"The first time I used these strings I knew I had struck gold and I wouldn’t have to look any further for the best classical guitar strings. My Sergio Abreu guitar is wonderful, but it never sounded as good as it does with Hannabach Goldin strings!"
Greg Skaff is a NYC-based musician and composer whose skills and reputation place him among the premier guitarists in jazz. After moving to New York City in the 1980s, Skaff had his first professional gig with none other than Stanley Turrentine—which went so well the sax master kept him gainfully employed for the next five years. In subsequent years Greg has flourished as both a sideman and bandleader and played and recorded with, among others, Bobby Watson, Ruth Brown, Freddie Hubbard, David “Fathead” Newman, Ron Carter, David Hazeltine, Bruce Barth, Mike LeDonne, Joe Farnsworth, Matt Wilson, Ben Allison, Orrin Evans, and Victor Lewis. At the helm of his own bands, Greg—with his creativity, his passionate touch, and his impressive technique on prominent display—has seized the attention of discriminating listeners at leading Manhattan jazz clubs and at concert venues worldwide. The guitarist has four acclaimed feature albums under his belt—the latest titled “116th & Park”, on the widely distributed Zoho Music label; he has also made stellar contributions to several recordings by saxophonist Bobby Watson and vocalist Gloria Lynne. His current working group featured on his new CD is a trio with drummer Ralph Peterson, and organist Pat Bianchi.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Skaff picked up the guitar at age 16 after becoming enthralled by George Benson's It's Uptown album. He then studied music at Wichita State for three semesters, but his real passion was performing jazz, blues, and rock in Wichita clubs. During that time he paid special attention to such visiting jazz luminaries as Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith, and Jack McDuff and quickly realized his dream of becoming a top-flight jazz guitarist would best be served by leaving the Midwest for the jazz world’s capital city—NYC.Finding work with Turrentine not long after his resettlement in the East was a stroke of luck. As a worthy successor to George Benson, Kenny Burrell, and Grant Green in Turrentine’s bluesy soul-jazz groups, Skaff found his guitar playing deepening in its manner of expression over the course of hundreds of shows all over the country and in Europe, Japan, South America, and South Africa. His increasingly confident work took on that hard-to-define-but-understood-when-heard quality called soul. Today, he looks back on the experience and says, “I absorbed Stanley’s sense of phrasing. I didn’t realize how much I was absorbing at the time. I gravitate toward his kind of phrasing, where he puts the notes in a beat, in the meter. His sound is ingrained in my brain.” Bobby Watson—one of the top soprano and alto saxophonists around—offers Skaff a concise, and ringing, endorsement: “Greg is the most versatile and imaginative guitarist I’ve ever worked with.” Their decade-long association has been invaluable to Skaff’s seasoning as a world-class jazz player. “It’s a lot looser than with Stanley,” Skaff commented, comparing now-deceased Turrentine’s modus operandi to Watson’s. “I’ve had to listen to the music in a different way. There’s a lot more interplay with Bobby and also with the rhythm section. I play differently in the ensemble—it’s much more open and I make up more guitar parts.” Denizens of jazz clubs have been joined by jazz critics in marveling over his inventive guitar playing with Watson. Brits Richard Cook and Brian Morton were moved to describe his work on the Watson album Quiet As Its Kept (Red) as “revelatory.” In the Watson discography, Skaff is also heard to good advantage on the albums Live and Learn (Palmetto) and Urban Renewal (Kokopelli).Skaff brings a particularly virtuosic spirit to his guitar lines when collaborating with Hammond organ and drums, which was previously heard on the wonderful album Ellington Boulevard in the company of B-3 specialist Mike LeDonne and ace drummer Joe Farnsworth. Music journalist Bill Milkowski pointed to the guitarist’s “blues-drenched sensibility, rhythmic assuredness, strong affinity for funk, and his boppish tendency of blowing at breakneck tempos with apparent ease.” Reviewing the album in Jazz Times, Russell Carlson exclaimed that “the trio bristles with an uncommon collective intensity” and the music was propelled by a “joyous energy.” Owen Cordle at Jazz Times termed the release a “nice set by mature, thinking players.” With East Harlem Skyline, his second release on the Zoho Music label, Skaff refined his compositional skills once again in the context of an organ trio, one of his favorite settings. Six original songs on East Harlem Skyline, along with newer compositions performed in concert, showcased his strong grasp of jazz composition while simultaneously advancing forward-looking musical concepts.The CD met with considerable praise. Zan Stewart, in the New Jersey Star Ledger, called it “a vibrant view of the modern day jazz guitar-organ-drums trio.”
The trio with Colligan and drummer E.J. Strickland quickly became a favorite of audiences in NYC and Italy. It’s worth noting, too, that Skaff’s telepathy extends to pianists; his feature album from the ‘90s, Blues and Other News (Double-Time), found him in a quartet that included the exemplary piano man Bruce Barth.
Skaff’s current release “116th & Park”, on the Zoho Music label, is already garnering critical acclaim. The recording, featuring primarily a working trio consisting of Pat Bianchi on Hammond organ and drummer Ralph Peterson, attests to his growth in both compositional and improvisational skills as well as his faith in the organ trio format as a contemporary means of expression.
Greg Skaff currently holds the guitar chair at the Broadway musical Wicked.
Skaff uses Hannabach Goldin strings on his Sergio Abreu nylon string guitar and he swears by them!