Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Being the Desert Drummer

It's been a few years since I've performed as a solo drum set artist and I am really looking forward to getting back into Desert Drummer mode. My last appearance was at the Music Instrument Museum for a special weekend when they were opening a six month exhibit called Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World. I was honored to be invited as one of the featured performers but then was soon back into the grind of the working band situation and it's hard to believe that I put my own creative project aside for the next few years.

Solo drumming is not an easy sell and things have not been the same since 2008 when the economy took a major hit. Prior to that I had so many gigs doing my solo drumming act that I remember once showing up to a band rehearsal and as we were about to rehearse a tune that featured a shuffle beat I struggled for a bit and then realized that I hadn't crossed my lead hand over to the hi-hat in order to play a standard back beat in about 6 months! Times have definitely changed.

Through a series of personal reflections and encouragement from a dear friend who is more like a guardian angel to me I decided to give my solo drum set act another shot. Prior to that I kind of accepted the fact that maybe it was something that people just weren't interested in seeing anymore. The music business is tough at all levels and it can really discourage even those who appear to be the most driven. I have learned that sometimes you have to not only adapt to the current scene but also accept the fact that your stuff may not be what an audience is looking for. I wasn't really upset about the possibility of putting the whole Desert Drummer thing to bed. In fact, I kind of felt a sense of peace about it because to me it was just time to accept reality for what it was and move on. It wasn't like I wasn't still performing with musicians that I enjoyed working with so why sit around and feel sorry for myself when I was still out there performing on a regular basis?

However, it didn't take long to realize that I was in fact living in a state of denial, which led me to hit the networking trail again in order to see what awaited me in the solo drumming world.  Yes, the struggle is still there but I am really surprised how many people are interested in at least learning more about what I do with some already booking me for a future event.

So who is this Desert Drummer that some of you have heard about? I do talk about it a bit in my music memoir but I'll try to share some things in this blog that might be at least from a different perspective than all that I shared in my book:


It all started when I bought my first African drumming CD. I knew that all of the Latin rhythms that I heard growing up had come to this continent through the slave trade but I never took the time to hear the rhythms in what I call their original form. I wanted to explore these rhythms beyond the way they were used in the music of my childhood so I bought various African CD's or would check out CD's from various libraries that had world music titles in their collection.

Before I knew it I wanted to see if I could apply these rhythms to the drum set. This surprised the few people who knew what I was up to because they immediately thought that I would start playing on African drums and maybe join an African drumming ensemble. That was really never a thought that crossed my mind because I am not only a drummer but I am proud to say that I play the drum set and while many percussionists learn several instruments during their collegiate studies I believe that the drum set can be a life long study the same way people focus on instruments such as the piano, guitar, voice, etc. I have nothing against playing other percussion instruments as I in fact own several different types of instruments but the drum set has always been my first love as a musician.

On another note, the reason I shy away from the authentic instruments (besides the fact that I am not as wealthy as Mickey Hart and Stewart Copeland and don't have the room they have to store all of this stuff) is the amount of respect I have for those who created these beautiful rhythms as well as those who continue these traditions today. I did not grow up in these cultures so I would rather do something that is more of my interpretation of what they do rather than try to recreate the masterpieces that these amazing artists have already given to the world.

When I started to experiment with these rhythms I fell in love with the whole process. It wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be because I had already been working on Afro-Cuban rhythms for a number of years, which means that 4-way independence was not a foreign concept to me. To some that means that I have already been working on African rhythms but what I prefer to focus on is the fact that I had already been orchestrating rhythms around the drum set for some time. Still, it was more about playing each of these rhythms well and making sure that everything grooved so the key to getting it right was to play them over and over again.

But then it was time for the real challenge: soloing over ostinatos played with my feet. If I'm going to groove then the groove has to continue and there was no way that I was going to just stop keeping some kind of groove going with my feet while I went for it with my hands. That and the fact that I wanted my hands to do something more than just the typical type of drum soloing we normally see from drum set players. I wanted my solos to say something it wasn't just about being able to improvise over these ostinatos. I also had to be worked on phrasing various patterns over my feet and make sure these patterns said something. The best example I can give is a blues guitarist playing that painful lead over the back up band. It's not enough to just plug in your guitar and let loose. You have to tell a story with that you are playing and that is not easy to do.

The first thing I did was something I had never really done before and that was to record my practice sessions. I would listen to my grooves and my soloing ideas and I noticed that I wasn't just going from one thing to another but actually arranging different variations of each rhythm in a precise manner. In other words, I was playing a song on the drum set! And I noticed that some of these tunes went longer than a couple of minutes and to my ear it didn't seem to repetitive. I could be on to something here.

Hitting the Stage 

It was 2006 and I was gigging off and on with a friend's band in Southern California. One night we were preparing to do a 2-hour set at a local rock club so while we did a lot of their original songs we also added some covers to fill the time. Still, when they timed the set we still fell short of having enough material so that was when my buddy decided to approach me a couple of questions I didn't expect to hear from him: "Can you do a drum solo and can you do one that is longer than most?"


So that night we hit the stage at a place called DiPiazza's in Long Beach, CA, which was right by my old university stomping grounds of Cal State Long Beach. We did our thing as a band for quite a while but I was still excited when it was time for me to do my solo. The other guys exited the stage and that's when it was time to give the drummer some. 

Now this was far from my first drum solo in front of an audience but this would be the first time I took my new drumming ideas based on world rhythms to the stage so I was curious to see how the audience would react. I must have played for a good 5-6 minutes as I did a bunch of stuff around a 3:2 Son Clave. Yes, it's known as a Latin rhythm but I went further than just playing the rhythms that people usually heard on Santana songs. I incorporated the Kpanlogo drum patterns onto the toms before kicking into the improvisational part that was played over the Clave and Tumbao rhythms that my feet did throughout the solo. I then brought it back to the grooves I did at the beginning of the solo and then ended it.

The crowd roared its approval, which was the last nod I needed because if a rock crowd liked what I did then I could only imagine the reaction a crowd that was really into world rhythms. I had no idea what the future would hold for me but this encouraged me to at least give this idea of mine a shot.

I began to network my new solo act in the Southern California music scene that I had been a part of from 1991-2006. My wife and I had already made the decision to move to the Tucson area and it was now the spring of 2006. I knew I had a couple of months before leaving the state of my birth and I was determined to perform at least one time before moving away. It wasn't easy to say the least. To my surprise many of the booking agents were intrigued by the idea of what I was doing but were a bit gun shy when it came to giving it a go. Most of them were actually really encouraging when they declined to give me an opportunity to perform on their stages as they did appreciate what I was doing. They just had to think more about what they knew would make money rather than give something new a shot at performing at their venues. I totally understood even though it was always disappointing to be turned away.

To my surprise the venue that went for it was The Blue Cafe in Long Beach, CA. My performance would be in late May of 2006 and was literally less than two weeks before I would pack my drums and head to the Arizona desert. I was really moved by the fact that members of my family, several friends & former band mates along with some of my underage former students who schmoozed their way in to the venue came down to see what I was doing as a solo drummer. I practiced so much for the event so I felt comfortable in terms of what I was going to play but I still had no idea how the audience would react. Well, the reaction was better than I could hope for so it would not only be an encouraging night for me as an artist but also a nice way to say good bye to the Los Angeles music scene as a local performer.

Becoming the Desert Drummer 

It didn't take long for me to create this identity if you will since I was going to live in the desert but I was a bit surprised how quickly I was able to get gigs as solo drum set artist. I played at city sponsored outdoor events, in Master Class settings at colleges, high schools & other educational venues, on local television & radio shows and even in several clubs both in the Tucson and Phoenix areas. The best part about it was that all I really needed was a flat surface and enough room to set up my drums and I was off. Most importantly, I had a blast doing it!

There are two highlights for me that I would like to share with the first one being the featured musical performer at the Arizona Black Film Festival, which was held the year I performed there at the Phoenix Convention Center. Here I was surrounded by filmmakers and fans alike and I was scheduled to go on right after they presented Hollywood actress Lynn Whitfield with a lifetime achievement award. When she finished her speech she was actually the one to introduce me to the audience so I looked over at her and smiled when she called my name and then I was off. To say I was nervous was an understatement because I was in a packed house of people wearing African inspired clothing playing African rhythms all over my drum set. If there was ever a time to be on it was then and to be honest, I was in fact in the zone!

The second highlight for me was being invited on three occasions to perform at the Music Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The first time I was there I spent the day leading two Master Classes for museum patrons with my next two performances being solo performance spots for special events. This museum is incredible and is known around the world for several good reasons. So, to be invited there to perform on multiple occasions was a great honor indeed.

Now, after a bit of a break (or self-imposed exile if I want to be a little dramatic), I am back! I am happy to say that I am hitting the streets again while hitting the woodshed and not only relearning some of my old grooves but also working on new ideas for both solo performances and Master Class opportunities. For the past two school years I have been teaching percussion at St. Augustine Catholic High School and had a blast sharing all that I can with my students. Now, the idea of doing the same thing with other drummers excites me more than ever. I hope to share not only a different way of playing the instrument but also, perhaps I can inspire someone to have the courage to not only step out of their comfort zone but to try something on a creative level that they never saw themselves doing.

After all, I never saw this coming and now it is a passion of mine that simply won't go away.

I hope to see you all real soon at a Desert Drummer appearance. You can get regular updates on my solo performance schedule at:

Here is an older promo I did for Soultone Cymbals that features some of my solo drumming:

All inquiries for Master Classes & performances can be messaged through any of these social media websites. 

Carlos Solorzano

Monday, September 24, 2018

The End of the Road with KISS

I always knew that this day would come and of course now that it is 2018 I knew that the day was much closer than it was back when I was say a high school teen with musical dreams of his own. My favorite band of all time is about to embark on their final tour and there are so many thoughts and emotions racing through my being right now.

Being a KISS fan has never been easy. First, you have musical snobs and haters who have always had strong opinions about a band that hits the stage with outrageous costumes and a massive stage show. There are also those who simply hate their music, which is fine because there are plenty of bands out there whose music I don't like including The Beatles so as you can see there is no musical group that can please everyone. Of course there are also those who shake their heads at the antics of co-founder Gene Simmons who has even called himself delusional on several occasions so there really is no point to getting on his case about anything because he'll probably agree with you.

But that doesn't mean that the band hasn't meant the world to those like myself who have followed them in most cases, their entire life.   I think the best way to describe what it's like to be a KISS as well as why we are KISS fans was stated clearly and without question by  Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello at KISS' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: 

Enough said!

The Life Changer

My first exposure to KISS was like any other kid growing up in the late 1970's. I would see their pictures at local record stores and was totally fascinated with the image of the band.  Then when my parents would get together with friends at their homes many of these people had older kids who knew that I loved music and that I was interested in KISS. Many times they were nice enough to play their KISS records for me and that was the moment when I was hooked. Notice that these were NOT moments when I was exposed to a stage show or someone in makeup and costumes. I was listening to music and I have no problem or shame in saying that I liked what I heard. And, since this was a time when I began playing drums I was intrigued by the drumming of the great Peter Criss.

Before I knew it my mother and I were at the The Wherehouse record store at the Carson Mall and she bought me my first 45 single for the song I Was Made For Lovin' You. I still have it to this day with all of my other KISS records and other collectibles. Soon after that my father bought me the two album set Double Platinum, which has always been a treasure to me since it is a collection of the best songs from their first six albums. I love every song in that collection of hits and it was at that moment in my life when I studied them religiously to the point where I memorized each song and then played them in my head while I drummed Criss' parts on my own drum set. It was a great way to start learning how to play music regardless of what some musical snobs might say. To this day I have no problem saying that Criss was my first drumming hero.

I was eight years old when Peter Criss first left the band in 1980. At that point I had not been to my first concert so I never saw the original lineup back in their heyday. But as founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have said for years, the band is bigger than its members so once they brought in drummer Eric Carr to replace Criss I was just as devoted to the band as ever. That was also a time when many of their fans moved on to other things but I never went anywhere. I still bought their new albums and kept picking up the albums I didn't have in my collection because I was truly a fan of the band.

The Next Phase 

As I entered my pre-teen years I not only continued to study the band's music along with the drumming of Eric Carr but also attended my first of many KISS concerts. Love them or hate them, you have to respect them when it comes to their live show because no one does it better. As Rush bassist & vocalist Geddy Lee has said on many occasions, "No one works harder than KISS onstage." And mind you, this is a band that has always brought out some of the best opening bands ever who later went on to become international sensations in their own right. KISS was never threatened by the quality of the opening act as they would simply see it as a reason to take their set to the next level in order to make sure that the crowd remembered who the headliner really was. That is an an example of a band who knew how to bring it! 

This had a huge impression on me as I started playing in bands of my own. KISS members always talked about how the audience deserved the best and that anything less than your best was unacceptable. I thank them for branding this into my psyche because I have never been one to waste my time playing music I didn't want to play or with musicians who didn't know how to be professionals in all that they do. Aside from that, I also knew that every gig has to be your best performance so again, I set high standards for myself when it came to what I did onstage.

Aside from learning how to be a professional performer from the hottest band in the world I also developed a life long passion as a collector of KISS records. It all started for me when I couldn't find a vinyl copy of KISS Alive II in any record store. So I ordered that album along with an album called Killers that I saw was an import record from a mail order catalog and that's when my eyes were opened to the world of record collecting. When these albums arrived I also received a catalog that had other KISS import records along with extended singles, alternate covers...the works! Once my eyes feasted on all that was out there in record land I was hooked and couldn't wait to make my next order.

To this day I don't have as extensive of a collection as some KISS fans because I always knew that I could not afford everything but to be honest, I wasn't interested in just getting something for the sake of having it. However, the rare releases that I truly wanted I do have regardless of how long it took for me to get it. The best part of this experience is that my son now also has the same passion for record collecting with his focus being on his favorite band, the great Iron Maiden.

As a fan KISS' music got me through some really hard times. Being a teenage boy isn't easy and I can't tell you how many times the music of KISS as well as their take no prisoners approach helped me get through life when I was down and out. I think the messages that moved me the most were the ones to believe in yourself and not to take any lip from anyone, ever! And mind you, this came from a band who has ALWAYS had the odds against them. No one in the music industry EVER wanted KISS around. They were the band that simply refused to go away. So to be blunt, when KISS said such things and also LIVED what they preached it really gave me the confidence to believe in the creed that I could see worked for them. Yes, this short little kid that endured bullying and self-confidence issues was given the will to go on by the band that so many people hated. And, I am not the only one who had such an experience.

Devastation and a Realization 

As a young college student I remember hearing the news that my now favorite drummer ever and favorite KISS member of all time had passed away. When Eric Carr left us I felt that KISS should have called it a day. I know now that it was an unpacking of emotions that feared what the band would look and sound like once they brought in a new member. I was so angry that they continued on that I refused to buy any more albums and even refused a chance to see them in concert one night when a friend of mine had an extra ticket that he was willing to offer me. This would go on for another four years!

It wasn't until they performed on MTV Unplugged when I was willing to end my protest. I had heard that original drummer Peter Criss and lead guitarist Ace Frehley were making a guest appearance so being a fan of the band for so long I just had to see it. It was beautiful to see because the chemistry of the original lineup was still there and, I had to admit that the then current lineup that featured lead guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer was nothing less than spectacular. I had a sense of pride that I hadn't felt before because this band that wouldn't go away whose music was such a joke that it required stage outfits and a huge production went onstage with acoustic guitars and drums and gave one of the best performances in the show's history:

This performance showed the world what KISS fans already knew: this is a great band!

The emotion I felt brought me home and I will admit that I was so proud to be a KISS fan again. Well, I always was. I guess I was just being a brat and thinking that my ignoring them would somehow have an impact on their career. Nope. These are the same survivors that they have always been so why wouldn't they continue on even after the death of Eric Carr?

Most importantly, this is my favorite band but it is NOT my band! Who was I to dictate to them what they should or shouldn't do? If I love KISS that's fine but what about those who love being in KISS? And what about the two members who founded and maintained KISS all of these years? Was it my place to tell them what to do with their brand? I sure as hell never wanted anyone to tell me what to do with my bands so yes, after some self-reflection it was time to come home and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Time Traveler 

In 1996 the original lineup had decided to reunite for what would be the most anticipated tour in the history of the band. Now I was in my early 20's and able to see the lineup that started the magic. How appropriate that I would go with my mother to the concert since she was always supportive of my interests and bought so many of my treasures for me (for those who are wondering about it, this was not my mom's first or last KISS concert. She rocks!).

The night was one of great excitement and anticipation. I will never forget the feeling I had when the lights when out and the roar of the crowd filled The Forum in Los Angeles. Then, my first group of musical heroes took the stage. This was my first time seeing the band in makeup so the thrill was like nothing I could ever explain. The band delivered like I knew they would because these were the four guys who created the standard by which every replacement member believed in and lived by. It was an experience I will never forget.

I would go on to see them two more times, which included what we all thought was going to be the Farewell Tour in 2001. I remember the emotions from that night as I had honestly felt that I had seen my favorite band for the last time. I was okay with the idea because I felt that they had given me plenty of memories to last a lifetime. Plus, I was also grateful for all that they had done for me, especially when they helped me get through some pretty hard times.

Of course every band has something within that unit that even the fans are not a part of and in most cases, will never understand. Once Peter Criss and Ace Frehley parted ways with the band again Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided to carry on with Eric Singer back on drums and now Tommy Thayer on guitar. I had no problem with this because having been in plenty of bands myself I know first hand of the drama that goes on along with the desire that a musician has to carry on with their career even if someone else no longer wants to be part of the group. Once again, who was I or anyone else to tell the band what they could do with their brand?

Fans are free to come and go to whatever show they want but I did get a chance to see this lineup on the Sonic Boom tour and I have nothing but good things to say about them. The standard that I had known all of my life was still there. Both Singer and Thayer were top notched professionals who more than filled Criss and Frehley's shoes and I have no problem stating that it was one of the best KISS concerts I ever attended.

The End of the Road? 

Time has brought us to this moment and while I knew it was inevitable there is in fact a great truth about great music and great art in general: it does last forever! I am happy to say that I will be a part of this final run as I will attend the show on February 13, 2019 in Glendale, AZ with my best friend for life as well as my son. My best friend is the one who has been on this journey with me and my son is the one who I introduced the band to who is now a fan himself. And, did I mention that February 13 is my mother's birthday? What better way to do this on what better day to do this? 

Yes, it will make me sad when the band takes their final bow but my love for their music and my pride in being a KISS fan will never die. Insults from musical snobs and pretentious elitists mean nothing to me because such people were never around when I needed a pick me up. Many of these other groups that people say are superior to this joke of a group called KISS never wowed me with their performances. And once again, to those who want to bring up this tired old criticism again about KISS being nothing but a stage show...when I'm in the car and rocking out to their music there are no costumes or stage shows. I am listening to their music and love it as much if not even more than I did as that young boy who discovered them back in the late 1970's!

So thank you to: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Eric Carr (RIP), Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John (RIP), Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. You all made an impact on my life and I will never forget all of that you have done for me. You will always be:

          The Hottest Band in the World!!!!! 

Carlos Solorzano

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Persistence Over Frustration

The other day I was talking to a friend about all of the things that come with being a working and/or professional musician. Of course the joy that comes with creating or making music with other amazing artists is the most rewarding thing but there are so many things that surround that experience that at times make a musician question why they continue doing what they are doing. Immediately it made me think of a small section from the introduction to my music memoir:

Music was my first love and will always hold a special place in my heart. It has offered me all of the joys and trials that can only come from a loving relationship. Music gives me purpose and frustrates me. It fills me with a joy beyond words while also breaking my heart. It allows me to succeed while also humbling me. It has been my best friend and a vicious adversary. It was a dream beyond all dreams while also being something I wish I could have done without. Finally, music has also been my loyal bride and my deceitful mistress.

