A few days ago, I was enjoying some vino with my neighbors, when the discussion switched (as is usually the case) to music. They asked me if I was familiar with Drew Azzinaro, and I said “yes”. We spoke of previous engagements that he and I had worked on together, and also his weekly classical guitar showcase every Friday at Daily Planet Coffee. My neighbors have seen this performance a number of times, and raved about it. I had not seen it. I thought about it this morning, and decided to finally check it out, and I was not disappointed.
I arrived, grabbed a coffee, a bite, and a table near the stage. Drew comes in, we said hello, and then ‘on with the show’. I’ve seen him do funk, and blues on the electric guitar, but this had a completely different flavor altogether. The sound of nylon strings gives a certain mixture that is sweet, and soft, and highlights emotions detectable only by the ear. His technical abilities complemented his passion for playing quite nicely, and his song selection ranged from Middle Eastern, to South American, to classic rock flavored interpretations.
As I watched the performance, I was getting the itch to start writing again, so I said to myself, let’s do this. The 30 year old Lockport native was very open to a chat afterwards, and here are some of the details…
On starting out: “I was probably around 12 or 13. Some of my friends decided to start a band. So I bought a guitar at Tone Doctors Music, a place out in Lockport.” He would, at 17, end up teaching there. Drew continues, “In 8th grade, I met a friend who was really into guitar players. That’s when I started taking it a bit more seriously.”
Drew would go on to study guitar at NCCC, where his professor was Jason Beaudreau, a guy whom he continues to perform with today in a guitar duet.
A big influence for Drew was Buffalo based pianist Bobby Jones. “I studied jazz theory with Bobby for a couple of years. He would do his best to try to get his brilliance out into words. We talked a lot about philosophy, and art, and how this became more of the art side, than the technical side.”
He then went to Fredonia and studied classical. “Joe Mahfoud was a guy I studied under, and was instrumental in getting me into Fredonia,” he says. “While at Fredonia, I played a lot of jazz, and ended up running one of the jazz ensembles. I was all electric then, which is a big part of my playing.”
Today, he teaches at Planet Music School which is mostly adults. In School Music, a program which allows him to work with elementary and middle school kids, and a home school ensemble.
Performance-wise, he has been a part of Little Mountain Band, Rod Hornung Project, and lately with NYC based Lady Lush and the Vinyls. They have recently completed a recording to be released at some point this summer. Lady Lush also entered the Tiny Desk Contest, sponsored by NPR. They did not win, but have been invited to perform at one of the events.
Moving forward, Drew is focused on collaborations, which is bringing a multicultural flavor to his playing. “Lately, I’ve been lucky to hook up with different players. Paul Kozlowski, a guy whose music is Middle Eastern. Nelson Rivera, a sax player, and we’ve been doing bossa nova.” Those are a few of the players with worldly musical influence. “I’ve been lucky to have absorbed a lot of things, and that’s what I’ve been digging lately. The last year and a half, I’ve been focusing on playing music I want to play, and less music I have to play to earn a living. I’m constantly trying to improve.”
You can see Drew perform every Friday (except this coming week) at Daily Planet Coffee (1862 Hertel Avenue), for classical guitar at noon. Also May 24, he will be performing at Pausa Art House (19 Wadsworth Street) with Paul Kozlowski, and every third Thursday with Paul Hourning Project at Hot Mama’s Canteen (12 Military Road).