by Robert Brind
Jimmy Faber has finally become a professional guitarist. He’s paid his dues. He’s played in countless venues in Philly for free. Now, playing guitar is his only job. He puts in three hours of practice time outside of rehearsals, and rehearses with, well, a lot of bands.
I first met Faber after a show at the Grape Room in Manayunk featuring Blue Apple Groove, one of the original bands he plays with. I heard some Hendrix and a touch of bluegrass in his playing, and we talked about both. He cited Chet Atkins and Jeff Beck as his two biggest influences. I asked about that when I met up with him recently, more than two years later. “I mean, you could probably boil most of my guitar playing down to a combination of those two guys,” he says.
That list of two is, however, way too short to encapsulate the varying influences that affect Faber and lead to a very unique synthesis in his playing. For instance, he’s currently playing with The Rent-a-Cops, a Police cover band. “I’m really excited about [them].” I mentioned that the Police are not know so much for their guitar licks. “You would think that, but there is so much cool guitar in their songs. I had to really change the way I play to get comfortable with that band. Normally…I like effects, but …working with that group I had to learn so many effects, and had to really learn how to work all the pedals, and really had to learn so many of the unique and crazy tones Andy Summers got.”
Of course he has various interests. He’s been known to post extended chord progressions on Facebook. “They’re mostly from jazz standards. More than half of my friends on Facebook are also musicians.” I play a little guitar myself, and don’t know half of the chords he’s posted. I pointed out that these were definitely not pop songs, and was immediately chided for my ignorance. “They were definitely pop songs of the day. You know, like 50 or 40 years ago.”
On jazz, Faber says he’s “been delving a lot deeper into it” and it has really helped him advance in his playing. We discuss one of his bigger jazz influences, Joe Pass. “For the last couple of years [his music] has definitely been my deeper inspiration, and I’ve been delving a lot deeper into it, and learning a lot about it. It’s definitely really helped me advance in my playing.”
Thinking of his bluegrass influences, I had at one point sent him an instructional video of Bryan Sutton’s, a well-known bluegrass guitarist. At the very next show I saw him play, he incorporated a version of one of Sutton’s turnarounds. “Oh, yeah, yeah yeah. Learning new stuff and getting better is one of my favorite aspects of playing. I’m always trying to learn something new.”
It seems that his influence, and playing, can’t really be boiled down to two influences. “I’m always trying to discover new music and things I don’t know. I believe you can learn something from just about anybody, even if it’s not your preferred genre of music.”
I ask Faber what his most unlikely sources of inspiration were, and he discusses Brazilian music, Bossa Nova, and other world music. “If I get really into a player, I like to find out who they listen to, and who influenced them.” Through a player, he got interested in Getz/Gilberto. “From that music, I learned a ton of different ways to play rhythm. The harmony that’s used in those songs is so different from any other kind of music I was listening to.” This discovery led to to another influence (of course), Luiz Bonfa. Faber describes his playing as a “wild hybrid of Brazilian music and classical guitar.”
On becoming a professional, Faber says that he’s “not going to play a bar on a random Wednesday night for free.” Although, “Because I did, it helped my name get around and helped me get better gigs. Looking back, it was definitely worth it. I got a lot more exposure, learned a lot more things.”
He plays at three gigs per weekend, and plays as many as three or four during the week. “Sometime I forget that I’m in so many bands.” Here is the list, in Faber’s words:
1. Blue Apple Groove
2. The Rent-A-Cops
4. The Griz Band
5. Raw Honey
6. Old Soul
7. Golden Phi
8. Dino DNA
9. The Late Ancients (just a guest spot on their newest record)
10. Mama Chili and the Cornbreads
11. My own solo jazz fingerstyle thing
Enjoy, by all means, and definitely check Jimmy out at one of his shows. He’s one of the best unknown guitarists I’ve seen.