Featured Musician - December 2007

Name : John Nastos

Instrument : tenor, alto, soprano saxes; clarinet, flute, EWI (electronic wind instrument) and composer-arranger.

Early Years/Education : I grew up listening to bluegrass and folk music, since that's what my dad listened to. I played piano from the 3rd grade on but wasn't coordinated enough to do it well. At the Fernwood Middle School in Portland , I had a choice of either home economics or band. I chose band. I started on the clarinet and later switched to the saxophone. The start of me thinking of music as a career was attending the summer Mel Brown Jazz workshops. This was before minors could go to Jimmy Mak's. At Mel's camp I got to work with guys like Warren Rand and Renato Caranto; that hooked me. Before that experience I had tried to hear live jazz but it was really tough for a minor. I'd attend the Central Library Saturday concerts, or the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, but there were no clubs I could attend. By my junior year in high school they'd changed the rules. In a year and a half, I only missed one Tuesday night performance at Jimmy Mak's of the Mel Brown Septet.

That experience helped the most …. Eventually, they started letting me sit-in, Warren Rand started subbing the gigs out to me, and then Renato Caranto started subbing his chair out to me. While in high school I took classes at Portland State University and was able to study with drummer /composer Alan Jones, bandleader/arranger Charley Gray and woodwind-virtuoso Rob Scheps. For college I only applied to music schools in Portland , Boston and New York . I chose the Manhattan School of Music and have recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in jazz performance in three years. While there I studied with Dick Oatts and Bob Mintzer. Mintzer taught me how to play the EWI. After graduation I came back to Portland to play and started traveling back and forth between Portland and New York for gigs. I'd much rather live in Portland , so I just recently moved back.

Bands : I was part of a quintet collective of Manhattan School of Music students in New York . I also played a lot of bad gigs in Manhattan .… I played in big bands around the city and did lots of casuals from t-shirts to tuxedos. Here in Portland I had the Nastos-Shoals Quartet with drummer Drew Shoals. Since then I've led two different bands consistently: “E4” (the electric quartet) and my acoustic John Nastos Acoustic Band. “E4” consists of Clay Giberson on keyboards, Damian Erskine on electric bass, Drew Shoals on drums and me on saxophones and EWI (electric wind instrument). The Acoustic Band consists of either Chris Mosley, Dan Duval or Ryan Dolliver on guitar; Drew Shoals, Randy Rolofson or Mitch Wilson on drums; Eric Gruber on acoustic bass and me on saxophones. Other bands I work for are the Portland big bands of Art Abrams, Steve Cannon and Gordon Lee, to name a few. And, I'm also in the bands of Mel Brown from time to time. I write original big band charts for the Portland Composers Orchestra.

Blogger: Jazzpdx.Org ( Portland 's online jazz community) is a blog I run. I do web design as well as music. It's getting more and more visitors. I started it this past summer primarily because the Jazz Society's website was down for several months. But then it started to pick up steam and musicians like Patrick Lamb got involved. It's got a calendar of events, but the main focus is the blog itself, which has everything to do with the Portland jazz scene. Sometimes artists post information about their upcoming CDs or press clips. I have videos and links to all kinds of stuff, like Tom D'Antoni's “Art Beat” shows from OPB. When people launch their new websites they tell me about it and I try and keep it updated regularly. You can also find out about other Portland musician blogs like David Valdez and Carlton Jackson, they both have great blogs.

Musical Influences : Joshua Redman, John Ellis, Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Bill Frisell, Bela Fleck, Dick Oatts, Steve Wilson, Warren Rand, Renato Caranto, Alan Jones, and the group Oregon .

Most Satisfying Experience : Selling out both sets at Jimmy Mak's on my first gig there under my own name last December. That was pretty satisfying since I did the promotion myself. Actually, I had played Jimmy Mak's for years as a sub in the Mel Brown Septet. Now when I fill in, Mel doesn't call me a sub.

Favorite Recordings : “Elastic,” Joshua Redman; “Northwest Passage,” Oregon ; “Live Art,” Bela Fleck and the Flecktones; “Soulgrass,” Bill Evans; “Wide Angles,” Michael Brecker; “Land Whales in New York ,” Gordon Lee w/Jim Pepper; “Dameron IIV,” Warren Rand; and “Two For The Show,” David Friesen.

Discography : Upcoming Drew Shoals Collective CD, “The Greatest Haven't Been Born Yet,” on Diatic Records. The release date is December 22. The collective consists of pianist Ben Darwish, bassist Damien Erskine, drummer/leader Drew Shoals and me on saxophones. The other half of the Collective is Dan Duval on guitar, Jeff Picker on bass and Nick Sweet on trombone.

Gigs : December 15 at 8 p.m. with the Art Abrams Swing Machine at the Portland Art Museum; December 22 at 8 p.m. with the Drew Shoals Collective, CD release party; December 31 at 9 p.m. with the Oregon Jazz Orchestra, New Year's Eve Party; and on March 21 at 8 p.m., “E4” opens for Ezra Weiss (featuring Billy Hart) at Jimmy Mak's,. Also, sometime this season I'll be playing the national anthem at a Portland Trailblazers game.

Future Plans : Now that I'm officially back in Portland, I'd like to start working with my bands more, want to release my own CD, and get back into teaching again. Also, I plan on doing more jazz clinics in the area high schools. Another future goal is to be able to play with the great names of Portland like David Friesen, Darrell Grant, and Alan Jones.

Other : New York is a great place to learn, but Portland is where I want to live.

John Nastos can be reached at www.johnnastos.com

-- by Rita Rega


Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon