The guitar seems to have been a part of my life since I can first remember. The drawing below is one I did at about 4 or 5 years old. My first exposure to the guitar was through mid 60’s performers, such as the Monkees, The Stones, Glen Campbell (and other records my older sister was playing). No one was listening to jazz in Lima, Ohio, at least that I knew while growing up. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with the guitar and the music you could create with it. I am thankful to my mom for getting me my first guitar for Christmas when I was in the third grade…that was the best Christmas! It was one of those Sears or Woolworth’s beginner acoustic guitars, and it played terribly! – but I learned a lot of first position chords on it, and also used a Mel Bay book to learn how to read music. I banged around on that for many years before getting an electric solid body (probably a Teisco) from my brother Dan (a bass player) when I was about 13. I was always interested in chords and solos, but never so much rock music…more the horn bands of the 70’s (Blood Sweat and Tears; The Doobie Brothers) and later the Crusaders. I wasn’t formally introduced to traditional jazz until I got to college and started taking music classes…that was a late start for a jazz player! My first jazz records were Chet Baker, Johnny Smith, and Wes Montgomery. Chet and Wes have remained a couple of my favorite players to this day.


In junior high and high school I took guitar lessons from Rex Edie, a wandering Lima-area musician who seems to have fallen off the earth, despite the connectedness that the internet provides. He was a sweetheart of a guy who was very interested in music theory and what it meant to be a musician. I got a good start from him, about as good as you could get in Lima. I also played horn in the marching and concert bands, but this never really clicked for me and I quit by the time I was a junior. I attempted to play the horn again in college, but, ever having to learn lessons twice, gave it up again and haven’t touched it since. In my early college years (Bluffton College) woodwind Professor John Kuehn was my first exposure to playing duo, clarinet and guitar. I discovered there the challenge of trying to improvise some kind of solo with no bass player!


I received a solid masters degree in music from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and while there studied with Pittsburgh’s famous Joe Negri (a local star and featured in Mister Rogers Neighborhood). Joe was a Johnny Smith style player who helped me advance, though in some ways I was still too early in my career to appreciate what he was doing. This was in 1986. I did not realize at that time how long it really takes to learn about this music and develop a unique style…it’s a life-long work. “It takes a long time just to realize it takes a long time”….like many things in life.



In the late 80’s I worked some around Bowling Green and Toledo, took some more graduate classes at BGSU, and heard Dan Faehnle. He sounded about the same then – in his early 20’s – as he does now…and he was ripping fast with a Benson-ish tone even then. He has always sounded great to me. I don’t think he ever attended any formal institution for music, he just seemed to naturally have it inside him. I have met very few players like that….I think most of us have to work at it in a different way, and also end up with something different in the end. Bobby Floyd (Columbus, Ohio) was another such player. I heard him play Amazing Grace, solo piano, in church one time and could not believe someone could be that kind of channel….it was just beautiful. 

After college and graduate school I worked a lot with organist Tony Monaco around the Columbus, Ohio area, in the early 90’s. I spent some time on a cruise ship in ’94, but found that to be pretty confining. I was almost thrown off the ship because I kept violating the order not to visit the other passenger bars on the ship…I wanted to hear the other performers. Among those I was working with, there were only a few other performers that were serious about practicing and advancing in jazz music. There was a bass player on the ship –a fine show player-  that could read anything flawlessly, on the first attempt….a skill I was impressed with but never matched.


In 1995 I took a part-time job teaching guitar at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. That was a happy time and I worked hard to advance in my playing, studying several years with Barry Greene at the University of North Florida, while working around the South Carolina coast. I have always admired Barry’s virtuosic skill. At the college, I worked my way up to become the Director of Jazz Studies, and was there for 7 years. The program is still in place largely as I left it, with a compliment of part-time jazz teachers (most of which I hired) and a program focused on combos rather than the traditional big band. I think I lost interest in being in education in a full-time way, after experiencing the politics  - and prejudices against jazz - within a predominantly classical program. The controlling dynamic of those who had tenure towards those who didn't I found a tiring prospect. At that time I determined that seeking tenure - with its constant evaluation and scrutinization - was at odds with the goal of developing the artistic mind. I have found, for myself, that greater peace and more productive creative work comes from having a work environment that is completely free of those oppressive political dynamics. Since that time I have taught at several colleges on a part-time basis, including Community College of Rhode Island, Fitchburg State College, and Bridgewater State College. I have been  focused on writing books, advancing in my craft, collecting and trading vintage instruments through my business “IslandFunhouse Vintage Guitars + Parts”, performing on both guitar and bass, and in general, just enjoying the self-employment and entrepreneurship that has become possible through the internet. The unique contribution that I feel I have brought to this field of jazz guitar is in my series of books (now available in one big volume) How to Play Chordal Bebop Lines, for Guitar”. This has been very well received and is one of the first books to really codify a Wes chord system that teaches how to develop the craft of improvising melodic lines in chords.  (For a full description of the book, go to the BOOKS section of this website).


It’s a great ride, being a musician in this age, even though jazz struggles to maintain its place in the world.  What’s ahead for me will be a bigger and better web site with ever more educational and lesson materials (check back often!), more recording, continued serious study of composition and melodic materials, another book (possibly in the area of melodicism and solo development in jazz improvisation), and contributions in the area of clinics, education, and magazine articles.

ABOVE:  circa 1965 self-portrait, with Beatle bangs and what looks like a Rickenbacker Frying-Pan guitar!
          SITE INDEX
ABOVE:  Jim sits in with organist Tony Monaco at his own wedding reception (2003).
Below:  Jim and Nicole, and the duck pond on their 4 acre woods.