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(from Coast Weekly, October 10, 2002)

Strum and Drang
Jeff Curtis brings his emotionally charged guitar stylings to Ocean Thunder Sunday.
By Chuck Thurman

 

 

A different sort of soul music will gild the walls of Ocean Thunder on Sunday when finger-picking guitarist Jeff Curtis returns to Monterey on Sunday. The New York-based Curtis, who plays a Windham Hill-ish improvisation-based music, first came to Monterey in 2000. He stepped into Ocean Thunder for the weekly open mic one Wednesday night and that led to a return engagement in 2001. Now it's become a tradition of sorts.
The 47-year-old says he's been playing the guitar most of his life, since being inspired as a child by the early Beatles and Led Zeppelin II. Between then and the mid '90s, Curtis taught himself how to play without the benefit of learning to read music, and his musical tastes expanded and mellowed. He cites Windham Hill pickers Michael Hedges, Will Ackerman and Alex de Grassi, as well as Pat Metheny, Pierre Bensusan and Jorma Kaukonen, as being influential in his guitar stylings. Still, Curtis cites the Zep's guitarist, Jimmy Page, as having left indelible imprint on his music. His favorite tuning is one used by Page.
It wasn't until he got divorced in 1995 that Curtis began to focus on his music. With a void in his life that needed to be filled, Curtis says, he turned to music to express his emotions. He began to play open-mic nights in New York and on Long island, where he lives. Then, in 1998 after a year of weekly sessions in a recording studio, Curtis released Dreams, a collection of mostly solo guitar works. Curtis says that most of his songs are inspired by the people he's known and the places he's been, and the emotions that he feels about them.

"I think that what I'm playing is something that's coming out of me when I'm playing. The musical vocabulary is Jeff trying to express himself using this little six-string machine."

Curtis confesses that although he's played many open-mic nights and a number of private parties, he's only played a handful of full-blown public gigs. "In the beginning, [performing] scared the shit out of me," he says. "But I forced myself to do it enough times that now I get a charge out of it."
He recently played a gig for about 150 college-age kids and was a little bit nervous about taking the stage following a Grateful Dead-ish, jam-rock band. The nervousness disappeared after he came to the first pause in his set, and the audience not only stuck around but they were silent. "If there's a silence in an audience that's been listening to a rock band, it means they're listening and want to know more," he reasons.
Curtis says he'll be going back into the studio early next year to record another album that he hopes to have ready by June.

 
 

(from Long Island Entertainment, October, 1998)

Jeff Curtis
Dreams
Shellface Music

 

 

The growth of the independent music world, the accessibility of technology and the 90's climate of being able to "do it yourself" is the reason you can pick up an album by someone like Jeff Curtis. Dreams, which pretty much sums up this Westbury native’s journey to his first CD after 26 years of playing, is a gentle, peaceful musical offering that is astonishingly personal and ingratiating.
Curtis, a fine acoustic guitarist, has assembled 18 songs that will touch your heart, move your soul and give you a haven from the fierce world we struggle in. Written, arranged and co-produced by Curtis (along with Greg Sweney, half of the outstanding Sweney Rose), Curtis has made the kind of record that most labels would be afraid of. Not that they wouldn't respect the emotional impact or superior playing (Curtis aided on some tracks by Sophie Parker on violin/viola & Carolena on flute), they just wouldn't know how to market it at most majors. There's some fine bluesy tracks, such as the snappy "Finger Lickin' Chicken" and "Bluesee," some new age tracks such as "You Can Be So Happy" and "Mystical Pathways," and renaissance vibes as well, as evidenced on "Medieval Forest." Curtis, as player and constructor, gives nothing away to such heralded (and similar acts) as Alex DeGrassi or even some of Pat Metheny’s work. In the Borders Books circles, where renaissance and instrumental acoustic is building an enormous fan base, Jeff Curtis would be a humongous hit. This is quality material, as beautiful as a sunny, winter's morning in Colorado or calm waves hitting a summer beach at sunset. For fans of everything from Dan Fogelberg to Yanni to Lee Ritenour, Jeff Curtis is an artist to embrace.
- John Blenn


 
 

(from The Inside Connection, October, 1998)

Jeff Curtis
Dreams
(CD18)

 

 

Clocking in at slightly more than one hour, this collection of instrumental guitar based pieces is a testament to the inner eye and creative ear of their author. As stated in the liner notes, all guitar parts were digitally recorded live without overdubs or punch-ins, four different tunings are utilized, and the guitar itself is a "cheap little 6-string Carlos." Cheap though the actual instrument may be, the compositions are rich with emotion. Curtis has an abiding love for nature that is reflected in his work (one third of material presented here owes its inspiration to great outdoors). Not only has he succeeded in capturing the majesty of Mother Earth in her various garments, he's preserved his own reaction as vividly as that of a master landscape painter. The only other sounds on this disc are provided by a flute (played by Carolena) viola and violin (compliments of Sophia Parker). Approached with sensitivity and intuition, the musical interplay achieves symbiosis, a language beyond the need or use for words. This is one of the best instrumental releases I've come across since becoming a music reviewer (notice the word "critic" was avoided). Another fine attribute of this CD is the attention given to sequencing. There's a very natural flow that effortlessly draws the listener in; it definitely did for me. This one stays in my collection. (Shellface Music, PO Box 67, Westbury, NY 11590)
- Roy Abrams

 

(from auralfix.com, February 2001)

JEFF CURTIS
DREAMS
A review by Hollis P. Lance

 

In this selection of songs by Jeff Curtis, he serves up 18 slices of something different. Though not at all of an alternative or punk nature, indeed Jeff is more of a classical style guitarist. Languid, full and surprisingly tranquil (after all the underground punk, metal, Long Island country and alternative bands this reviewer has done of late), "Dreams" features the perfect music for those times when you need to stop, pull over to the side of the rat race. The music on this CD has the ability to act like a release valve when the pressure begins to bear down. To describe a track by track breakdown, following the standard form for these reviews, for selections like these would in itself be a foolish endeavor in this case. That simply stated, this CD contains mostly acoustic guitar, with some tracks featuring Flute, and Viola and Violin, played by Carolena and Sophie Parker respectively. To his credit Jeff Curtis has detailed liner notes, describing his desire to record a body of work that spans some twenty-six years, with a brief word describing his particular mind set at the time of writing, and a brief history of himself, both the person and the artist. He also lists any accompanying musicians for any corresponding tracks and the CD itself feels like a very professional and well-polished package, with simple but concise use of layouts and fonts, simple but effective graphics and with the insight to the man as artist, the CD is a winner. " Dreams" is not the CD selection to "rock out" with. Instead umbrella drinks, shorelines at sunset, astronomical star watches, and situations where music playing in the background is likened to a spice to an event and not the meal. It isn’t a single course. However, if spices are the thing of life then "Dreams" certainly is one of the more essential ones and another of the many fine artistic endeavors that Long Island's fertile ground breeds. " Dreams" moves from song to song with an ease and the placing of each track on CD bear witness to the fact that these selections were placed into their space with care. Not like a great many other CDs I have had to review where there was little or no thought given to this very important aspect of album construction. Taking into account the time and effort necessary to construct songs in the first place but not taking the same time to assemble the selections seems to be a common error that "Dreams" doesn't fall into. Going crazy, does life seem out of balance? Listen to Hollis here for a minute. Take the day off from everyone, turn off the radio and the television and take this CD to a park, on a boat, and get into a bit of reflection and relaxation. You might not get laid nor paid for just such a day but guaranteed that you’ll have a day that is at least like Jeff Curtis "Dreams", a very solid and very complete B+. Recommended.
2/1/01 Copyright Aural Island Ltd.® All rights reserved


(from www.cdpimp.com, January 2001)

Dreams Jeff Curtis
Genre: Instrumental/Acoustic/Folk

 

"Dreams" is an acoustic guitar journey through the life experiences of the composer, Jeff Curtis. Now this is not an ego trip for the musician. He truly has makes some beautiful music that must be shared with the world. His guitar playing is wonderful - finger picking at it's very finest. He takes traditional "Travis Picking" to expert status. This is not a production fluke either. I saw him perform live recently and he was just as good live. Curtis' music would make an ideal soundtrack for television or movies as it is contemporary, new age and definitely not boring. Jeff Curtis spells out where he was or what inspired each of the 18 tracks in the CD liner notes. I find this especially delightful as a reviewer. I especially enjoyed the fourth track, "Medieval Forest". While I am not taken back to Europe a thousand years ago as he suggests, I just enjoyed the rich textures of this particular piece! Kudos to Carolina on flute and Sophie Parker on violin and viola who add more richness and passion to this CD. Track 5, "See The Light" has a wonderful viola solo and a haunting repetitive melody that you anxiously await. I would recommend this CD for those who appreciate fine musicianship and a love for a well produced instrumental, acoustic album.
Liz Smith www.cdpimp.com



(from www.changes.org/music, November, 2000)

Jeff Curtis Dreams


Jeff dropped into our house one night and casually asked if we'd like to hear him play. Paddy and I were blown away. This is the kind of guitar music that you can hear over and over again without getting restless. It's good for background music; it's good when you really want to pay attention and drift into it; it's good.

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