Interview: Sandy Prager

Dan McAvinchey: Sandy, I know you were brought up in a musicial household. Tell us about your earliest experiences with music and how you developed your talent.

Sandy Prager: My dad was a trombone player who played and toured in big bands. He loved Miles, Diz and Bird. So I was weaned on bop and standards. My father was also my first teacher. But it was on trumpet, not guitar! I got pretty good, too. Until, when I was about 12, I discovered that the girls liked the guitar players more. So I switched!

Dad had me transcribing Charlie Parker solos when I was about 11. I loved it! But I must say that I loved even more finding out about the omnibook (Bird's transcribbed solos). It sure helped my ears a lot! So I learned standards and improvisation and composition at the University of Miami while in junior high and high school. When I got to Berklee, I started stretching my ears musically. Then I heard Ralph Towner's solo album. I switched from electric to classical and 12-string. I couldn't (and still don't) believe how subtle but powerful Ralphs' playing is!

Dan McAvinchey: What guitars do you use at the moment?

Sandy Prager: I'm currently using an Alan Carruth classical, which is simply unbelievable, and getting better with age. And an old (1967, I think) Guild F-212 12-string.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you hoping to achieve musically?

Sandy Prager: To perform in concert or festival settings as much as I can. And to keep going!

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about your CD.

Sandy Prager: My most recent release is "Seattle Joe's", which is a mixture of trio pieces and solo pieces. The trio is John Lockwood on bass and Jerry Leake on percussion and tabla. I wrote the tunes, but boy can those guys play over them! It's a real joy working with such wonderful players. I can go anywhere I want and they'll be right there!

Dan McAvinchey: How do you compose your music?

Sandy Prager: A lot of my stuff is through composed, or just free improv. Though I will work on pieces paperwise pretty rigorously. Especially the more "20th. century" type works, like the guitar/flute/oboe trio I'm currently working on.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you record at home or rent time at a commercial facility?

Sandy Prager: I have a DAT recorder at home that I use. But mainly so I can hear how I'm playing something that needs working on. For more serious recording, I'll always go in the studio.

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Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to release your record independently?

Sandy Prager: Except for distribution, I've always made out better doing it myself using investor money then any contracts I've been offered. I have a "go in the studio and play" mentality. I don't overdub, and I usually only do two or three takes for each piece. I make sure when I go in, I'm ready! So my costs are embarressingly low!

Dan McAvinchey: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent

Sandy Prager: That's a tough one to answer since all I know is being an independent musician. I do have management and that's a great help. But generally, I do the legwork and local stuff, and he goes for the out of town gigs. I suppose in self-producing a recording, I have to make sure of items that I wouldn't if I were "signed". Stuff like artwork, graphic design, and mastering.

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Boston-based guitarist/composer Sandy Prager, a seventh generation musician, plays acoustic guitar with a style which spans diverse influences yet never totally leaves the jazz-based improvisational formats which are his roots. His latest release, "Seattle Joe's", features challenging compositions which can be appreciated by a wide variety of music fans. Prager's music is intense and rhythmically exciting as his melodies fluidly eminate from his instrument. In addition, Prager has composed for television, including a documentary of Massachusetts funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and has played for the Beth Soll dance troupe.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Prager to get the guitarist's thoughts on composition, equipment and his musical influences.