John Stowell- the Ultimate Road Warrior

John Stowell is one of the last true stylists. No one else on the planet sounds like he does. He is also a modern traveling minstrel. Over several of decades he has developed a network of clubs, coffeehouses, and colleges extending over most of the continental United States. He is no stranger to Canada and Europe either. John books everything himself and he travels alone in his little Toyota. He is on the road more than half the year.

Stowell likes playing music as much as anyone I've ever met. He is always up for playing, always. If he's in town and he's not working, he'll play. He was one of the first musicians that I hooked up with when I moved to Portland. We played many gigs and sessions together. He often calls me to come sit in when he has one of his in town gigs. I love playing with John because his ears are huge and his sound is so beautiful.

He hears everything you play and reacts to it. His melodic and harmonic concept is so heavy and he adapts to any situation perfectly . It's hard to describe John's playing because it is so unique that there's just no one to compare him to. He even holds his guitar differently than most guitar players.

Like his playing, his personality is also highly refined. I've never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. He is a strict vegan and he never drinks or smokes. You really couldn't be more of a gentleman than John is.

I figured that this post was in order because of the comments by one of his students about Stowell's harmonic approach. His concept is so advanced and I've always wondered how he thought about harmony. All of his lines sound so rarified, and etherial. They swoop gracefully from the top of his axe to the bottom. His time seems to float like a hummingbird.

Once we were playing a duo gig at a supper club and I started complaining about the meager pay. He said to me,"Well, we're not in this for the money are we?"
This comment perfectly describes Stowell's attitude about music.

"In the age of mediocrity and clones, John Stowell's uniqueness and originality is a breath of fresh air. I love playing with him."- Paul Horn

"John Stowell plays jazz, but the doesn't use any of the cliches; he has an incredible originality. John is a master creator" - Larry Coryell

"...can make an electric guitar sound like a singing voice." - Nat Hentoff

"More guitarists would play like John Stowell if they knew how" - Herb Ellis

"He plays his amplified guitar as if he were surrounded by fine crystal...the type of slow burning, sustained energy that you hear in players that practice all the time." - Down Beat

"Stowell played beautifully, combining his trademark creamy chord voicings with long, sinewy phrases." - Seattle Times

"...darkly singing understatements..." - Down Beat (record review)

"Stowell made his electric guitar sing beautifully, displaying all the virtosity that has brought him to the jazz world's attention in recent years." - Coda Magazine, Toronto

John's homepage
Doolin Guitars
Origin records
Stowell's instructional videos
MP3 interview
PDF transcription of Stowell's solo on 'Prelude to a Kiss'
CD baby MP3s of Stowell and Chris Woitach's Live CD
CD Baby MP3s of his 3 guitars live at the Jazz Bakery CD
CD Baby MP3s of Cheryl Fischer w/Stowell


Anonymous said...


I've really been enjoying your site. I check it out every week.

Keep up the good work.

Kirt Peterson

Tim said...

A mistral is the wind that blows up through southern France. A minstrel travels and plays music. But one might want to be careful about using a word with such off-color (sorry no pun intended) cultural baggage.

Anonymous said...

Good article.


He drives a Toyota.



David Carlos Valdez said...

Thanks Dan.