Mercury Records)
El Topo (Douglass Records)
Skylight (Texas Records)
Angel Eyes (Columbia)
Night Bird (Columbia)
Moon Magic (Indigo Moon Records)
The Gypsy (Indigo Moon Records)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Over the past four decades guitar virtuoso Jackie King has played with some of America's greatest musical artists, providing sterling accompaniment on various occasions for the likes of Ray Charles, Tony Bennett and Big Joe Turner, and matching his six-string skills on stage against Jerry Garcia, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Johnson. But where King has really earned his sizable reputation as a brilliant and fleet-fingered improviser has been in the realm of jazz, and since the early 1970s, he has spent most of his time working with legends like Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt and Jimmy Witherspoon.

For the last three years, King performed and toured steadily with Willie Nelson, the greatly-loved maverick of country music, and if this partnership seems somewhat incongruous it actually makes perfect sense when one considers how much jazz and western swing have influenced their respective musical developments. While many of Nelson's fans may have been made aware of this only when Willie released his recent homage to pioneering jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, the all-instrumental disc Night and Day, for King, jazz has been his mainstay and true calling throughout his career.

Jackie King's jazz mastery comes to the fore once again on The Gypsy, his current album, which features his good friend Willie Nelson's inimitable vocals and guitar licks on half of the disc's ten tracks. Described by King as "a love letter to the deep-rooted connection between jazz and country music," the album finds the guitarist within the cozy yet inspiring confines of his regular quintet as together they nimbly swing through a set of choice standards dear to the leader's heart. As Nat Hentoff writes in his liner notes to The Gypsy: "Listening to the music here is like being present at an after-hours session among friends who share a mutual interest."

A deep affection and lifelong affinity for a broad range of musical styles is something that is endemic to many native Texans, and Messrs. King and Nelson are no exceptions. Texas has been a virtual melting pot of blues, gospel, polkas, Dixieland and cowboy songs since before World War II, but it's been the tremendous popularity of western swing bands and the genre's chief exponent--Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys--that have exerted a resounding influence on Lone Star musical sensibilities and often bestowed upon music lovers their first taste of jazz improvisations.

Needless to say, Jackie King was hardly immune to the infectious swing and driving rhythms of Bob Wills. King was born and raised right in the heart of Texas--San Antonio--and he took up guitar at the age of nine after a false start on the mandolin. King's father, an accountant by trade, regularly picked guitar in a local country-swing band, and he started his son on lessons; soon, the young guitarist was studying with Spud Goodall, long a mentor for a host of Texas musicians. "The foundation of my guitar technique came from Spud," said King. As he became more involved in his instrument, King began to listen closely to what other guitarists were playing, and before long he was copying licks from Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Les Paul, Chet Atkins and later on from Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and one of his all-time favorites, Hank Garland--"players you couldn't miss, and I was picking them all apart," King remembered. By his teens, King was fully immersed in jazz, and if some of his wicked runs along the fretboard remind listeners of Charlie Parker's lightning-fast alto sax lines it's because the young guitarist worked assiduously to recreate Bird's solos on his own instrument.

Apparently good enough to get his first professional job in a country band at the age of 12 (his parents needed the local judge's approval first), King gained quick notoriety as a teenage phenom in the San Antonio music scene of the late 1950s. It was there that he first became acquainted and played with Willie Nelson. Working six nights a week in various bands and backing visiting acts like Roger Miller and George Jones eventually caused King to pursue music full time, as San Antonio's bars, clubs and military base lounges provided him with more than enough work. Versatility, indeed, was a virtue, since familiarity with jazz, R&B, country and swing books meant getting more jobs.

After touring the country with the Billy Gray Band and then a long stretch in a Moline, Illinois jazz club, King moved out to San Francisco in 1968 with his childhood pal Doug Sahm, the prescient singer-songwriter and lead man of the Sir Douglas Quintet. There he hooked up with saxophonist Martin Fierro to form the Shades of Joy, a jazz quartet that followed Miles Davis into the electronic miasma of fusion sounds. King kept up his straight-ahead chops with stints at the Jazz Workshop behind artists passing through the Bay Area, and it was during one such gig that he impressed cool jazz star Chet Baker enough to land a spot in the trumpeter's band for a year.