THE MUSICAL CANVASES OF JOHN GUNTHER
For composer and multi-reed instrumentalist John Gunther, it's all about communication. Whether he is playing solo over one of his own mainstream jazz tunes, or "taking it out" with a reinterpretation of a 20th century classical composition, his music remains ever accessible, intelligent and audience friendly. His interests are wide-ranging: World, Classical, experimental and Jazz music are all reflected in his work while remaining unified by his personal style and finely developed sense of structure.
"I got that sense of structure from my mother, who is a painter" he explains. "When I was very young I would look at a group of her paintings and she would ask me how my eye traveled through each one or how light and shadow would feel in relation to each other. I've found the concepts of balance, economy, contrast and contour to be equally important in music. Like the frame of a painting, time is the containing boundary that everything occurs within and the composer or improviser can shape this form or boundary and in a sense the listener's emotions and thoughts. It's a communication that transcends boundaries, and it's exciting when both performers and audience share in that experience together."
John Gunther started playing the saxophone in the third grade. "It was love at first sight--and when I broke my arm that summer, I had the doctor set is so that I could continue to practice!" He was lucky to find progressive music teachers in his hometown of Aurora, Colorado. "They started an after school jazz band that my father enrolled me in and the beginners were immediately taught a blues scale and encouraged to improvise." Later, in High School he was a member of a Big Band that really played out, doing local gigs. "We wore gold and pink-sequined jackets, and I would do a solo on "Night Train" playing alto and tenor saxes simultaneously. I had never heard of Round Table Life Insurance, and I don't know if my teachers had, either, but it was great experience to be playing that much at a young age."
Eventually, Gunther found his way into the Denver jazz scene. He became a regular visitor to the famed "El Chapultapec" club, and hooked up with the city's best players. After years of recording, touring and gigging, he moved to New York where he currently resides and works as an instructor at New York University. A recipient of both an NEA and a "Meet the Composer" grant, he has also performed with Dewey Redman, Tom Harrel, Joe Williams, Buddy DeFranco, Ernestine Anderson, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Woody Herman Orchestra, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
To satisfy his wide-ranging interests, John Gunther currently performs in a number of configurations: As a soloist he plays saxophones, clarinets, flutes, didgeridoo, and wood flutes utilizing processed electronic sounds. In a duo setting, he performs with classically trained pianist Richard Thompson performing original compositions in both a classical and jazz vein. The John Gunther Trio consists of sax, bass, and drums, and plays exclusively original music; they have one CD out on the CIMP label; "Permission Granted".
"Axis Mundi" which features trumpeter Ron Miles violinist Rob Thomas(to be released in May of '98).
The quartet, Spooky Actions, is a new music ensemble that tackles the works of classical and 20th century composers in a unique and improvisatory manner.
Finally, the jazz quintet Convergence is a band that has has strengthened musical friendships and enriched its repertoire over the past fifteen years. Convergence has a new CD out on the Capri label entitled "Modern Man".