Born: March 19, 1969 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Josh Workman began playing guitar at age 10 and by the tender age of 13 was already out performing in the smoke-filled bars of San Francisco’s infamous North Beach. While still underage, he spent many nights hiding out in the back rooms of these clubs, as the venue owners tried to conceal him from the beat cops patrolling the area. At times, Josh’s school teachers would come watch him perform into the wee-hours, always wondering if he would be too tired to make it to class the next morning. Through his high school years, Josh attended the School of the Arts during the day, all the while continuing to perform and record at night and on weekends. Some of his earliest guitar teachers included Ray Scott, Tuck Andress (Tuck & Patti), Dave Creamer and Bruce Foreman.
After a year at Berklee School of Music in Boston, at age 19 Josh left to finish his studies at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. This is where he fully immersed himself in learning to play jazz guitar. His mentors there included Gene Bertoncini, Jim Hall and Vic Juris. Thanks to pianist Armen Donelian, Josh began transcribing the music of John Abercrombie for German publisher, Advance Music. This led to a 5-year stint as house transcriber for Warner Bros., Hal Leonard and other publishers. Also during this time, he recorded and performed with artists such as world music ensemble D’Vash, The Jazz Passengers (featuring Deborah Harry of Blondie) and offshoots of the Groove Collective.
Soon after his return to the Bay Area in 1995, Josh joined the renowned jump-swing band, Indigo Swing. It was during this period that he honed in on the jump-blues and early guitar styles of T-Bone Walker, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Tiny Grimes. During the neo-swing craze of the late 1990s, Indigo Swing was regarded as one of the bands leading the pack, touring internationally and performing 200-300 dates per year. Brian Setzer, recognizing their impact on the scene, invited them to tour with him and his orchestra (The Brian Setzer Orchestra) in support of his double platinum release The Dirty Boogie. Indigo Swing headlined many prestigious festivals around the globe such as the Stuttgart Jazz Festival in Germany, where they shared the stage with legends Rosemary Clooney, Lionel Hampton and vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. The group also enjoyed some crossover success, selling well over 100,000 CDs nationwide.
In September of 2004, while touring as a member of the Hot Club of San Francisco, Josh’s anticipated debut CD Jumpin’ At The Border hit the shelves, furthering his growing reputation as a bandleader. The CD reflects the many variations of jazz in which Josh is well versed. Among the talented musicians featured on this recording is pianist and arranger Larry Vuckovich, who has performed with a multitude of jazz greats including Dexter Gordon, Philly Joe Jones and Jon Hendricks. Sharing the spotlight on drums are two former members of Sarah Vaughan’s band; Harold Jones, who was also a member of the Count Basie Orchestra and Omar Clay, who performed with Charles Mingus and recorded on/produced Elvin Jones’ M’Boom recordings. Lending his fiery Latin percussion to the mix is Grammy-nominee and Tito Puente alum John Santos. Dynamic vocalist Kim Nalley also performs on two tracks.
Besides his work as a bandleader, Josh continues to be an in-demand sideman; he has performed and/or recorded with saxophonist Houston Person, actress/vocalist Lynda Carter, vocalist Connie Evingson, pianist Larry Vuckovich, vocalist Kim Nalley and many others. In between gigs, Josh has recorded music for software companies, such as Ubi-Soft, Nintendo, and Apple (Jazz guitar parts in GarageBand application) and written music for film and other productions. In addition to his busy performance and music composition/arranging schedule, Josh writes for publications such as Guitar Player and Acoustic Guitar Magazines, gives workshops, and does audio/video lessons for Truefire and other music instruction sites.
Awards:International Association of Jazz Educators Blue Chip Award - among the top four instrumentals of 2004
...genuine integrity and soul on each and every track...['Jumpin' At The Border'] is one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard so far this year and I would recommend it to anyone. --Joe Knipes, Jazz Improv Magazine
An ambitious effort...some well--played jazz. --John Ephland, DownBeat Magazine
...a phenomenal musician...Workman's rich CD contexts and amazing performances serve as inspirational examples for jazz guitarists young and old. It is a spectacular maiden voyage. --Dr. Herb Wong, Jazz Education Journal (Blue Chip Award -- among the top four instrumentals of 2004)
Even the most talented musician can have a tough time presenting a variety of styles on a single CD. There's always the danger of turning the recording into a hodgepodge that satisfies no one, no matter how dazzling the individual numbers. Bay Area jazz guitarist Josh Workman solved this puzzle with flair on his 2004 release, Jumpin' at the Border, his first as a leader. The CD showcases Workman's ability to plug into bebop, Brazilian, blues, Latin and gypsy jazz. The solution is the pulsing energy that sweeps through every track, in every style, and unifies the proceedings. --Jerry Karp, San Francisco Chronicle (read full interview)
...a great talent...[Josh Workman] can clearly burn -- and his clear tone and crisp articulation are constants in his playing...an excellent player with a fine band. --Jason Bivins, Cadence Magazine
...as good as it gets...Workman proves a traditionalist who's not afraid to kick it up a little. --Vintage Guitar Magazine
...indeed a highlight of this year. --All About Jazz
This is a delightful set with guitarist Josh Workman displaying impressive versatility...easily recommended and thoroughly enjoyable... --Scott Yanow, Los Angeles Jazz Scene (December 2004 issue)
...a smooth-as-silk jazz guitarist with an ear for Latin grooves... --Hispanic Magazine
It's a fun 72 minutes...Four--stars --The Montreal Gazette (Canada)
...Workman's playing which, regardless of style, demonstrates a devotion to authenticity, while at the same time staying approachable and consistently engaging. --All About Jazz
Workman is an unusual talent...a true all-rounder and a good time guitarist... --Jack Massarik, Jazzwise Magazine (UK)
'Jumpin' At The Border' is an always--swinging, eclectic collection of dynamic performances...This is an impressive debut that is another good reason to return to the City by the Bay --Joseph Blake, The Times Colonist (Victoria, B.C.)
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
I have been teaching for twenty years, back in New York and here in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to my own studio, my teaching includes classes at San Francisco State, Jazz Camp West, Blue Bear School of American Music, clinics all over the U.S. w/ the Hot Club of San Francisco, and about seven years worth of lesson articles for Guitar Player and other magazines.
A couple of the classes that I enjoy teaching are: BEBOP SOLOING FOR GUITAR, Josh Workman, beg-int; This class introduces a set of tools that, though rooted in bebop, will help students develop strong phrasing in any musical style. Students will receive a checklist of important areas to develop over the long-term, such as scales, intervals, arpeggios, and spelling out 4-note chords. Our main focus will be simple melodic and rhythmic devices to add color and motion to your soloing. We will mostly deal with major scale harmony, but just about all these exercises can be applied to minor, modal and symmetrical harmony, as well. All exercises will be printed out in notes and tablature. SOLO GUITAR: NOT AS HARD AS YOU THINK! Josh Workman, int/adv. We’ll explore several solo guitar techniques, such as grabbing melody notes above common chord shapes, how to alter the color tones of 4- note chords in any inversion, simultaneously walking bass and playing chords, and the lush, use of connecting inversions with diminished chords, referred to as “locked hands” or “block chord” soloing by pianists and popularized on guitar by Wes Montgomery. These techniques will also improve your accompaniment skills, either in a duo or in a group, and help you interact with pianists. All exercises will be printed out in notes and tablature or chord frames.
-Thomastik-Infeld George Benson strings -John Mello acoustic