John Basile Spotlight

"Moon River" from his CD Amplitudes
TGS Spotlight Player from January 5, 2012

It’s all too rare in jazz that a young artist, even as a student, achieves a signature sound and a singular voice and style on his instrument ; a clear indication that a rising new star is born.

Such is the case for guitarist, John Basile. It wasn’t long after this Boston native, who graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, moved to NYC. Instantly discovered by a litany of stars who recognized their need for his sound and keen ears in their bands, he worked as a leader and side man, still only in his twenties, with the likes of Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Mark Murphy, Rosemary Clooney, Sylvia Sims, Tom Harrell, John Abercrombie, Red Mitchell, George Benson, George Mraz, Michael and Randy Brecker, “Sweets” Edison, Joey Barron, Cameron Brown, Ray Blue and others.

Basile became one of the best kept secrets in jazz, known and respected by his peers, critics and jazz insiders for his musical depth, harmonic insight and ability to forge a unique playing technique allowing him to “accompany himself” playing melody and harmony simultaneously. Known for his warm, dark melodic tone on the guitar , John distinguished himself from the pack as an instrumentalist known for his love of not only hundreds of great tunes, but their lyrics as well, much like the early jazz icon Lester Young who famously refused to play requests if he didn’t know the words.

When asked about his most important influences, the first two names he mentions are not other guitar players; Frank Sinatra heads the list and then Bill Evans. Perhaps this explains why John Basile is one of a select group of jazz instrumentalists who doesn’t sound like everyone else. He particularly likes to play in the duo and trio formats to exploit the intimacy those settings present for both player and listener. Musically, his guitar style utilizes a fingerstyle technique that approaches the guitar like a piano. For John, the challenge of comping harmonic chord fragments and playing melodies simultaneously provides a backdrop for a more open style of playing and improvising.

While his talent thrust him into the spotlight as a leader, his self effacing nature simultaneously plunged him deeper into the music, developing more nuance, subtlety and exquisite tone. He shunned the commercial exploitation of the big labels and produced distinctive and highly acclaimed recordings in smaller labels before starting his own to insure his artistic integrity in production, artistic development and adventurous spirit.

His labels, Underhill Jazz and now StringTime Jazz, have produced four innovative and critically distinguished releases: "No Apologies" - featuring Pat Bianchi on organ and Carmen Intorre on drums for a soulful organ trio with a modern approach to unique standards; "Time Will Reveal" - featuring Joe Locke on vibes and Bassist David Finck showcasing a modern jazz guitar approach to pop tunes; "Animations" – with John Ambercrombie in duo with Basile exploring the essence of string improvisations of standards and originals; and "It Was A Very Good Year" – an eclectic exploration of jazz, folk, and pop tunes featuring two trios.

Now, bolstered by his artistic success and a newfound confidence borne of time, maturity and life experience further developed by a successful career in the field of medical imaging, Basile is once again taking center stage. His fans and peers agree. Guitar icon Jim Hall says “John Basile’s playing has the essence of great jazz guitar: beautiful tone, marvelous swing, terrific technique, and excellent phrasing. You can’t ask for more!” Legendary guitarist, John Abercrombie hails “John’s new CD has one of the most appropriate titles! Great Playing, Great Tunes, Great Sound…"No Apologies" needed!” And bass master George Mraz notes “I played and recorded with John Basile more than twenty years ago and he was great then. I’ve just heard his recent CD. Great sound, time and ideas. I must say that he has evolved into a complete musician.”

Visit John Basile's website at

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