Although violinist John Ettinger's been a presence in the San Francisco Bay Area music scene since he moved to the region from Arizona in 1992, he was by no means a household name even on the West Coast and was virtually unknown elsewhere. That state of relative obscurity made his recorded debut as a bandleader, August Rain
(Ettinger Music, 2003) a wonderful surprise. Simply put, the album was great---who was this guy? August Rain's compositions--all but one Ettinger's own pieces--had fascinating, memorable structures, and their supple, sharp improvisations always seemed informed by the compositional materials.
It certainly didn't hurt that Ettinger had surrounded himself with bassist Todd Sickafoose, drummer Scott Amendola and Rhodes player Art Hirahara--all outstanding Bay Area players who seemed deeply committed to and wisely understanding of his compositions. Best of all, the CD sounded both old and new at the same time. The tunes had the structural soundness and inside/outside vitality of modern jazz, while Ettinger's digital loops and Amendola's loops, and the organic eclecticism of where the music was allowed to go (into rock-inflected areas, certainly, but ultimately anywhere the musicians cared to take it) had the bracing flavor of something altogether new.
Contributing Editor Paul Olson spoke with Ettinger recently, about his career and his most recent record, the follow-up to August Rain, 2006's Kissinger in Space.
Check out John Ettinger: Broken Pedals and an Open Mind at AAJ today!