An accomplished guitarist, composer and arranger, Graham Dechter plays with the kind of swinging authority and seasoned maturity that belies his young age. The 28-year-old Los Angeles native, a member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra since he was 19, shows a deep reverence for the jazz guitar tradition in his warm-toned renditions of ballads, bossas, bebop and blues. A formidable soloist and consummate accompanist, he imbues standards with rare enthusiasm and an inherent bluesiness while carving out his own path with several affecting original compositions.
While most contemporary jazz guitarists today are coming out of the six-string trinity of John Scofield, Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell or heavily emulating modern day guitar stars like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dechter’s tastes are firmly rooted in a different aesthetic. A talent deserving of wider recognition, Dechter follows in the lineage of his guitar heroes like Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Grant Green and Herb Ellis. “I tend to veer towards the real swinging stuff,” says Dechter. “I love listening to and appreciate many different styles of music, both within and out of the jazz idiom. But in terms of my own conception, I really live in that swinging realm. Guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel, as well as other instrumentalists like Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Ben Webster -- all of those musicians have been a huge influence on my playing.”
Born into a musical family -- his mother Maureen came from a musical theater tradition while his father Brad is a renowned orchestrator and composer who has worked on over 250 film scores and arranged for artists such as Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand. “My dad’s first passion was jazz,” Graham recalls. “When I was a little kid he would play me all these great recordings by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole. So growing up, I became very accustomed to that sound and vibe." Originally a classical violinist and composer, Dechter had an eye-opening experience in high school while taking an improvisation class with bassist Marshall Hawkins at California’s Idyllwild Arts Academy. As he told Just Jazz Guitar magazine: “Marshall is the real thing. He’s played with everyone from Miles Davis to Shirley Horn and Phineas Newborn, Jr. So getting the opportunity to study with someone who was that close to the history of the music was life-changing for me. If it weren't for Marshall, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today.”
In 2005, after completing his first year at the Eastman School of Music, Dechter was invited to join the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at age 19. He subsequently returned to Los Angeles, where he began studying with Larry Koonse. Here is what Koonse, a respected and in-demand Los Angeles-based jazz and studio guitarist, had to say about Dechter: “It’s hard to fathom how someone at his age can possess so much knowledge and ability on the instrument. He has it all -- chops, harmonic depth, deep swing, melodic inventiveness and serious arranging skills. He is only at the beginning of his journey in becoming a major force in the global jazz community. I look forward to watching his journey unfold.”
Over the past eight years, Dechter has toured worldwide with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra appearing at major festivals in North America, Asia and Europe. In 2011, he played on Michael Bublé’s best-selling Christmas album and made followup television appearances backing the popular singer on The Today Show, Regis & Kelly, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and on Michael Buble’s NBC Christmas special. Currently, he is the guitarist for Brazilian jazz pianist and vocal sensation, Eliane Elias. Dechter’s burgeoning list of credits also includes work with saxophonists Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson and James Moody, guitarists John Pizzarelli, Bucky Pizzarelli, Mundell Lowe and Russell Malone, organists Larry Goldings and Atsuko Hashimoto, singers Jon Hendricks, Nancy Wilson and Kurt Elling, violinist Regina Carter, pianists Billy Taylor, Freddie Cole, Benny Green and Bill Charlap, clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, trombonists Curtis Fuller and Wycliffe Gordon and trumpeters Terell Stafford, Clark Terry, Snooky Young and Wynton Marsalis.
Adapted from Graham Dechter's website: http://grahamdechter.com/
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