Josh Workman
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Josh Workman

Band Jazz World


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"AMG gives 4-star review"

Review by Rick Anderson

There are lots of jazz guitarists out there who can play in a Django Grappelli style, and many who can play bop or Latin jazz. But not many of them are equally comfortable in all of those styles, and that's just part of what makes Josh Workman very special as a guitarist and bandleader. He's no slouch as a composer, either, as the jittery, subtly Latin-flavored title track and his warmhearted Thelonious Monk tribute demonstrate. Of the remaining numbers on his debut as a leader, it's his arrangements of compositions by Brazilian writers that really stand out, in particular his gorgeous take on André Vítor Correa's "André de Sapato Novo" and his gypsified version of Vicente Garrido's "No Me Platiques Mas." Singer Kim Nalley makes a welcome appearance on several tracks and acquits herself nicely, though her version of "You're Driving Me Crazy" is just a little bit too laid-back for its own good. The album ends with a lovely solo guitar arrangement of "You're Blasé." Recommended. - All Music Guide

"Assorted Quotes"

"...a phenomenal musician...Workman's rich CD contexts and amazing performances serve as inspirational examples for jazz guitarists young and old. It is a spectacular maiden voyage." -Dr. Herb Wong, Jazz Education Journal (selected one of the top four instrumentals of 2004, April 2005 issue)

"...Workman lets each note ring clear and true, with a crisp attack and sweet, singing sustain. Above all, he swings hard!" -Andy Ellis, Senior Editor, Guitar Player Magazine

" good as it gets...Workman proves a traditionalist who's not afraid to kick it up a little." - Vintage Guitar Magazine

"...indeed a highlight of this year." - All About Jazz

" impressive debut..." - Andrew Gilbert, Contra Costa Times

"It's a fun 72 minutes...Four-stars" - The Montreal Gazette, Canada

"...Workman's playing which, regardless of style, demonstrates a devotion to authenticity, while at the same time staying approachable and consistently engaging." - All About Jazz

"'Jumpin' At The Border' is outstanding and diversified small group material, with Workman nicely shifting gears throughout, from jump-blues and bop to R&B and swing." - The City Paper, Nashville, TN

"This is a delightful set with guitarist Josh Workman displaying impressive versatility...easily recommended and thoroughly enjoyable..." - Scott Yanow, Los Angeles Jazz Scene (December 2004 issue)

"'Jumpin' At The Border' is an always-swinging, eclectic collection of dynamic performances...This is an impressive debut that is another good reason to return to the City by the Bay" - Joseph Blake, The Times Colonist, Victoria, B.C.

"Workman and his group are an obvious gathering of highly experienced journeymen players who still enjoy their gifts and have no problem plying their wares on us, their discriminating audience." - George Carroll, JazzReview

"It's a keeper! Workman's cool blues is truly memorable and leaves you with a feeling you won't forget anytime soon." - Sounds of Timeless Jazz

"Workman himself is a musical and spiritual descendent of Kessel's hollow-body brand of swing electric guitar..." - (Autumn 2004 issue)

- various publishers

"CDReview, Spring '05 Edition"

Excerpts from the review by Joe Knipes
in the Spring 2005 issue of "Jazz Improv Magazine"-

"They say: 'Variety is the spice of life', and Josh Workman's latest CD has no shortage of variety-or spice for that matter. Some musicians who try to cram every possible style on to one recording to exhibit their abilities often come up short in one area or another. One of the real delights about this CD, is that our leader displays genuine integrity and soul on each and every track... This is one of the most enjoyable albums I've heard so far this year and I would recommend it to anyone."

- Jazz Improv Magazine

"Sunday, 1/23, 2005 Arts Section"


Jerry Karp

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Even the most talented musician can have a tough time presenting a variety of styles on a single CD. There's always the danger of turning the recording into a hodgepodge that satisfies no one, no matter how dazzling the individual numbers.

