The Expert Guides
We’re very pleased to feature PT Gazell as an Expert Guide again in 2016. He’s a unique and wonderful harmonica player and a warm, engaging guy who brings a calm, clear approach both to his music and to his teaching.
While his early recorded work was in the bluegrass style, PT's musical experience is broad, and his chosen music nowadays is the swinging standards of the American songbook and classic jazz (he lists inspirations such as Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan, Ben Webster, Sweets Edison, Tiny Moore, and Wes Montgomery). To deliver his music he’s chosen the half-valved diatonic that allows chromaticity using standard bends, instead of choosing the overblow approach or the chromatic harmonica. Working mainly out of second position, he’s carved out a unique niche among harmonica artists. Check out the videos to the right (and his website) to get a taste of his swing and lyricism, and to learn more about his half-valved approach
Here’s the story from his published bio:
PT Gazell has earned his position as a master of the diatonic harmonica by taking the long way around from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to Nashville, Tennessee...
First picking up the instrument in his late teens, the Wisconsin-born, self-taught player honed his craft by taking on all manner of musical styles and traveled a circuit that included bluegrass, folk, pop festivals and gigs. His instinctive musicality allowed him to explore and expand his repertoire and achieve a lofty level of mastery very quickly.
Still early in his musical evolution, Gazell found his way to Lexington, Kentucky in the mid-seventies. At the time Lexington was a hotbed of young bluegrass musicians and PT fell right in with the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck and others... “There were great places to play and appreciative audiences. If you were not playing out, you could always sit in at a hot jam session. David Grisman, Tony Rice and Keith Whitley were regular visitors and only added to the buzz.”
While in Lexington, PT recorded his first album for Sugar Hill Records, “Pace Yourself...” Recorded with an all-star lineup it is this recording that announced PT Gazell to the world. PT was the first harmonica player, and the second artist, to be honored with a recording contract with famed Sugar Hill Records. His unique approach to the diatonic harmonica can be heard on this seminal recording, which set the bar for all other players who followed.
Gazell soon became a sought after side man and session player for some of Nashville’s biggest stars and spent the next part of his career playing and recording all over the world along side the stars of the
day. “As exciting and fun as that period was, I also began to get somewhat frustrated"
Tired by the road and frustrated by the musical limitations presented by the standard diatonic harmonica, Gazell put his instrument down and disappeared for a while.
When he finally reemerged it was with a newfound enthusiasm in part created by his introduction to valved harmonicas. Using self-valved harps, Gazell’s music literally soared to new heights as this new approach allowed him access to musical possibilities hidden on standard diatonic
harmonicas. “Suddenly I was able to play exactly what I had always heard. The valves unlocked the door.”
And PT came out swinging... His first recording using the valved diatonic is a masterful swing record entitled, “Swingin’ Easy... Hittin’ Hard” that PT released in 2005. Gazell’s playing on this record begs comparisons to jazz greats Benny Goodman and Ben Webster. The record spurred a brand new interest in PT and soon he was back on the road, only this time fronting various combinations of jazz and swing musicians. Critics and fans alike hailed Gazell’s return to live performing and “Swingin’ Easy... Hittin’ Hard” quickly became a favorite at NPR stations across the United States.
Joining forces with German Harmonica manufacturer C.A. Seydel in 2007, PT introduced two signature model “Gazell Method” instruments. Featuring a revolutionary new valve material that PT researched and his personal setup for half valved diatonics, these instruments are quickly becoming an industry standard.
The 2011 release of "2 Days Out," marked yet another milestone in harmonica maestro PT Gazell's musical journey. Perhaps the most musically daring of all his recordings, “2 Days Out” explores dynamic sonic combinations that are superbly refreshing, spirited and profound. “2 Days Out” swings and delivers in ways new and old with results that re-establish PT Gazell as one of the finest and most unique players in a generation.
PT likes to think of his projects as “an on going musical conversation between myself and my fans.” Judging by the music he delivers, he’s quite a compelling and articulate speaker.
No other player combines his phrasing, his melodic style, his song choices and his improvisational abilities... his singular style may draw comparisons to others, but in the end, it’s a style all his own.
PT Gazell discussing half-valving and playing the ballad "What is There to Say?"
PT Gazell performing the uptempo
"This Can't Be Love" at the 2014 SPAH Convention