And deep down I have loved all of the joy and the abuse!

So many times I wanted to react to many of these obstacles by walking away from the music scene once and for all. Many of these experiences were quite painful and at times made me question if my love for music was worth the struggle but somehow I found a way to continue with my music career. When people have asked what made me do it I guess aside from my love of playing music I also found the good in each situation that made me want to continue, even if I had to start over yet again.

Early Days 

My first professional gig was on May 2, 1991. It was 18 years old and playing in a heavy metal band that wrote our own music. We worked hard both in rehearsing our music and putting a show together and performed all over the Los Angeles music scene. On more than one occasion we met with music producers and managers both in their homes and even at our rehearsal location. Many people seemed to like our music but that was also a time when I vividly remember a changing music scene that concerned me due to the fact that my band didn't quite sound like this new thing that began to appear on MTV as well as my local Rock radio station.

It was the early 90's and grunge music was the new flavor of the week so before I knew it my band that seemed to be going in the right direction in terms of where the music scene had been was now a dinosaur in what was now seen as a new ground breaking sound. We were dead in the water and soon we would go through a series of painful circumstances before deciding to go our separate ways.

At the time I was also studying music in college so I was learning how to play different styles of music knowing that diversity was an important part of being a professional musician. Still, it was a time when I dreamed of being in a world renown Rock band so most people assumed I would jump into the grunge scene and see where it would take me. The problem was, I hated grunge music so I was not interested in playing with any band that wanted to jump on what I saw was a depressing band wagon. Sorry folks, but music is supposed to be fun so the last thing I wanted to do was work with people who either were or wanted to pretend to be on suicide watch.

Moving On 

I cannot invest my time and most importantly my heart in music that I don't feel a connection to. When I wasn't playing in a band I would jam with other musicians working on new styles of music while also keeping my eyes on the scene. Fortunately, I would find other groups that had a sound that I not only liked but believed in, which allowed me to keep taking my shot at the big time. Now I was working with management companies who got us big shows opening for world renown artists at popular music venues, spent time working in upscale recording studios and even had the chance to spend some time at record company office meetings. While I was always sure to keep my eyes focused on reality one could not help but wonder if this dream of mine was actually going to happen.

Of course the closer I seemed to get was also the moment when I could see that I was still so far away. We're talking about big business here so there are lots of dollars to be spent on a band that the labels hoped would turn a profit for them. The problem is that as an artist I always loved doing something that was very different, which could be a big problem for business minded people. I get it but still, I wondered how they could be so hesitant to take some of the bands I worked with to the next level after seeing us annihilate a huge crowd with some amazing music. Of course they never went for the bait but were always gracious with their reasons for passing on us while also having suggestions for what could make us more appealing in the future. As simple as that sounds that's when a group of people had to decide what they were going to do next and believe me when I say that such a thing can lead to some serious disagreements.

I was never one to resist change but when people wanted to take the band in a direction that I disagreed with it was hard to put in the same effort that I did prior to this change or even proposed change of direction. Sadly, there were times when I realized that things would never be the same and when I no longer believed in the vision of what we were doing it was either time to depart or this would become yet another band that mutually decide to part ways.

Changing Priorities 

When I reached my early thirties I was now married with a child and a home. At that time I made the decision to redirect my focus by becoming a working drummer in the local music scene so I could earn more money for my young family and be able to stay close to home in order to provide the necessary emotional support for my wife and infant son.

Working with original bands that were always having to promote their brand helped a lot in terms of preparing a resume and other promotional materials. However, now I was the only member of the team that was responsible for putting my name out there so I ended up doing more networking than I had in the past. It was nice in the fact that I didn't have to answer to other people with different ideas but now all of my progress depended on my own efforts, which at times was exhausting. I had to become a business person who stayed on the cutting edge of what was current both in the music scene as well as in the music business. And, I had to do this while maintaining my abilities on my drum set.

The other challenge was that I had to focus less on creating music and now on learning other people's music. As an artist it wasn't always fulfilling on a creative level but now that I was a family man the extra money more than made up for my lack of creative output. In some ways it also gave me some peace because by now I accepted the fact that the world may not really be interested in the songs that I wrote or helped write but I was more than happy to see the number of musicians who did value my drumming abilities, which in turn kept me working.

I Was Wrong 

The creative artist in me wouldn't leave me alone as I was deeply inspired by my love for world rhythms. I started to write and record my own original drumming compositions, which led me to make my own solo CD. Honestly, this project was nothing more than the fulfillment of a personal goal but before I knew it I was going to start working in two worlds that I knew nothing about.

The first world was the music distribution world. At the time my CD was only available as an EP that I myself designed and put out as a hard copy as an independent artist. At the time online sales were just starting up for such artists so I pretty much did all of the marketing and selling on my own. Soon after, and to my surprise, I was contacted by someone from a company called Peacework Music and found out that they were interested in distributing my music online. It was a pretty cut and dry deal with me as an artist having more rights to my recordings since I had already financed the recording project. Now my music had an online presence and it was great to know that people from all over the world were now hearing and buying my music, especially when they contacted me to tell me how much they enjoyed my CD.

Later on I was contacted (and continue to hear from others) by someone who was interested in adding my music to films and television shows. I didn't really know a lot about this other world that I now had to learn about, which was the world of music licensing world so I had to learn a lot and fast. In this case it wasn't so much of me having to deal with any type of obstacle or frustration but I did have make sure that I knew now to negotiate such deals in a way where I wouldn't short change myself. Thankfully, I had a lot of amazing musical peers who had experience in this world who were more than willing to help.

Of course it was a great feeling to have this happen to me and I was certainly very proud of my accomplishments. Still, I wonder to this day if the same thing might happen to music I have written where I use instruments beyond the world of percussion. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't but all I can do is move forward and hope that perhaps one day someone might be interested in one of those pieces of music that is not one of my drumming compositions. Either way, I am still grateful for the

Changing Times

Twelve years ago I moved to the Tucson area and continued to work in the local music scene. I was more than content to do that but then an opportunity came about that hit me by surprise. Being a practicing Catholic meant that my faith life was important to both me and my family but the last thing I thought would happen was first, that I would join another original band and second, that it would be a faith based group.

