James Silberstein

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Although not a huge name in the jazz world, guitarist James Silberstein is a skillful, hard-swinging improviser who has been contributing to the New York City jazz scene since the late '70s. Silberstein…
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Although not a huge name in the jazz world, guitarist James Silberstein is a skillful, hard-swinging improviser who has been contributing to the New York City jazz scene since the late '70s. Silberstein is capable of playing electric jazz-funk and has, over the years, backed some non- jazz artists (including the Drifters). But straight-ahead jazz is his primary focus, and those who are aware of Silberstein tend to think of him as a hard bop/post-bop player with a major appreciation of jazz' pre-fusion guitarists. Indeed, most of his big influences are bebop, hard bop or post-bop guitarists who emerged in the '40s, '50s or '60s -- people who range from Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow to Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, and George Benson (mainly the young, straight-ahead Benson of the '60s as opposed to the more commercial, R&B-minded musician he became in the '70s). Silberstein was born in New York City but spent most of his pre-adult years in suburban White Plains, NY. The guitarist (who began studying the guitar at 12) was 16 when his family left suburbia and moved back to the city, and Manhattan's Central Park was where an 18-year-old Silberstein met Brazilian guitarist Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, who did a lot to encourage his interest in straight-ahead jazz guitar and urged him to check out Brazilian guitarists such as Bola Sete and Baden Powell. Other guitarists who served as mentors to Silberstein when he was in his late teens or early twenties included Sam Brown (who he played some duo gigs with) and the late Tim Breen, who was never a big name in the jazz world but backed Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and other non-jazz performers. Silberstein, who studied with guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and Chuck Wayne during that period, has been quoted as saying that Breen was "probably my biggest guitar influence." Silberstein left New York City in the early '80s, when he landed a gig at a resort hotel in Georgia. After leaving Georgia, the improviser spent about a year-and-a-half in Miami, where he became friends with fellow guitarist Randy Johnston. But Silberstein ended up returning to the Big Apple in the '80s, and he went on to play with artists who ranged from fellow guitarists Attila Zoller and Peter Leitch to pop singer Norah Jones (before she became famous) to the late tenor saxophonist Carter Jefferson (who is best remembered for his association with trumpeter Woody Shaw). Silberstein played his share of private parties in the '90s and early 2000s, and the New York private party circuit was where he met Tony Cimorosi -- a bassist who stressed to Silberstein that after many years of live gigs, he really needed to get into a studio and record an album of his own. Silberstein followed Cimorosi's advice; Song for Micaela, Silberstein's first album as a leader, was released by the Manhattan-based Consolidated Artists Productions (CAP) during the Summer of 2004. Silberstein co-produced the disc with Cimorosi.