RICH CURTIS has served as a jazz / blues sideman and leader since the early 1990's but now he's looking ahead to having his own voice heard in a new way. "Its about time I started making my own statements," he says, an eagerness in his grin.
Born in Philadelphia, Curtis has had the opportunity to perform music of the world both at home and abroad. His four years of singing with the All-Philadelphia Boys Choir gave him the ear training and harmony background that he feels is a part of his compositional style today. After his voice changed, he joined the orchestra at Julia R. Masterman High School and began a long road of bass studies; first on the upright bass for classical composition by Mozart and Stravinsky and then the electric bass for high school jazz band.
Over the following years at Temple University, he studied with guitarist Vince Faye and played in various groups from pop to punk. "One band that I was in had nicknamed me "Sting Clarke" because I was listening to a lot of the Police and Stanley Clarke." After graduation, Curtis continued his studies with Jim Dragoni at the Maplewood Music Studio and finally found his way to Rubin Edwards, a Philadelphia producer / songwriter / musician who encouraged composition as a tool to promote better soloing.
"That just opened up so much to me and then getting with the keyboard and the technology of the day really got me to expand what I was trying to do on bass, so much so that I wanted to do it on my own tunes rather than on a cover."
In March of 1995, Rich joined The Dukes of Destiny, an established and well respected blues band in Philadelphia. With this group, he would begin to play for larger audiences in better rooms.
"It's been thirteen years with The Dukes... Yo! Philadelphia Festivals, Cape May Blues Fests, Sellersville Blues Festivals, and the funky clubs in and around Philly. Before I auditioned for this band in '95, I had just gotten out of a group and I happened to see the ad in the Philadelphia City Paper. Of course I'd heard of the band before and seen them at The NorthStar Bar, y'know? I mean, the buzz was heavy. So when I got the opportunity to join, I couldn't have said 'yes' any faster."
During 2002, Rich completed a demo recording of quiet storm style tunes that he hopes to shop to vocal artists during the foreseeable future.
During 2007, Rich debuted a new concept group.
"Originally, the idea was to go out and play my original music and cover some tunes but in a way that was more of a re-imagining of the songs than play them note for note. Its called the JazzHausPunks and had I really gone with my vision rather than compromised so that we could get work, I think it would not have crashed and burned. Ultimately, its my fault because I didn't put the group together well. So that idea is on hiatus now and we'll try and revive it at some point"
In the meantime, Rich is still out there as a working musician in Philadelphia playing with groups such as AC Steel & The Galvanizers, Mezclado and, of course, The Dukes of Destiny.