That was exactly what I did when I helped start a band called Come Thirsty. At first we just wanted to learn some popular Christian songs and serve the Christian community with our musical performances. However, once the band found that it had a special musical chemistry we began working on our own material that was most pleasing to our audience. Eventually people started asking when we were going to record and release these songs and once we had a full album's worth of material we got started. Once the album was completed we came in contact with an independent record company from the Midwest. We ended up signing a contract with them so here I was at a time in my life when I thought I was way past that moment with a pen in my hand and a record contract in front of me.

To be honest I didn't get real excited about it. I was at a point in my musical career where I knew that nothing was as good as it seemed. While there were so many great things that came out of having this deal there were still so many obstacles for the band to endure. The most frustrating thing was that we never got the support from the label that we had hoped for. I felt like we were still doing the bulk of the work in terms of selling CD's and booking gigs in more high end places (in this case it would be bigger churches). We did have a label rep and they were supposed to be helping us with all of this because after all, selling CD's would also benefit them but when it came to getting to work these people were just not there for us. Still, we moved on and went as far as we could until the band decided to call it quits a few years ago. Even though things didn't turn out the way I hoped I will admit that I learned a lot from this experience and of course am proud of the fact that the record deal thing did in fact happen at least once in my musical career.

Onward and Upward

The focus on my work today is to keep writing music for more licensing opportunities and to sty active as a performer. Each of these things keeps me busy and I do enjoy working in these two musical environments. The difficult part though is the networking, which is always a bit of a chore. Sending out emails, phone calls, saying the same things over and over as you try to book more shows and peddle your music to those who you think might be interested. There are times when you don't even get a response or those moments when people do want to do business with you but take forever to get things done. Sadly, that's just how the music business works.

Lucky for me that I am working with people who are both honorable and appreciative of what I do. Even after all these years I had to/will have to deal with people who treat you like family one day and then turn on you in a moment's notice because for some reason they no longer have any use for you. Even though I expect that to happen based on past experiences it's never easy to deal with because even the most experienced musician is still in fact a person with feelings. In my case, I give my all to any project I am involved with because it's both respectful to those I am working with and because I care about my own legacy so yes, this type of business is very personal to me.

I would be lying if I didn't say that there were days when I just want to walk away from this rat race once and for all but I can never bring myself to do that. Music is in my blood but it's also in my soul. Being a musician is who I am, not what I do so like anything else in life, you just have to move on and continue to make things happen.

Get your copy of my music memoir, A Speck in the Sand at:

Carlos Solorzano

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Feeling the Groove and Soul of Sonoran Sol

After a bit of a break my Jazz/Fusion/Funk band Sonoran Sol will be hitting the stage again real soon. Our last show was at the Main Gate Summer Concert Series and it was a great night. Even though we had some rain postpone our start time our set was a great one as we were excited to play an outdoor gig for a large audience who was totally into what we were doing. Interestingly enough, this was the gig that caused me to pull the band out of mothballs but I have to say that there is so much more to be grateful for than this great night.

My band mates are awesome and it all starts with guitarist Dan Griffin, who I have known since moving to the Old Pueblo in the summer of 2006. From the early days of the this band he has pretty much been there and his contribution to the group is something that cannot be put into words. When we play out people see an amazing guitarist who shows a true knowledge of the instrument...but that is just the beginning. Dan acts more or less as the musical director of the group as he puts the charts together while also throwing suggestions for songs that always bring excitement to our shows. He is also a good person to bounce ideas off of when it comes to the business end of things (that's my domain) so you can say that he is the consummate professional.

Bassist Bobby Elias has been a shot in the arm for the group, which is most interesting because this is the first time we have committed to working as a trio. Dan has known and worked with Bobby for many years and said that he knew the two of us would click as a rhythm section. I am more than happy to say that he was right because from the get go we have had a blast playing together. When we groove we groove and I am always surprised at the amount of energy that the two of us create, before Dan tears it up with his amazing guitar licks.

If someone asked me how I felt about taking this group back out into the performance world I would say that I am grateful. You see, for many years it was really hard to book gigs for an instrumental group and being a musician who loves to stretch himself from time to time I always missed doing these type of shows. However, when I was contacted by Jonas Hunter to see if my group would be interested in performing for this amazing summer concert series I figured it was time to give it another shot in order to see what was out there.

Dan and I decided to make a demo that featured some excerpts from a couple of the songs that we play and once I had that ready to go I started to hit up some local venues. I was hopeful because many of these venues were not around during the band's last run so perhaps our sound would make a good impression on them. To my surprise many of them were very interested in the band and offered dates right away. Therefore, we were booked for several gigs before the impending summer gig.

We started with an appearance on The Morning Blend television show on KGUN here in Tucson thanks to the fact that I had done some solo drumming appearances in the past. I figured it would be a great way to market the band while also getting some free video links out of it.

I was more than happy to see how much of an impact it made because once I had those links in my back pocket I was able to get even more shows. Many of the booking agents liked our energy and the fact that we were doing something different from so many other jazz bands here in town. I've always been someone who was willing to step outside of the box so I was more than happy at such a response but I have to give a nod to Dan on that one because his musical vocabulary is off the charts and he has always suggested we play some great tunes that not only have a great groove but also have a certain edge to them.

So we started to hit the stage and from the get go it has been a blast. We hit places likes Bear Track U, The Artful Space, Royal Sun, Growler's Taphouse, Noble Hops Gastropub, and then also performed at some great events like the Family Friendly Cinco de Mayo Celebration at Tohono Chul Park and of course, the Main Gate Summer Concert Series at Geronimo Plaza. Each of these shows were a great time as I got to play some great music with some great band mates while also stretching myself as a drummer.

First off, I've done a lot of country gigs these past six years and while I continue to do that (and yes, I love these gigs) Sonoran Sol's set list requires me to have a totally different approach to the instrument. Country gigs are all about precision and timing as I am responsible for keeping the dance floor moving. However, with Sonoran Sol there are bounce beats, shuffles, Latin grooves, Funk and some of those really out there fusion beats. Syncopation is the name of the game with dynamics playing a huge part in everything that we do. Out in the audience we have fans of instrumental music, musicians who watch every move we make and, my favorite people to watch, those who get up and dance! In other words, the diversity of what we play is off the charts.

It's a different world from my gigs with the Tony Corrales Band and I absolutely love it. Sometimes I am asked which gig I prefer and the truth is there is no right or wrong answer. It's music and anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that music is a deep passion of mine with my musical vocabulary including not only Country and Jazz/Fusion/Funk but also Rock, Heavy Metal, Progressive, R & B, Pop, Classical, World Music and just about anything else out there that has a good groove. It's like eating fine food. There are so many ways to prepare a great meal and thanks to the diversity of cultures in our world we have so much to choose from. The same thing applies to music and to me it's all about feeling a connection to what I am playing. In this case, the connection is there both to the music I play with the group as well as my band mates.

