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Richard Reiter

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Mike Barris

Mike Barris

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Style: * JAZZ * & * BLUES *
Vintage Jazz and Blues

Member Since: 2001

City: Elberon, NJ

Website: http://www.mikebarris.com/

Events Page: http://www.mikebarris.com/gig

Mike Barris is a jazz guitarist and vocalist who is becoming as respected by his Jersey Shore peers for his commitment to classic American blues and jazz as for his acumen with the written word and teaching. Excelling at playing driving, propulsive rhythm guitar, the Elberon, N.J., resident's biannual concerts saluting jazz and blues stars of the 1920s and '30s under the auspices of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation have become an area tradition. Mike disseminates knowledge with passion and wit that bring depth and insight not only to his performances, but also to his work as a omega replica watches journalist for such publications as Jazz Journal International, Acoustic Guitar magazine, and The Wall Street Journal, and to the courses in musicianship and public speaking he has taught at New Jersey's Brookdale Community College and Rutgers University.

Like many kids growing up in his hometown of Toronto, Mike's first musical interest was the pop and rock music of the day, and by age 13, he was playing bass in a pop-rock group with friends. About three years later, he was in his basement messing around with the guitar when he suddenly got the idea to apply moving bass lines to the blues chord progression he was playing. "I was astonished by what it unleashed," he recalled, "and how it allowed me to push the music along." The discovery formed the basis of Mike's style today.

The evolving young musician began to devour everything he could read about music, and particularly, jazz and blues. In the eighth grade, "I got my hands on the school library's record of Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert," Mike recalled. "I remember feeling mesmerized by how Gene Krupa's drum accents punctuated the performance, how these heavy slams on the bass drum went right to my gut. They showed up years later, when I began comping for soloists on the guitar; my style is percussive with the main idea being swing."

There were appearances at folk festivals such as Golden Link in upstate New York, and Owen Sound Summerfolk, on the shores of Georgian Bay in central Ontario. In those days he was mainly a blues guitarist and singer, playing clubs around his Toronto hometown. As time passed, his affection for swing rhythms and harmonic structures gained the upper hand, and by the mid-1990s, he put together a blues and rockabilly group called Delta Sunrise, which had a strong jazz orientation. By that time he had emigrated to the U.S. to marry his fiancee, who lived in New York, and all the energy of the New Jersey-New York region stoked his passion for swing like nothing else had.

By the early 2000s, he was teaching a course at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J., called "Perfectly Frank: An Appreciation of the Music of Frank Sinatra." It was wildly popular and for several years Mike not only brought Sinatra's art to students by way of carefully selected videos and rare recordings, but by persuading Rosemary Acerra Riddle, the daughter of Sinatra's acclaimed arranger, Nelson Riddle, to join the class and share her thoughts on her dad with students.

Since 2006, in what Asbury Park Press reviewer Richard Skelly has called "well-crafted, educational and intimate" concerts at the Woman's Club of Red Bank, Mike has paid tribute twice a year to Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and other major prewar jazz figures, helped by top-notch sidemen such as guitarist Vinnie Corrao, who has worked with Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz; trumpeter Tom Bender, whose resume includes stints with Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton; and vocalist Jennifer Jordan, formerly of the Terraplane Blues Band. Mike and Jennifer recently formed their own duo, and have been attracting attention as a concert act with the melding of their individual talents and their lively personal chemistry. Mike also continues to work solo at New Jersey-New York area clubs and festivals, dipping into a collection of pieces from the eras of ragtime, jazz, blues, folk, country and rockabilly that showcase his prowess as a fingerstyle guitarist in addition to his skill as a chunk-chunk rhythm player.

This preview of one of Mike's jazz-tribute concerts by Tom Chesek, the editor of an online publication called Red Bank Orbit, nails down succinctly the complex multi-facetedness that undergirds Mike's work as a musician, journalist and teacher: "Your editor knows him as a fellow freelancer for the Asbury Park Press and other local media outlets; an unshakable authority on American music and a Long Writer of articles that remain the exhaustively researched, passionately produced, first and last word on their subjects," Chesek wrote. "Turns out Mike Barris is also a jazz guitar player who walks the walk he talks so well."

Mike's view of his job as a performer is simpler: to please the audience. "It is always great to be able to work a crowd," Mike said. "When you've got that happening, and you're clicking artistically, it doesn't get any better than that."


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