By David Moye
When I am feeling especially metaphorical, I like to compare guitar players to cooking steaks.
Some guys are like a charcoal grill when it’s first lit. All flame, no game. It sounds fiery but there’s no staying power in the ear.
Then there are those like Chris Standring. He’s not as flashy but, like the charcoal after it turns gray, there’s a lot of heat and it lasts a long time.
And his tone is very smoky.
“Well, I’ve heard comparisons like that before, but never quite like that,” is how Standring reacts. “I liken it to the difference of hitting the audience with a hammer or slowly seducing them.”
It sounds good in theory, but Standring laments that it doesn’t always work in practice.
“My style sometimes works against me,” he said. “It’s understated, but I much prefer playing less and, as I get older, I want to play much less than before.”
Just to be clear: Standring, who has played with everyone from Bebe & Cece Winans to Jody Watley to Carole Bayer Sager, isn’t referring to the number of concerts. He means the number of notes during each song.
He’s released six albums since making his debut as a solo artist in 1998 and he sees his playing evolve.
“What interests me now is composition,” he said. “I still improvise onstage, but the composition factor of what I play matters to me very much.”
Standring started out in very much the soul jazz genre, but recent albums like his 2010 release, “Blue Bolero,” have him pursuing a more orchestral style.
Since the bolero lends itself to both a rhythmic and a classical approach, he’s found the rhythm a good meeting ground for his music.
“It’s hypnotic,” he said. “Take ‘Ravel’s Bolero.’ It starts from nothing and slowly builds to a big climax. I love that!”
Although Standring says bebop legends like Charlie Parker also influence his compositional style, he admits that he strives to make music that the casual listener will appreciate as much as the serious jazz fan.
“However,” he laughs. “Long ago, I stopped making records for musicians because they don’t buy them.”