So as we come to the end of August I am excited because I know that I am about to start my fall run with Sonoran Sol. It all starts on September 16 at Noble Hops Gastropub in Oro Valley and we hope to see you all there.

Carlos Solorzano

Sunday, August 19, 2018

TCB: Six Months Later

Everyone knows the story...I made the decision to take a big step out of the local country music scene with the intention of only working in more intimate settings with my jazz trio Sonoran Sol while spending more time at home with my family while doing more non-musical things. It seemed to be the right thing to do at the time and I was looking forward to making some changes in my life.

That was until my my brother from another mother, Tony Corrales contacted me two weeks into my semi-hiatus with his plans to put the Tony Corrales Band back together. It was not a phone call I expected but as everyone knows, if there was one reason to change my plans it would be to rejoin my brothers in the band that I had been with for over 5 years! After all, we had already been through so much together and through those ups and downs we had established not only an amazing musical chemistry but a personal bond that was unbreakable.

From the moment we started rehearsing again...the magic was back! Playing that first song with the guys again was a real homecoming for me as my heart was filled with joy. After a few more rehearsals we found ourselves back in the Tropico Lounge at the Casino del Sol before a big crowd of country music fans who had waited over a year to see the band again. Once we hit the stage it was just like it had been before, which was five guys acting as one as we performed our hearts out for the good people who came to see us. Nothing makes us happier than seeing a dance floor full of happy people who were just as happy to see us as we were to see them.

We were all home!

Hearing Tony's voice fill the stage again was not only a treat for our fan base but also for his drummer who always loved backing up that sweet manly sound. Then there was Joey Cota and his amazing guitar licks that take our upbeat songs over the top while adding nice layers to those sweet buckle polisher ballads. Of course you can't forget Robert Rojas and his solid acoustic guitar work along with his amazing vocals both as a background & lead vocalist. Finally, there is my rhythm section partner in crime Alex Quinonez whose thumping bass lines help me keep that dance floor moving while his beautiful back up harmonies complete the sound of the band.

Was it possible for me to be any happier?

The answer was yes! For the longest time the boss man had wanted to add a fiddle to the sound of the band and it finally happened when he met a lovely little lady named Rose Springfield-Briones.  It didn't take long for her to come in and add so much to the band's sound with her fiddle work as well as her vocals. Aside from that, she's a little firecracker at times as she knows how to handle us crazy fools thanks to her incredible sense of humor and quick wit. In other words, she fit right in!

The first gig we did as a sextet was at a private wedding party back at Casino del Sol. It was a nice way for all of us to feel each other out as it was Rose's first gig with the band and only Alex's second gig. Still, we sounded great and could see that we were really on to something. Soon we would back in the Tropico Lounge for an eager crowd who had heard whispers of a new member added to the group. Rose did not disappoint as everyone saw just how talented she was. This led so many people to say that they band never sounded better and I can assure you all that the rest of us felt the same way.

Rose's fiddle and background vocals added so much color to the sound of the band. The best part about it though was that it brought even more out of the rest of us. Some of my favorite things to watch are when her and Joey switch off on solos on the more up tempo songs. Not only are they lighting up the stage but they are pushing Alex, Robert and me to hit the groove even harder, which rocks the dance floor even more. The energy that this band is producing now is something that none of us have experienced in the past and in a lot of ways we're still just getting started. 

Our next performance would be at the Monsoon Club at the Desert Diamond Casino on a night where the local monsoon weather (no pun intended) made its presence known. Early in our set the power went out for a moment before the back up generators allowed the show to go on but we suspected that the storm was not quite done with us. When the power went out again there was a moment of spontaneity when Rose looked over at me and suggested that we do something for the audience in order to get their minds off of the darkened room. We went into a special jam of "Orange Blossom Special" and that's when everyone in the room, including the other members of TCB saw just how amazing this little lady was. Eventually Joey would also join in with one of his blazing solos while Robert, Alex and me threw that groove down. The audience went crazy and that energy pretty much carried us through the rest of the night.

Then we performed in Sonoita, AZ at the Copper Brothel Brewery and let me tell you, this was a change of scenery. Not only were we in wine country but we were in a much smaller place performing for the locals who came out to have a great time. We continued to work as a unit as we had to pay close attention to our volume and our dynamics. That was the least of my concerns because I had no doubt of the professionalism of my band mates. I was more curious to see how the locals would respond to the band.

Let me tell you, that was a big party! People were up and dancing anywhere they could. At times they were even sliding through the empty spaces between tables where people were dining for the evening. We had as much fun as we did at any casino gig as this crowd brought some serious energy with them. We can't wait to go back there again.

Of course we recently did another show at the Tropico Lounge at CDS and once again, had a great time performing for another amazing crowd.  This time everyone got to see Rose sing a few lead vocals along with a couple of duets with Tony so once again, TCB showed that we are are expanding our sound as a band. That and the fact that the band is getting tighter both as a musical unit as well as a family.

Music is a cut throat business and that's really sad because the relationships that come from being in a band can be really special. Experience prepares you for such things but it's still disappointing to see how some people go about their business because one day you're the best of friends (usually because they are happy that your talents are making them look good) and then the next day you become a liability that they can't wait to kick you to the curb.

The special thing about this band is that everyone is a good person first and then we can talk about their musical abilities. Alex and Rose are the most recent additions to our band family and immediately saw the culture that Tony created within the group: once you're in, you're in! You are valued, you are respected and your feelings matter to everyone! Even our former members mean just as much to us as they did when they were in the band because they are still part of the family (Big hello to Thomas, Mike & AJ...miss and love you guys).

The adventure continues as we not only have some gigs booked next month but are hitting the road for the first time in years! First, we are heading to Las Cruces, NM to perform at a wedding. I am really looking forward to this not only to perform in a new place but wondering what it's going to be like to hit the road for a couple of days with these crazy people.  Then we're back in AZ but will be down in Douglas as we were invited to headline a Saturday night gig at the Cochise County Fair. Again, this is going to be a blast and another trip into the unknown with my band family.

As I look toward the end of the year we will be back at the Tropico Lounge at CDS and at the Copper Brothel Brewery and while I am looking forward to those gigs I must say that there are a couple of gigs on our calendar in a familiar place that warms my heart. We will end the year returning to the Outlaw Saloon, which is where it all started for TCB. We have performed so many gigs there in the past and to finally come back home will be such a treat for all of us. I can't wait for those good folks to see how we sound now with Alex and Rose while the newest additions to our band family receive the welcome I know they will get from those at the Outlaw Saloon who love TCB. 