Bay Area jazz guitarist Josh Workman solved this puzzle with flair on his 2004 release, "Jumpin' at the Border," his first as a leader. The CD showcases Workman's ability to plug into bebop, Brazilian, blues, Latin and gypsy jazz. The "solution" is the pulsing energy that sweeps through every track, in every style, and unifies the proceedings.

"There's definitely a groove factor," says Workman, 35, settling in over a latte at a Polk Street coffee shop, "and groove doesn't have to mean a funk groove. It's a swing. If I don't feel that, it's awfully hard to even play."

The CD also benefits from the presence of Workman's stepfather and musical mentor, pianist Larry Vuckovich, and soulful saxophonist Noel Jewkes, heading a sparkling roster of local jazz players.

Workman, who performs with his quartet Thursday at Jazz at Pearl's, has walked an adventurous musical path, and his intimacy with the musical genres presented on "Jumpin' at the Border" was gained firsthand. The San Francisco native took the first steps on that path at age 11, when, inspired by the music of Jimi Hendrix and meetings with local blues guitar legend Mike Bloomfield, he started a rock band called Flashback.

"By the time I was 13 or 14, I was calling up clubs, booking my band in these North Beach dives," Workman says. "I had a lot of chutzpah. I was underage, so Miss Keiko, who ran the Chi Chi Club, would keep somebody at the door. If heat was coming, they'd call out, 'Cut your set. Take a break. Turn the music on.' And I'd have to hide out in the back."

When Workman was 14, his first guitar teacher, Ray Scott, started handing him jazz tapes. "He'd say, 'Yeah, I know you want to learn that Jimi Hendrix stuff, but check out Wes Montgomery,' " Workman says. Continued study and incessant jamming with friends sharpened the young guitarist's fascination with jazz.

After graduating from San Francisco's School of the Arts, Workman left town for a year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, then landed at the New School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., where he shared classes with such future stars as Brad Mehldau, Peter Bernstein and Chris Potter. Workman also began transcribing for German publisher Advance Music, and eventually landed a transcribing job at Warner Bros.

"Being in New York, of course I was around a lot of Latin music and everything else," Workman says. "Just to make a living, I had to play every kind of music. And the transcribing helped me be able to hear something once and just get it."

Workman played with a world music ensemble called D'Vash and enjoyed an association with the Groove Collective and the Jazz Passengers, then at the epicenter of the explosive New York funk/jazz scene.

"I lived on Ludlow Street," Workman says. "It was a hotbed of jazz, funk and Latin music. I lived next door to Roy Nathanson of the Jazz Passengers. He would knock on the wall between the two buildings, and I'd go up on the roof and jump from my building to his building. He'd say, 'Man, I've got this idea I've got to show you.' I ended up recording on a bunch of projects. I was 21 or 22, and I was up for anything."

In 1995, after seven years in Manhattan, Workman returned to San Francisco and hooked up with bluesy jazz vocalist Kim Nalley. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited for Indigo Swing, an ensemble then riding the crest of a widespread neo-swing craze.

"I had no idea there was a swing thing going on because I had just come from New York, which was all about acid jazz," Workman says. "I got a call from Indigo Swing's bass player saying they were looking for a guitarist. I said, 'You're calling it swing, but what is it really?' He said, 'jump blues.' I said, 'OK, now I know what you mean.' I had to do some studying. I got some Tiny Grimes records and some Charlie Christian. It took me about a month to get really good at it."

The band toured regularly, playing to large, enthusiastic crowds, and Workman says the time spent immersed in the pumping swing beat indelibly affected his playing.

"At first I resisted it," he says. "I was coming from something very different. But when I really got into the swing, I realized that the music really rocks, and I'm still playing that way. I listen to 'Jumpin' at the Border' and say, 'Wow, I really got a lot out of that.' "

The latest arrow in Workman's stylistic quiver is gypsy jazz. The ever- exploring musician recently joined the Hot Club of San Francisco, a quartet dedicated to the music of guitarist Django Reinhardt.

