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Guitarist/Composer JIM WITZEL's FEELIN' IT

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    Posted: 10 Oct 2022 at 1:17pm


Bay Area-Based Guitarist/Composer JIM WITZEL's




Jim Witzel 


Guitarist, composer and educator JIM WITZEL has long enjoyed the “organ trio” format in jazz (Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and drum set) as both a listener and as a working guitarist. In his second album, FEELIN' IT, he puts his own spin on those great recordings of the 50s and 60s (up to the present day) with a project comprising four standards, three of Witzel's originals and a well-known pop tune.


Witzel’s debut release, Give and Take (1993), featured some of the top jazz musicians on the scene, including Ernie Watts, Russell Ferrante, John Abercrombie, Marc Johnson, Ralph Penland, and Kim Stone. With no rehearsal and working from Witzel's hand-written charts (all original compositions except for Jim Hall's “Young One” duet w/John Abercrombie), the group was able to record the entire album in two sessions.


It's been quite some time since Witzel released Give and Take, mostly due to his teaching commitments as Professor of Jazz Guitar Studies at both San Francisco State and Santa Clara Universities and a busy gigging schedule as both a sideman and leader.


FEELIN' IT is a showcase for Witzel's straight-ahead, modern jazz compositions that reflect the mid-sixties’ Blue Note influence of such players/composers as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and others. Attracted to their lyrical, accessible style, he calls his player inspirations the Great 8, which include Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, George Benson, Pat Martino, John Abercrombie, and Pat Metheny.


The standards on the album feature the organ trio, which comprises Witzel on guitar and two great musicians based in Northern California, BRIAN HO on the Hammond B3 and JASON LEWIS on drums. Jazz writer Andrew Gilbert has said, “Brian Ho, rising jazz star. These days, Ho is one of the region’s most promising young jazz organists,” while Lewis is an in-demand drummer who has performed with top names like Gary Burton, James Moody, Mark Murphy, Paul McCandles, Norma Winstone, Larry Coryell, Regina Carter, John Handy, and Kurt Elling, among many others.


The trio performs a swinging, uptempo rendition of “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” and, inspired by the Sonny Rollins and Jim Hall version, the band performs their own inventive take on a calypso version of “If Ever I Should Leave You” from Camelot. Witzel was drawn to “The Old Country,” composed by Nat Adderley, because although it sounds like a minor blues, it is actually a straight-ahead standard. The trio also performs the Lennon/McCartney hit “Norwegian Wood” as a spacious, dreamy ballad.


Witzel changes pace on the standard “I Loves You Porgy.” Recorded a couple of years earlier, Witzel was in the studio laying down guitar duets, and decided to include this piece on FEELIN’ IT. The tune features Witzel playing both lead and rhythm guitar.


Witzel asked tenor saxophonist DANN ZINN to join the trio on Witzel’s own compositions. Zinn is a renowned reed player who has appeared on over 100 albums as a leader, soloist, and/or sideman. He has worked with Joe Henderson, Taylor Eigsti, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jeff Tain Watts, Freddie Hubbard, and many others.


Zinn is featured on the opening track and title tune, “Feelin’ It,” a bouncy straight-ahead jazz tune with an energetic beat. Witzel wrote “Beyond Beijing” after returning home from a tour in China. A bandmate captured Witzel and his trumpet player jamming on a train from Beijing to another city several hours away. Although no one in the band spoke Chinese and no Chinese national spoke English, the language of music overcame any cultural barriers, and everyone ended up having a great time. Witzel composed “Ms. Information” inspired by Wayne Shorter. The tune is a medium tempo, hard swinging number.


Although Jim Witzel has an extensive resume as a sideman, he is not widely known outside of Northern California. Although he has been flying under the radar for far too long, his highly accessible playing and compositional talents on FEELIN’ IT will certainly garner new fans who are interested in organ/guitar/sax bands or anyone who likes fun, toe-tapping yet lyrical music.



Witzel grew up in the northern California town of San Rafael. He began playing guitar at the age of 12 and began studying jazz guitar in high school with well-known Bay Area teacher and performer Dave Smith.


He spent 10 years in Los Angeles, working clubs and concerts with saxophonist Dave Lefebvre's six-piece jazz-fusion group and freelancing with such notable players as Bob Sheppard, Scott Colley, Henry Butler, Richie Cole, Casey Schuerell and Clay Jenkins. Jim recorded a trio album, Up Until Now, with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Ralph Penland.


Witzel also hosted and performed on his weekly, local cable television series called “Jazz After Midnight” and led a quartet with featured guest performers every week. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Travel Study grant, which allowed him to study with guitarists Jack Wilkins in New York and Howard Roberts in Los Angeles.


While living in Los Angeles, he also co-led a quartet with pianist Phil Aaron, Eric Von Essen and Tony Jones.




FEELIN’ IT will be released September 30, 2022 and will be available everywhere.








Mouthpiece Music | www.mouthpiecemusic.com, www.facebook.com/MouthpieceMusic, Burbank, CA 91506 


Edited by snobb - 10 Oct 2022 at 1:19pm
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