Someone recently told me that I have never sounded happier about being in this band. They were right and as time goes on I know that my happiness will increase all the more.  Never have I felt more blessed to be in a band than I feel right now being back where I belong.

Carlos Solorzano

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Let's Turn it Around: Add Some Rock to Your Jazz Drumming

A few months ago I came across this article written by Brad Schlueter in DRUM! Magazine and really enjoyed it. Schlueter spoke clearly of the benefits of learning a different style of music and I couldn't agree more because the more styles you learn the better you will become as an all around musician. Schlueter also provided several exercises that will help a Rock drummer become familiar with Jazz drumming so I applaud the depth he brought to his discussion.

One of the things that Schlueter mentioned that I would like to focus on was that learning Jazz will improve one's improvisational skills, enhance one's coordination and expand one's sensitivity in their playing. While I don't disagree with this I would like to say that there are too many musicians who may not see the same value in having a Jazz drummer learn some Rock, as if Rock music may not have similar benefits from a different point of view. I already offered my thoughts on musical snobbery in another blog: ( but in this case I would like to flip the switch and discuss how Rock drumming can benefit those who play other styles of music.

Discovering Rock and Roll 

I grew up in a house with a family who loved music. My parents loved Latin Jazz, Chicano Rock, traditional Mexican music, R & B, Motown, Pop/Rock and just about anything with a great beat. When I was about eight years old I discovered KISS and my life would never be the same. As a teenager I was totally into Rock music (even though I still loved my parents' music) and it consumed me for many years. I would go on to add Iron Maiden, Stryper, Queensryche, Winger, Journey and many others to my musical vocabulary and it didn't matter to me if my musical peers thought, especially in a college music program, because this was the music I liked and I was never going to apologize for it. Some even told me I was wasting my time with this kind of stuff but I didn't feel that way when I was playing in packed clubs on Sunset Strip while my critics were in restaurants and cafes performing for people who usually weren't even listening.

First Lesson 

Now it's time to share some of the important things I learned about music and drumming thanks to Rock and Roll.  Right away I would like to say that I am not a showman so twirling my sticks and pointing at people in the audience was never my forte. Keep in mind though that some Jazz drummers have been known at times to be showman and there's nothing wrong with that because an audience deserves to be entertained.

Musically, Rock drumming has benefited my playing in so many ways. First off, it has taught me how to have a commanding presence. When you're driving a Rock band you must have power and that doesn't necessarily mean you have to hit really hard. You can still be a solid player with some drive without destroying your gear (I despise that part of Rock drumming). I still use one play heads on my drum set and am on the artist roster for Drum Dots so I have no issue with muffling my drums. However, I do have a big sounding drum set that does cut through with any band that I play with. And if anyone thinks for one second that such drumming is without some form of technique then they should listen to this performance by the great Nicko McBrain, who is not only a drummer in a heavy metal band but also a drummer with an extensive musical background including Jazz:

You will see that he doesn't just play a straight beat (more on that later) but has a strong presence in all that he plays. I saw McBrain open a show with this song back in the year 2000 and then deliver close to two more hours of drumming that was not only powerful but dynamic, which is important to say because there are still many who think that Rock music lacks the musicality of genres such as Jazz and I couldn't disagree more. Here's an example of a variation of different drumming styles that McBrain does in one song:

Second Lesson

Another thing I learned from Rock drumming is to have a consistent groove. Some might actually ask how this is not demonstrated in Jazz drumming but I will argue that at times playing with more of a swing feel does it fact inhibit one's ability to lay into the drum in a strong and consistent way. Sometimes there is just too much bounce and when this happens it makes a song feel like it's all over the place. Take for example the song Moon Germs. It's a great tune and a standard that my own Jazz/Fusion trio performs at our shows but I really don't care for the introduction on this particular version:  I know that many would accuse me of blasphemy since I am not impressed with Jack DeJohnette's performance but to me he isn't really playing with the band as he plays more through the band. The main melody is really cool and in a Rock context one would match the rhythm in order to give it greater emphasis. In this case there is just a ton of notes all over the place and as far as I'm concerned, there is no consistent groove. Yes, it is in time and sure, I guess it really swings but to my ear it does not groove.

Also, there are times when I think someone can play too much Jazz to the point where it hurts their feel in a non-swing context. If you want to stick to Jazz, great, but if you're going to cross boundaries into other musical genres you have to be able to do the job and do it right.

Take for example the classic Journey song Separate Ways (World's Apart). It's a great tune with great vocals and great pop sensibilities but it must have a drummer that really drives the song. In the original recording the drums were performed by Steve Smith and it's a great performance.

Years later it would be performed with drummer Deen Castronovo and this is where it really had some drive: I love the power and presence that Castronovo brought to the song and for me, this is the way it should be played because after all, it's Rock and Roll. This is also a song that Journey tends to open their shows with so they have to bring the energy to the crowd from the get go.

Surprisingly when Smith returned to the band in 2016 his performance on the same song that he recorded lacked the drive and presence that it had back in the early 80's. Of course he had been playing a lot of Jazz for many years prior to his return to Journey and I would argue that this changed his drumming enough where he couldn't do what he did in the past. Of course this is just my opinion but when I compare this performance: to what he did in the past or to say to Castronovo's performance I must say that I was rather disappointed when I saw the band open the show I attended in Phoenix back in May of 2016.. This type of music requires both presence and attitude and no one should have to apologize for that. In other words, this is not a time to tell everyone that you were trained as a Jazz drummer, which Smith loves to say on a regular basis. This is a time to step up and tell everyone that they need to get on the train or get out of the way. In fact (and not meaning to bring up a sour point from the past), if you listen to the Journey album Raised on Radio one can sort of see perhaps why vocalist Steve Perry had Smith relieved from his post in the band. The late session master Larrie Londin provided a much more solid back beat like no one had ever provided on a Journey album prior to this release and with Perry also being a drummer I guess he knew what he wanted to hear. Again, there are times when you need to stop worrying about how well you swing and think more about how well you lay down that back beat.

A Rocker in Other Musical Settings 

As life went on I moved away from the Rock scene because I grew tired of the type of people I had to deal with from the musicians to the venue owners & promoters who always wanted something for nothing (not to say that such things don't exist in other musical scenes). Now that I had a family and a home to maintain I preferred to work in settings where I would get more decent & consistent pay. Lately that has led me to play a lot of Country music (hey, I live in Tucson, AZ so think about that before you throw mud) and Jazz/Fusion.