"It's a challenge because my primary role in the Hot Club is to play rhythm, and it's really hard to be a consistent rhythm player," h - San Francisco Chronicle


As a leader:

2004 "Jumpin' at the Border"

As a sideman:

2005 "Postcards from Gypsyland" w/ the Hot Club of San Francisco

2004 "Reunion, with John Hendricks" w/ Larry Vuckovich

2003 "The Last Word In" w/ Johhny Boyd

2000 "Young at Heart" w/ Larry Vuckovich

1999 "Red Light" w/ Indigo Swing

1998 "All Aboard" w/ Indigo Swing

1997 "Vegas Jazz and Latin Lounge" w/ the Last of the International Playboys

1997 "This Is No Time" w/ Groove Thing
(Pseudnym for the Groove Collective)

1994 "In Love" w/ the Jazz Passengers

1994 "The Adventure" w/ Groove Thing



Josh Workman began playing guitar at age 10 and and by the tender age of 13 was already out performing in the smoke-filled bars of San Francisco's infamous North Beach. In those days, he spent many a night hiding out in the back rooms of these clubs, as the venue owners tried to conceal the underage performer from the beat cops patrolling the area. At times, Josh's school teachers would come watch him perform into the wee-hours, always wondering if he would be too tired to make it to class the next morning. Through his high school years, Josh attended the School of the Arts during during the day, all the while continuing to perform and record at night and on weekends. Some of his earliest guitar teachers included Ray Scott, Tuck Andress (Tuck & Patti), Dave Creamer and Bruce Foreman.

After a year at Berklee School of Music in Boston, at age 19 Josh left to finish his studies at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. This is where he fully immersed himself in learning to play jazz guitar. His mentors there included Gene Bertoncini, Jim Hall and Vic Juris. Thanks to pianist Armen Donelian, Josh began transcribing the music of John Abercrombie for German publisher, Advance Music. This led to a 5 year stint as house transcriber for Warner Bros., Hal Leonard and other publishers. Also during this time, he recorded and performed with artists such as world music ensemble D'Vash, The Jazz Passengers (featuring Deborah Harry of Blondie) and Groove Collective.

Soon after his return to the Bay Area in 1995, Josh joined the renowned jump-swing band, Indigo Swing. It was during this period that he honed in on the jump-blues and early guitar styles of T-Bone Walker, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Tiny Grimes. During the neo-swing craze of the late 1990s, Indigo Swing was regarded as one of the bands leading the pack, touring internationally and performing 200-300 dates per year. Brian Setzer, recognizing their impact on the scene, invited them to tour with him and his orchestra (The Brian Setzer Orchestra) in support of his double platinum release The Dirty Boogie. Indigo Swing headlined many prestigious festivals around the globe such as the Stuttgart Jazz Festival in Germany, where they shared the stage with legends Rosemary Clooney, Lionel Hampton and vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. The group also enjoyed some crossover success, selling well over 100,000 CDs nationwide.

In September of 2004, Josh's highly anticipated debut CD Jumpin' At The Border hit the shelves, furthering his growing reputation as a bandleader. The CD reflects the many variations of jazz in which Josh is well-versed. Among the talented musicians featured on this recording is pianist and arranger Larry Vuckovich, who has performed with a multitude of jazz greats including Dexter Gordon, Philly Joe Jones and Jon Hendricks. Sharing the spotlight on drums are two former members of Sarah Vaughan's band; Harold Jones, who was also a member of the Count Basie Orchestra and Omar Clay, who performed with Charles Mingus and recorded on/produced Elvin Jones' M'Boom recordings. Lending his fiery Latin percussion to the mix is Grammy-nominee and Tito Puente alum John Santos. Dynamic vocalist Kim Nalley also performs on two tracks.

Josh’s soulful approach and deep understanding of musical language make him an in-demand sideman as well; he performs regularly with Larry Vuckovich’s Young At Heart Ensemble (which includes previous appearances at the Monterey and San Francisco Jazz Festivals), The Jason Myers Trio and is a member of Paul Mehling’s Hot Club of San Francisco. In addition to his busy performance schedule, Josh is a contributing writer for Guitar Player Magazine.