Eric Skye Spotlight

"Bridgetown Shuffle" from his CD Slow Moving Dog
TGS Spotlight Player from August 5, 2010

Pacific Northwest guitarist Eric Skye occupies an unique niche by squarely being in the classic jazz guitar camp, but with the intimate sound of the acoustic steelstring guitar, and an eclectic array of influences from bluegrass, to latin music, to vintage soul jazz and funk... all threaded together with the blues, and a healthy respect for the groove.

His two solo acoustic guitar releases, Acoustic Jazz Guitar Solos and For Lulu, garnered international attention and airplay. His newest release, the Eric Skye Acoustic Groove Trio’s, Slow Moving Dog, combines the sound of his Santa Cruz 00 guitar with the big British-invasion-meets-vintage-American-funk drumming of Bruce Robertson, and the virtuoso upright jazz bassist, Brian Casey. Slow Moving Dog features ten original acoustic tunes, all recorded live, that might be described as somewhere between Medeski, Martin & Wood and the David Grisman Quintet.

Skye has been in magazines such as Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player, Jazziz, Jazz Improv, and 20th Century Guitar. His music has been on National Public Radio and Public Radio International. He has performed and been interviewed on numerous live radio broadcasts in the United States and Europe and has written and recorded music for public television.

Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Skye taught himself to play when he was six years old. In the late 1970s, his family relocated to the Bay Area and Skye started taking classical guitar lessons. “I wanted to learn rock as well, which my father wound’t pay for, so in seventh grade I earned money to pay for extra lessons cleaning fish tanks in dental offices. My teacher showed me things from Cream’s Disraeli Gears and The Allman Brothers, but he also turned me onto jazz guys like Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, and Tal Farlow – and that kind of took over. In addition to jazz and blues, I was very into the contemporary acoustic fingerstyle artists like Michael Hedges, William Ackerman, and in particular, Alex De Grassi. I still played some electric guitar in high school and college, but increasingly, it was all about my acoustic guitar.”

By the 90s, living in San Francisco, Skye performed in his own electric blues band, played jazz gigs, and started a seven-piece groove jazz group, Swoop Unit. In 2000, when Skye just by chance heard flat-picking great, David Grier on the trio record with Matt Flinner and Todd Phillips, and the last piece of his musical style came together.

“I had a vague awareness of bluegrass, Tony Rice, David Grisman, and others. But now all of sudden I got it. I completely dedicated myself to steelstring guitar, and to incorporating the tone and technique of these flatpickers into everything I did. I spent a lot of time working on fiddle tunes trying to master the very strict rhythmic picking they use, but what I didn’t see coming was just how much I would fall in love with that music. My technique, tone, and timing all came together from that.”

In 2001 Skye moved to Portland, Oregon and in 2002, recorded his first CD Acoustic Jazz Guitar Solos. “That record was picked up by a pretty big distributor and did very well in the United States,” says Skye. In 2005 he followed with For Lulu, another collection of solo jazz guitar tunes, but this time including a few original tunes. “I was really excited when most of the positive feedback I got was about my tunes. That motivated me to write more.” By 2008, after years of playing alone, he met bassist Brian Casey and formed a duo. “Meeting Brian was huge for me. After that I went from exclusively solo gigs to playing with great players all the time. The Pacific Northwest is hotbed for sure.”

Currently, in addition to The Acoustic Groove Trio, Skye performs as one-third of the Connell, Casey, and Skye String Trio featuring double bassist Brian Casey and virtuoso mandolin player, Tim Connell. “The string trio is pretty eclectic. We might do a fifteen-minute jam on Brubeck’s Take Five, followed by some Django, and then a Bill Monroe tune... It’s never remotely the same thing twice.“

Occasionally, The Eric Skye Jazz Trio performs straight-ahead jazz gigs featuring bassist Brian Casey along with jazz master, Carlton Jackson on drums. Skye plays in various acoustic duos and has a regular Saturday morning low-key coffeehouse gig in Portland, Oregon with guitarist Gian Russo. He is working on a record of all original non-jazz solo fingerstyle guitar pieces for a 2011 release, and is writing a book, The Practicing Guitarist.

Visit Eric Skye's website at

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