Described by his contemporaries as talented, creative, humble, easygoing, and professional, Buddy Fambro, a native Chicagoan, has made many contributions to the anthology of music in Chicago and abroad. Buddy has performed and recorded with renowned artists as well as numerous locally noted artists. Buddy's performance portfolio comprises recording sessions, musical theater, jobbing dates, and religious services -- a testament to his versatility. Buddy's musical styling's have been compared to Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton and the like. As a professionally trained guitarist, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Buddy is an active participant in the Chicago music scene performing, composing, arranging and collaborating. Buddy just released his latest CD, Purpose, which demonstrates his talent as a guitarist, composer and producer. He is also handling guitar duties for the Broadway musical tour of "Come Fly Away" which features the music of Frank Sinatra. Epiphone's Don Mitchell recently spoke with Buddy about his musical history, what it's like to tour a Broadway musical, his Epiphone Broadway and more.
I love to find out where our family of players have come from. It's interesting to hear the things that have shaped them into the players they are today. So tell me, where did your earliest musical influences come from?
My earliest musical influence was probably my father and his love of jazz music. Although not a musician himself, he loved putting on his vinyl records and playing artist like Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery. He would always comment, "now that's music." I was of course listening to popular music like soul and rock as well, so I had a good mix of musical influences.
The jazz records your father played must have had the most impact considering Jazz, or Smooth Jazz, is the direction your music has taken.
After I decided that I would become a professional guitarist, I studied all kinds of styles. I loved popular, rock, blues, classical, jazz, folk or whatever caught my ear. And while my career placed me in different stylistic situations, I have always been attracted to the freedom of self-expression that jazz grants you.
You also expanded your musical view by attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. How important do you feel that experience was to your development and career?
While my Berklee education took place decades ago, it has proven to be a valuable experience that I will always treasure. It helped me to define musical concepts in a logical way. The study of harmony, composition and guitar, has helped me to step into many different playing situations with confidence, because of the well-rounded curriculum. I was also fortunate to meet and play with great young players from around the world that I would not otherwise have gotten to know. I would recommend Berklee to any musician seeking further knowledge in their field!
Tell me about your new release, Purpose.
Purpose, my new CD, was just released January 1st of 2012. It is a self-produced collection of mostly original compositions in the contemporary jazz vein. It features electric and acoustic guitar melodies over extended song forms with a contemporary rhythm section and horns on some cuts.
Did you write the album on guitar?
The compositions and arrangements started on the guitar.
And how did the recording process go from there?
After I was satisfied with the tunes, I went into pre-production mode. I created midi mock-ups of the songs in Pro Tools™, using synth's and drum machine patterns which helped me envision the overall production before spending money on players and studio time.
And then it was off to the studio?
Yes. After laying down the basic rhythm tracks live, I overdubbed extra rhythm guitar or synth background parts. Finally came the mixing, mastering and CD production with photography, artwork, and design. From start to finish, I would say the project took about two years to complete.
How can our readers find out more about Purpose?
You can go to buddyfambro.com for more info.
I have to say that your current live gig is pretty cool! How did you end up touring a Broadway musical?
A friend of mine, Felton Offard, who is a very talented guitarist from Chicago, was playing the show but could not continue the tour. He recommended me in his place and it's been a great experience ever since.
What a great opportunity to tour a full theatrical production, while playing some great music.
I had done some musical theatre back in Chicago but not on the national level. It has been great and I look forward to going to Japan this summer with the tour.
What is a typical day on the road with "Come Fly Away" like?
There are typically three kinds of days on the tour. First, there is the travel day in which you get to and from the different cities. This can be anything from a 90-mile bus ride to a series of plane rides and cab fares. It sounds exciting, but making tight schedules can sometimes be stressful. The second type of day is the performance day. It may sometimes involve a short sound check and run through, then the performance. Getting to and from the venue, changing, performing the show and then getting back to the hotel usually takes up about 4 hours of time. The rest of the day I use to practice, compose and work to promote my CD. Saturdays and Sundays usually include a matinee performance. The third day is called a Golden Day, which is a day off from the duties of the show. I try to do a little site seeing with my band mates on those days.
It sounds awesome and I have to say I am jealous! What a great gig. And I'm also thrilled that you have your Epiphone Broadway out on the tour with you. What is it you like about that guitar?
I like three things about this guitar for touring with "Come Fly Away". Although very versatile tonally, this guitar excels at getting a great jazz tone. I put on a medium gauge set of flat wound strings, and was ready to emulate that big band rhythm guitar sound. Secondly, the guitar is very durable and has held up to the rigors of travel well. When not flying on commercial airlines, the guitar is transported by truck in a large wooden cargo box with other instruments. I feel confident the guitar will show up at the venue in one piece! Finally, since the guitar is often times not in my possession on the road, I am less likely to loose sleep worrying about it being stolen or damaged.
Your third point is great to hear because we take great pride in providing outstanding, professional quality instruments at prices that don't require a second mortgage.
The Broadway is a great value. I also own a Gibson L-5 but would not consider taking it out on this kind of tour, because it would be so expensive to replace.
We are thrilled that the Broadway is out with you and look forward to more stories from the road. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know what is going on.