In terms of playing Country music my Rock background has helped me push these bands in ways that most members were not used to. Again, I am not the hardest hitter in the world but my time spent in Rock meant that I had experience pushing bands that played at high volumes with that Rock and Roll attitude. Of course when I am playing Country music I always have to be conscious of my tempo as well as my dynamics because while many of these songs are simple they require one to be very precise in what they do because the listeners are both used to hearing the songs as they know them while also wanting to dance the night away. But, I have noticed how many people love the fact that I kick my bass and snare a little harder or maybe with just a tad more attitude than most of the Country drummers in town. Fortunately I can also say that my brothers in the Tony Corrales Band also like the drive I bring to the band, which I equate both to the feel that Rock music requires along with the consistency that one has to maintain, even when they are playing to a click track since the music is also somewhat simple and in need of a groove that must be spot on.

Ironically I must make a comment here on how playing a lot of Country music has impacted my Jazz playing. When I started working in the Country scene I became so busy for a number of years that I had to put my Jazz/Fusion band away for a while. Little did I know that I would be playing so many shuffles and waltzes with many of these songs at times requiring a light tough that it actually improved my swing playing. So for any Rock drummer out there who might want to experiment with Jazz I suggest you play some Country music first.

In terms of how Rock drumming impacted my Jazz/Fusion playing I humbly bow my head and say that it is not best to speak of my drumming as it would be best to refer everyone to the true drumming greats such as Billy Cobham, Tony Williams and Lenny White. They are the true forefathers of Fusion music and still amaze me with some of their musical masterpieces that continue to have an impact on so many drummers today. Take a listen to Billy Cobham's Spectrum, Crosswinds & Total Eclipse, Tony Williams' Emergency, Believe It & Million Dollar Legs and Lenny White's Venusian Summer and The Adventures of Astral Pirates. The best way I would describe these albums is slammin' soul because these guys really know how to bring the beat! You want to talk about drummers who not only have the feel but also the power and attitude that was required for drive this groundbreaking music and none of these drummers shied away from stating the fact that they were fine with the idea of adding some Rock drumming into the mix.


Again, I am for people learning different musical styles because it not only expands our musical vocabulary but also teaches our bodies to play our instruments in different ways. This would be similar to athletes who learn how to use their bodies in different types of sports, which teaches them how to perform better in their main sport (think boxers who add swimming and ballet to their training regimen). I applaud Schlueter for sharing with us how Jazz drumming can have a positive impact on Rock drumming but let's not forget that Rock drumming can have the same impact on Jazz drumming with the proof being in some famous recordings provided by drummers out there who not only expanded their musical vocabulary but also did so knowing that they might face some heat from musical snobs who believe that certain musical genres have nothing to teach us.

The proof is in the pudding and this pudding tastes pretty good.

Carlos Solorzano

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Godspeed Mountain Man: Remembering Jeff Sanders

Earlier this week I heard the devastating news that my friend and former band mate Jeff Sanders had died in a house fire. Jeff was someone I met when I was a member of the band Come Thirsty and was someone I worked with for a little over four years before he decided to move on and do other things. To say that my heart is broken over this would be an understatement because he was such a great guy that everyone loved.

We first spoke on MLK Day in 2009 when I was driving home from CA after spending a weekend at NAMM in Anaheim, CA. I was helping put together a Christian band with my wife Minh and another musician friend of mine named Rich Phillips. Jeff was responding to one of our ads and we had a great conversation on the phone. I couldn't wait to meet him.

When the four of us met there was a magic that I can't describe. Jeff fit right in because he was such a nice guy and was the exact person we had hoped to find in a guitarist. Like the rest of us he had this urge to use his musical gifts to praise the Lord and he coulnd't wait to get together and rehearse for the first time as a quartet. Once that happened it was absolutely incredible! The chemistry between the four of us was amazing with Jeff really being the last piece we needed to complete the sound of the band.

Right away we had put together a few original songs along with some covers and before we knew it we were out there performing at various churches and faith based events. The band always received a great response from those in attendance with everyone of course loving Jeff's playing. He was such a great rhythm player so the groove was always solid but he also played these great solos that told stories, which was great because it helped push the emotion of the stories Minh sang in the songs. Aside from that, he loved people so he was always very approachable and was willing to talk to anyone about anything, regardless of how long it took.

Jeff was very proud of the songs that we wrote and he had a right to be since he was a big contributor to our sound. We all collaborated on everything we wrote but Jeff and Minh really defined our sound. When they two of them got together he would throw out these riffs that always set her off. Then Rich and I would add our flavors to the song and then it was done.

Our first encounter with Jeff musically was an idea he had for a song that would be known as I Surrender. He was a great acoustic guitarist and he had this lick that just propelled us to create this great song.  He also loved that Spanish sound of the guitar so to put something like this together took very little effort from him as he was totally in his element. This was a song people loved to sing along to and dance to at all of our shows:

He was really proud of the song Elijah, which was the song that was known as our epic because it had such a beautiful story based on the life of the Old Testament prophet. I remember he had some cool ideas both musically and in terms of the visuals he would speak when he played his riffs for us. This was always such a fun song to play live because it was always so dramatic: 

He had a very unique rhythm style and the song that really displayed his amazing technique was the song I Love You Anyway. Once Jeff came up with the opening riff Minh wanted to write a song for those people we met at shows who would tell us about their personal struggles and how God's grace saved them from these struggles. Aside from that he could really throw down a lead and I have always loved his lead on this song because of the story it tells within the story shared by the lead vocal performance.

Finally, when talking about the special chemistry we had as a band, this version of the classic Christian song Breathe really says it all. You will hear why it was also a song that many people asked us to perform at each our our shows.

Aside from being a great musician Jeff just had what I call a positive enthusiasm. He was always in a good mood as he saw any chance to play music as a gift. But he was just an enthusiastic about his other interests. He was into all kinds of things from painting to making weapons to being a survival enthusiast. That's what led us to call him Mountain Man because he always loved being outdoors.

The other thing he was really passionate about was teaching guitar. He had several private students as well as classes at places like Pima Community College and he would talk all the time about his love for teaching. One of my favorite memories of Jeff the guitar teacher was when we were all hanging out after a gig one Sunday afternoon. We ended up at Guitar Center and the moment he walked in the door many of the sales people as well as the customers approached him and gave him hugs and pats on the backs as they talked about how great a teacher he was. Jeff just smiled and stood their with great humility and gratitude as you could see how much that meant to him.

Finally, and most importantly, Jeff really loved his family. When he wasn't talking about his interests he was always raving about how long he had been married to his wife as well as how much he loved her. He was also very proud of his children and would just glow every time he spoke of their recent activities. He was such a simple person but you can see how much he appreciated all that he had with his family being his greatest treasure.

I miss you brother! God bless you! 

Carlos Solorzano