Interview by Uriah Young
QFTD: Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Larry Tamanini?
Larry: I kind of see myself as a big block of stone, where life experiences are still chipping away. In essence, I am still being sculpted. I’d have to say that I am a man who loves his family and has a lot of interests: cooking, sports, and, of course, music. All in all, I just try to be a good person, staying humble along my journey. I am a son, husband, and guitarist. Soon I will become a father.
QFTD: Wow! Congrats.
Larry: Thanks a lot. Yeah, when we recently discovered we were expecting, a love developed inside me I never knew I had. It feels really good.
QFTD: That’s amazing…how about your first music question? Out of all the music instruments you could’ve picked up in high school, you chose the guitar. What was it about the guitar that intrigued you?
Larry: You’re taking me back to my high school days when I used to listen to music on my Walkman (LOL). You know, it never dawned on me to pick up the guitar, even though I grew up around music. I’d say that the guitar picked me, in a sense. Listening to Jimi Hendrix, in particular, I used to emulate him in the mirror, using a tennis racquet as a guitar. Then, one day I went to my parents and said I wanted to go to music school. I ended up attending Bucks County Community College and then Rowan University. During that time, I would also take guitar lessons at a music store.
QFTD: Did playing come naturally to you?
Larry: Honestly, I picked up guitar pretty easily. Then again, I would play five to six hours a day. I didn’t really refine my skills until I hit the stage, doing gigs on a consistent basis.
QFTD: What brings you joy when you play the guitar in front of an audience?
Larry: Like most musicians, Uriah, I have to admit that applause is one of those cool things you get satisfaction from while playing on stage. We always use the term, “You got housed,” when the audience shows you crazy love after a performance; that feels good. The look on people’s faces is really cool when they hear something I play, and their expression says, “Where’d he get that from?” Then, when it comes to the whole improvisational aspect of playing jazz, I just love it when a session comes together, and the interaction between musicians just flows. I get a lot of good feelings every time I can hear all the artists piggybacking off one another in a set; it usually starts with the drums, as others take to the rhythm, and things just go down the line. It’s a lot of fun working with so many artists because, after a while, it all becomes like a reflex, hearing sounds, listening to others push you to the limit.
QFTD: Kind of like what the drummer, Justin Faulkner, does.
Larry: Oh yeah, Justin is a man-child. He knows how to make everyone on stage better. He is such a rare talent on the jazz scene.
QFTD: You also teach guitar lessons to all ages. What brings you satisfaction as you share your knowledge about the guitar?
Larry: Number one: because the guitar is the least musically literate instrument, I love to set up the instrument, approaching my instruction like a blank template and give the foundational elements to my students. What is most satisfying is seeing my students put it all together during the process of learning.
QFTD: Any particular student success stories?
Larry: I had a student I worked with from 6th grade up until high school graduation. When he got into NYU on a full music scholarship, I was so proud of him, especially since they do not accept many guitar majors. Then, there was a girl I worked with who was so up tight and nervous about playing in front of people. After working super hard, she started to come out of her shell. Eventually, she began coming out to my jam sessions and playing. I was so happy to see her confidence grow.
QFTD: I was watching the Youtube clip of you playing with Lucas Brown and Anwar Marshall, and I heard a song that is on Rhenda Fearrington’s album. I understand you contributed to two songs on her album. What was it like working on that project?
Larry: I have known Rhenda for years, and I must admit that she is such a sweet lady. One day, I sent her a rough copy of my album to get her input. She inquired about the song I composed called “The Voice.” After she heard it, she asked me if she could write lyrics to it, and I said, “Sure.”
QFTD: Why is that song so special?
Larry: Well, it was written for my dad, who had been recently diagnosed with cancer at the time. When I began playing the song, all the chords came to me in five minutes. So, when it came time to record that song, and another song, “I Will” by the Beatles, the recording process went so smoothly. It took 30 minutes total to lay everything down. We did two takes of “The Voice” and two takes of “I Will.”
QFTD: Sounds like synergy to me…tell us about your album and the creative aspect of how it came into production.
Larry: I went on Facebook and let a friend hear my stuff. He is a drummer, and he liked it so much, he told me I should record it. Then, my music eventually made it to the ears of a guy named Ian, who said he wanted to record my album. At the time, he had been working with Alicia Keys; he works with Aerosmith now. Ian put the whole thing together.
QFTD: Did your dad know of your album’s production process?
Larry: Well, my dad was diagnosed in October that year. I went in the studio in November. It was so crazy because we recorded 14 songs in three hours––all live. We had great chemistry with the studio personnel and band. The great relationship with the engineer was key, too. Post-production took a while, but I was able to release the CD a few hours before my dad passed.
QFTD: I am very certain he was proud of you, Larry.
Larry: Thanks, Uriah.
QFTD: What was people’s reaction to your album?
Larry: I was getting calls from people, saying, “Man, you are WRTI! Your album was in the top ten of newly released albums!” It felt good, and soon my album made it to #1. Soon, I began getting interviews. Things picked up a lot after that point. Since, I was hit up by people from across the globe. From Montreal to the Phillipines, fans were asking me, “When are you coming to our town to play?”
QFTD: You have played all over Philadelphia and in many PA regions. Where is a place you’d like to play and why?
Larry: Man, I would love to play the Montreux Jazz Fest in Switzerland. There is so much history there. It is also a very prestigious event to play. I feel like, when you get that venue under your belt, you’ve made it. It is quite the feather in your hat to have. Also, I would like to play the Detroit Jazz Festival. They’ve had everybody there: artists from the subgenres of funk-jazz, world music, and even hip-hop. I’d love to play, but the reality is that I am still a fan. I still geek-out in music stores.
QFTD: If you could have a conversation with any of your musical influences, guitarists of today or yesterday, who would you talk to, and what topics would you discuss?
Larry: It would be easy for me to say I’d like to talk to a guitarist like Jimi [Hendrix], but I’d love to talk to John Coltrane. In some of my most spiritual moments, I recall listening to Coltrane’s stuff. I can imagine asking him, “How did you get to certain points in your playing? How did you shift gears to get so in the zone and play with so much passion? How’d you get so much depth into every note?”
To hear Larry's music, click below.