Every once in awhile, a jewel goes undiscovered and gathers dust. Fortunately for me while surfing the internet one night in December, I discovered the music of New England guitarist Scott Tarulli. The teacher from the Berklee College of Music has released two albums to date, his studio project Transitions and the fall 2004 live recording September In Boston: Live, performed at the Abbey Lounge.
Spectacular keyboard player Dennis Hughes, bassist Jordan Scanella and drummer Michael Iannantuoni join Tarulli on this evening. Vocalist Johanna Mitchell fronts the vocals on the opening track "Every Time" a song she co-wrote with Tarulli.
When recording live projects, they often are tweaked so much in the final mixing that they might as well have been recorded in a studio, or the ambient noises are so distracting that it detracts from the musicians, however, September In Boston: Live escapes all of those pitfalls. Sound engineer Eric Saulnier and Tarulli captured the moment and you the listener find yourself with a front row seat at the awesome September 21, 2004 concert.
"Watch From A Distance" comes off sounding, as does most of this album, like you dropped into a relaxed and excellent jam session. Enough simply cannot be said about Tarulli’s exceptional fretwork on the closing track "Your Past." This superb musician pushes the boundaries way beyond what you will normally hear from a guitarist who frequents the jazz genre. If you want to hear how a guitar should be played, then you had better grab a copy of this CD. During the songs "Your Past" and "The Late Drive Home," Tarulli performs at a level many aspire to, but few attain.
Tarulli discloses a surprising truth concerning "The Late Drive Home." "All I gave them (the musicians) was a chart with a set of chords and there was absolutely nothing else on that chart. What you hear on that (song) is a bunch of guys looking at chords and interacting. That’s my favorite track on the whole CD. I just think that everybody played the right note at the right time on that page. I don’t think we could ever get a song like that again. That moment is gone, or luckily we caught it," he says.
Tarulli’s own G&L ASAT Classic guitar and special effects pedals paint mystical well-textured, and at times, ethereal tones across the landscape of "The Late Drive Home." He pushes out the boundaries beyond those normally explored by jazz musicians.
Tarulli draws inspiration from guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and David Sylvain, the former lead vocalist/songwriter for the seventies and eighties glam rock/progressive rock British band Japan.
Speaking of the special effects that he incorporates into his music Tarulli says, "For years I didn’t use anything. I went through a blues phase (and played) the guitar straight through a fender amp. That’s all I would use. Then I started getting interested in different sounds. There is a lot to be said for finger tone, but even on the live album (September In Boston: Live) you will hear some odd effects sounds. There is also a part on that CD where I am just playing straight through the amp. I was interested in exploring different colors."
"I listen a lot to David Sylvian. He likes very dark, textural kind of music. I was listening to a lot of his music around the time of the live album. He always hired very interesting guitar players (Rob Dean). He utilized effects pedals very creatively and not just to cover anything up or to be weird, just for the sake of it. It is really creative stuff and it inspired me," says Tarulli.
Another source of inspiration for Tarulli has come from his teaching. Working closely with so many talented peers and students provides motivation and occasionally gives him a kick in the butt. "There are some eighteen year olds there (at Berklee) that are brilliant," he says.
Why was this the right time for Scott Tarulli to do a live album? "I decided to do a live album so I could get what I sound like in a club in front of people (rather) than with headphones on in a control booth. I put all of my money on one night. We (only) did a few rehearsals and I was hoping we were going to catch that magic," he says.
The music that you will hear on September In Boston: Live definitely blurs the genres. "I have been asked a lot of times, ‘What do you call this?’ Fusion is kind of a bad word among a lot of musicians. Fusion really just means that you are mixing styles. It means nothing more than that. I don’t know what to call my music. I always say file it in the rock section because it is not straight ahead jazz, (and) it’s not bebop for sure by a long shot. It is an interesting question and I don’t know if I totally have the answer. I don’t know what to call what I do; it is too jazz for rock and too rock for jazz, so where does that leave me? When people ask me, I just tell them my influences and let them go with that," he says.
"I live by the pianist Bill Evans’ words, ‘Your own personal style will come out of whatever your past histories are, who you listen to and what you practice.’ I try not to worry about if I am playing pure jazz or if I am rocking out. I just let it happen now," says Tarulli.
Tarulli’s guitar playing days almost ended a few years ago when he was enduring intense pain and had difficulty with his hand that had been caused from many years of practicing. In fact, at the time of the Abbey Lounge recording, he was still suffering the effects from the damage. "I had numbness with pins and needles in my hand. I was scared to death. I kept it under my hat because if people had found out they would not have hired me," he says. Today after receiving structural therapy Tarulli’s hand is fine and he continues to create great music.