Guitar greats return to island

T.J. Wheeler, Robin Kutz bring blues and jazz for Nov. 19 show.

Though they have known and played with other each off and on for close to four decades, Friday night, Nov. 19 will mark the first time that the two highly respected guitarists, T.J. Wheeler and Robin Kutz will join together for a jazz guitar duo concert that pays homage to some of the great blues/jazz duos of the last century.

Both guitarists grew up on the island. In their early 20s, both left to pursue their own distinct musical directions.

Robin Kutz is one of the most respected jazz guitarists in the Seattle area and longtime guitar teacher/guru. T.J. Wheeler is an award-winning musician and blues educator with a national following.

Over the decades Robin has worked with such groups and notables as Floyd Stand­ifer, the Seattle Jazz Repertory Orchestra, the late Mickey Martin, Tuxedo Junction and the John Holt Radio Rhythm Orchestra and Nancy Wilson.

Though residing in south Seattle for several decades, Kutz has taught guitar on Bainbridge Island throughout the years.

“Robin is probably the most important guitarist in the Seattle area that most non-musicians have never heard of,” Wheeler says. “At 15, he could duplicate any Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton lick out there. By the time he was 19 he was mastering Django (Reinhart), Wes (Montgomery) and any other jazz master verbatim. Robin is the most tasteful, consummate guitarist I’ve ever met. Wider recognition for his talents is long overdue!”

Hearing the second-line beat of a different drummer, Wheeler headed off as a young man for New Orleans.

Influenced heavily by the eclectic mixture of great jazz, blues and related roots music he heard at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, he simultaneously started studying and performing with masters throughout the South and beyond.

Some of the those from the jazz genre include: Ike Roberts, Tiny Grimes, Melvin Sparks, Wayne Bennett, Lenny Breau, Benny Waters, Roswell Rudd, Roosevelt Sykes, Dick Johnson, Loyd Glenn and Wild Bill Davidson.

Though the two have taken different roads to get to their levels of musicianship, the two paths intersect superbly. The listener can enjoy two widely distinct musical landscapes in synergy.

Their combined workshop from 5-6:30 p.m., preceding their 8 p.m. concert, is geared towards the intermediate or advanced guitarist, though it will provide an interesting introduction to jazz guitar for the beginning musician or fan.

A third of the proceeds will go to the Blues Bank Collective, a nationally acclaimed nonprofit blues and diversity organization that helps promote and perpetuate the legacy of blues music and civil and human rights issues through educational programs.

Workshop and performance tickets are $12-$15 on sale at Winslow Drugs, Bay, Hay and Feed and the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District. Call 842-8381.

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