Rick Whitehead has been a fixture on the local jazz scene for over 10 years. The Rick Whitehead Trio has performed all over the Capital region and at jazz festivals across the county. In each of the past two years, he has been a featured soloist with both the Masterworks Jazz Orchestra at George Mason University and the Georgetown University Jazz Ensemble. His trio has been nominated for two Washington Area Music Association WAMMIE awards, winning Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1998 for its CD "Live in Captivity."
On Saturday, Aug. 20, Whitehead will perform as a guest with local jazz band Swing Speak at Fairfax Corner. He recently answered some questions about the upcoming show, his history and his new teaching position at George Mason.
How long have you been playing guitar? I've been playing guitar around 46 years. I was in The United States Air Force Band's "Airmen of Note" for 22 years, until I retired in 1991.
How did you get into jazz? A neighbor who lived behind me in Miami was studying guitar and got me into jazz music when I was about 14 years old.
Who are your musical influences? There are too many influences to name, but I guess the guitar players I was listening to as I developed my style — and still do listen to — are Wes Montgomery, Johnny Smith, Mundell Lowe, Kenny Burrell, Howard Roberts, Joe Pass and my teacher, the late Dell Staton.
How did the show with Swing Speak come about? I actually have a trio that works quite a bit, but I occasionally work with Swing Speak. They usually like to use a keyboard/vocalist, but sometimes like to add guitar to the mix. Steve Wolf, the electric bass player, has worked with many people over the years including Danny Gatton. Bruce Swaim, the tenor sax player, was also with Danny and also performed with Keter Betts, who unfortunately just passed away last week. The drummer, Barry Hart, is one of the most on-call drummers in the area also works with my trio.
You also teach guitar in Fairfax?
Yes. I'm just starting up with some jazz guitar students at George Mason on Tuesdays right now. This is the first time in years that I've done any teaching in the Fairfax area.
Fairfax Corner presents Swing Speak with guest Rick Whitehead, on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 5-8 p.m., as part of its free summer concert series in the Fountain Plaza located outside the cinemas. For more, call 703-631-7529.