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"In Conversation with Dave Cliff"

Jazz guitarist, Dave Cliff, talks to Northants Jazz Editor, Rupert Kendrick

UK guitarist, Dave Cliff, has had a long and illustrious jazz career. “I first became interested in the guitar mainly because my Dad played it.” He explains. “Then I moved on to skiffle and rock’n’roll, largely teaching myself and became seriously interested in jazz when I was about 19.”

He gained a Diploma in Jazz Studies at the Leeds College of Music and the list of top line artistes with whom he’s played since reads like a ‘Who’s Who of the jazz world - Lee Konitz, Kenny Davern and Bob Wilbur are just a few.

One of his longest associations has been with UK alto player, Geoff Simkins, with whom he recorded the first album under his own name, The Right Time, in 1987. In 1998, he went on to win the BT Jazz Awards in the guitar category.

“I’ve always liked the guitar,” Dave explains. “I liked the sounds of guitar strumming and skiffle in the early days. I was particularly impressed with the playing of Sal Salvador, who played with Stan Kenton. But my main influence and my favourite, I suppose, has to be Wes Montgomery for his sound and his originality, but I’ve also drawn on others, such as Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz and Bill Evans - quite a wide spectrum.” Unsurprisingly, his favourite CD is Wes Montgomery’s Full House.

“I write some of my own compositions, but they’re not my priority. I’d much rather play - for me, it’s much more important - and more fun - to improvise spontaneously, and besides, some compositions don’t always lend themselves to jazz.

“As well as composing, I also teach jazz studies part-time at the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. As well as teaching the students new compositions, I’m always keen for them to learn the standards which form the background to jazz, such as Body and Soul, and some of the great American songs.”

Date: June 2010
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