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An interview with guitarist Ray Ferretti

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Ray Ferretti
Guitarist Ray Ferretti lives in that twilight zone between progressive rock and jazz. It's a balance that isn't always executed with such precision and melody as Ferretti achieves on his new album, Leaf Juice. Quite the contrary, too many musicians fuse together those elements in a self-gratifying way; the result is often a record that quenches the intellectual thirst of the artist but leaves audiences cold, especially casual listeners. Ferretti manages to avoid that, producing a collection of songs that reel in the unenlightened with a sense of awe or unguarded emotion, as on the beautifully moving “Song for My Mother."

Based in Philadelphia, PA, Ferretti developed an interest in the guitar in his adolescence, and continues to creatively progress with the instrument, spicing his hybrid of prog and jazzy grooves with an undertow of funk. Leaf Juice serves a wildly innovative menu that unveils Ferretti's versatility and eclectic vision. Its overall message is that the guitar is rife with artistic possibilities, something that Ferretti has discovered through time and practice. He explores his craft further in this interview.

Q: When did you start playing the guitar?

A: I started playing guitar in my early teens. Picked up a really cheap acoustic guitar and took lessons from the local guitar teacher. My teacher at the time stressed the importance of learning how to read music. Guitar tabs did not exist back then so you had two choices: learn to read or play by ear. Ear training is very important but learning how to read opened up a lot of doors later in life for me doing session work and the other types of gigs that require you to read music.

Q: When did you learn how to use other instruments?

A: Throughout my life time I was always curious about other instruments. I played tenor saxophone in high school, which is why I love that instrument. I studied classical violin for about 5 years with a teacher from the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts which gave me an appreciation of classical music. I can play piano enough to write and play chord progressions, which helps with composition.

Q: What kind of musical education did you have?

A: Besides the guitar studies I mention earlier listening to all types of music has been the greatest education of all. One day I was at Pat Martino's house in his room where he gave his lessons and I was looking at his large album collection all over the floor I came across an Earth, Wind and Fire album. I asked him, “You listen to Earth, Wind and Fire?" He replied something like “take the best and leave the rest," which meant take anything from any style of music that interests you, learn it, and make it part of your style.

Q: What does Leaf Juice mean?

A: I get asked that a lot and I say “What do you think it means?" I like a play on words which many of my song titles have; “Eyzs Know" which was inspired by Oz Noy. Just a few weeks ago I composed a home work composition for my class titled: “Five Ince Village Men Sleeping" which translates to “Vince Mendoza." I let you figure that one out. Leaf Juice does not mean anything. I needed a title for a song, and I was cleaning my hands with Purell hand sanitizer while reading the ingredients. I came across the word Leaf Juice and I thought what a great CD title that would definitely have people guessing. So the secret is out.

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