Smooth Jazz Guitarist Rising
Speaking With Nick Colionne
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
I first heard Nick Colionne a few years ago after the benefit concert for Art porter’s kids in Chicago. We all went to the Metropole to kick it with the performers, and a guy named Nick Colionne was playing the club. He was jammin’ so hard that smooth jazz guitarist Peter White, who was chilling after playing the benefit, grabbed an axe and started to jam with Colionne. Nick never wavered, taking the challenge and pushing it with White to take a great night to higher heights. Now Colionne has a new record company and a new CD that’s about to hit the scene.
JazzUSA: Nick, you’ve been at this a long time. When did you start playing guitar, and what made you decide to do it for a living?
N.C.: Well, I started playing when I was around 9 years old. My stepfather played guitar, and I picked it up from him. Once I started I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. At 9 I wasn’t thinking about making a living at it, I just knew I loved to play. I played in Chicago talent contests and won a lot of them, and at 15 I was asked to tour with an R&B vocal group. That was the beginning of my professional career as a musician.
JazzUSA: Do you come from a musical background?
N.C.: Yes, there was always music around me. My stepfather played guitar, my aunt was a singer, my father was a songwriter, my brother is a drummer, an uncle plays saxophone, another uncle plays flute and percussion. In addition to all that, I heard jazz played in my house daily and my aunt probably has one of the best collections of jazz recordings in Chicago.
JazzUSA: As a guitarist, who are your inspirations and influences?
N.C.: Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Grant Greene, George Benson, Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King most definitely, and Steve Vai and Albert King….a pretty eclectic bunch!
JazzUSA: What kind of guitars do you own and play?
N.C.: I play mostly a Gibson L-4 CES and the Epiphone Broadway. I also own a couple of Stratocasters and a Cascio guitar synthesizer, and quite a few Gibson and Epiphone guitars of various kinds.
JazzUSA: What is your favorite?
N.C.: My favorite depends on what I’m playing and how I’m feeling at the time!
JazzUSA: You are often compared to George Benson for obvious stylistic reasons. Is this intentional, or just a result of his influence?
N.C.: It’s a result of his influence. I listen to George a lot, and played a lot of his music in my career. I guess it’s only natural that some of my stylings would be compared to his. My biggest influence, though, would still be Wes Montgomery. I incorporate a lot of octaves into my playing and have since I first started. They seem very natural to me.
JazzUSA: I first saw you play at the Metropole right after the Art Porter Benefit concert. You were out there jammin’ and Peter White popped in to play with you. It was one of the best impromptu performances I can remember, and It was obvious then that you had the talent to hang with some of the best… I saw it myself. Why has it taken so long for the rest of the world to see it?
N.C.: Well, I don’t know! I’m just glad that now I’m getting the opportunity to get my music out in front of people so they get a chance to hear what Nick Colionne is about and hopefully they’ll all dig it!
JazzUSA: There’s a new record deal and CD with Three Keys Music. How did that come about?
N.C.: It was serendipitous. Everything came together at the right time and Marcus Johnson, who’s the CEO of Three Keys Music and also a great keyboardist in his own right, heard my new project and the next thing I knew I was signed and, hopefully, the rest is history!
JazzUSA: Are you pleased with the amount of control Three Keys Music allows you creatively?
N.C.: Very much so. Marcus gives his artists the room to create and play music that they feel, and if he’s directly involved in a tune he’s very collaborative.
JazzUSA: Is this a multi-album deal, or are future CD’s with Three Keys Music dependent on the success of this one?
N.C.: It’s a multi-album deal.
JazzUSA: Any plans to perform with other Three Keys Music artists like Bobby Lyle or Michael Lington?
N.C.: I’ve already had the opportunity to play with both of them and also with Marcus Johnson.
JazzUSA: What kind of thing do you envision doing with them?
N.C.: A Three Keys All Stars tour is in the works, and I also envision writing with and for other Three Keys artists. I do a lot of writing – most of the tunes on my new CD were written or co-written by me.
JazzUSA: What about artists that are not with Three Keys Music?
N.C.: I’ve written for other artists and I envision doing so in future, but right now my focus is on Three Keys Music and Three Keys artists.
JazzUSA: Are there any tour dates planned in conjunction with the new release?
N.C.: Yes, that’s in the works, too.
JazzUSA: You ARE pressing for dates in Portland and Seattle, RIGHT? (laughing)
N.C.: Absolutely! Portland, Seattle and everywhere else. I love playing to a live crowd and my manager says I’d play the local laundromat if I had an audience!
JazzUSA: Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
N.C.: I’d like to tell your readers that “Just Come On In'” is going to be in stores September 9 and I hope that everyone who buys it will enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it. It’s my fourth CD and I think it’s my best to date. Also I’d like to say come out and see me when I hit your town – look for Nick Colionne and “Just Come On In”!
You can keep up with this hot jazz guitarist at nickcolionne.com.