A longtime rock guitarist from Texas, Guitar Virtuoso Russ Hewitt has also been playing Nuevo Flamenco for over ten years. A graduate of North Texas University with a degree in classical performance, Hewitt is also a seasoned studio musician. Inspired by a backpacking trip through Europe and travels in Turkey, China, and Egypt as well as the experience of playing with musicians in those countries, Hewitt calls his style "Latin World." Impeccably recorded with a bright, sparkling sound, the music is rhythmic and upbeat, overflowing with the joy of making music.
His current CD, ‘Cielo Nocturno’, shows all the signs of becoming a run-away success. Shimmering with the rumba flamenco rhythms and lightning guitar runs that have become trademarks of Hewitt’s distinctive style, the album includes a stellar line up of returning musicians including percussionist Raphael Padilla (Miami Sound Machine, Chris Isaak), drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Santana, Steve Winwood, Chicago), bass player Bob Parr (Cher, Barry White), guitarist Alfredo Caceres (Gipsy Kings All-Stars) and most notably Larry Carlton who features on the delightfully easy grooving ‘North of Home’.
The recording was mastered by Chris Bellman who, in his time, has worked with the likes of Van Halen, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Elton John while completing the lineup are guitarist Ardeshir Farah and accordion player Vladimir Kaliazine.
Accolades are coming from all over the world in forms of press and reviews including two silver medal’s from the Global Music Awards in the instrumental category for the song ‘Presidio’ and album category for ‘Cielo Nocturno.’
Photo: Psymon Imagery
In fact the favorable opinion gained from Hewitt’s debut CD, ‘Bajo el Sol’, rapidly translated into prolific airplay and a ten-week stay at #1 on Music Choice. It took up residence on the Smooth Jazz indie charts for 16 weeks and the first track to be released to radio (the dazzlingly Latin flavored title cut) climbed rapidly into the Top 20.
The follow-up single, ‘Lydia’, enjoyed similar success, peaking at #15 and storming into the Billboard’s Top 40. Not content with that, Hewitt then made it three for three with ‘El Beso’ which also made it onto that same Top 40 listing and was named as one of the top smooth jazz tunes of 2009 by www.smoothjazznow.com.
Cover design by Salar Ziaie
In addition, ‘Bajo el Sol’ was generously acknowledged by the music industry. It was included on the ballot for the 52nd Grammy Awards in the categories Best Pop Instrumental Performance, Best Pop Instrumental Album, Best Instrumental Composition, Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Engineered Album whilst elsewhere Hewitt gained an ‘Honorable Mention’ for the album’s title cut at the 2009 International Songwriting Competition.
Photo: Psymon Imagery
When Russ’s sophomore project, ‘Alma Vieja’ came long in 2011 it delivered two more Top 40 smooth Jazz singles, ‘Pacific Sunrise’ and ‘Samba Samba’.
Not surprisingly, Russ has endorsements from a wide spectrum of suppliers and manufacturers. These include Godin guitars, Radial Engineering (Tonebone), Analysis Plus Cables, Morley Pedals, V-Picks, Neunaber Audio Effects, Voodoo Lab, BBF Pedal Boards, Primacoustic, Mission Engineering and DLS Effects.
Always striving to extend his boundaries into sound tracks and commercial work, Russ contributes artist interviews and a monthly guitar lessons column to ‘The Sound’ magazine whereas his prowess as a composer has resulted in five Telly Awards (for ‘Parent Compass’) and the DVD companion to the New York Best Seller ‘The Harbinger Decoded’ by Jonathan Cahn. Russ has written the music for the upcoming feature film ‘Thirst: Mission Liberia’ which has already won a Silver Telly in the Spiritual – Faith category and a Bronze Telly in the Documentary category.
AM: It’s been a long time Russ! Nineteen years to be exact since we last saw each other.
RH: I can’t believe it.
AM: I always knew you would be recording your own albums. You have three out now don’t you?
RH: Yes, I just released my third album titled ‘Cielo Nocturno.’
AM: What was the goal with this third album?
RH: The goal with the third album is to tie in my first two albums together.
AM: How do you describe the music of the first album, ‘Alma Vieja?’
RH: That album is Latin Rumba style. I wanted to expand and play other Latin rhythms for my second album, ’Bajo El Sol’ so there’s a Milonga, a Tango and a Cha-Cha. I wanted to tie it all together on my third album. I took the best of both first albums and continue to expand on the Latin style.
AM: So you encompass many different styles of Latin music by now.
RH: The beauty and the advantage that I have, with what I do, is that I’m not true Salsa, true Cuban and I’m not Brazilian. I can pick and choose what I want from each style.
AM: That sounds like the most fulfilling.
RH: On the new album, there is a Cumbian rhythm, a Samba, a Reggaeton rhythm and a Louisiana Fatback groove. I can mesh all this together into a hybrid of my music.
AM: How did you get introduced to this kind of World music growing up in Texas?
RH: It’s funny, many of the people who play my style are former Rock music players. I first discovered it when I was going to school getting my classical guitar degree at the University of North Texas. A friend of mine had given me Ottmar Liebert’s first CD.
AM: I remember lots of people had that one.
RH: I always enjoyed it, as it was very listener friendly. After I graduated from college I started looking for gigs and I noticed the same guy getting all these bookings. He was doing Gipsy Kings, Ottmar Liebert, Strunz & Farah. I ended up hooking up with him doing an apprenticeship for two or three years.
AM: So he saw your talent right away. How often were you playing?
RH: I played Rhythm Guitar and that’s when I learned about more of the artists and that style. I played three to four nights a week with him. I always enjoyed it because I liked that style.
AM: So you left playing rock and started playing Latin World music?
RH: It was great for the nineties because by then, the guitar solo didn’t really exist anymore in Pop music. It completely went away. Grunge killed all that, but I was able to do these long, crazy guitar solos playing Flamenco gigs at restaurants. People loved it and it fit that style. After a couple of years, I branched off on my own.
AM: Did you consider this music your new career?
RH: I played it for fun until my last Rock band broke up. The producer who did my last Rock band heard me play with my full Flamenco band and he told me he wanted to record me in that style. Sure enough, a couple years went by and we talked again and we agreed it was time to record.
AM: See, it was so meant to be.
RH: Ironically since I’ve been playing this style I’ve gotten more press and reviews, radio play and more sales than all my years as a Rock guitarist put together.
AM: Did you just start writing Latin World music?
RH: It was a test as I had never written original music in this style. The very first song that I wrote ended up being the title track to my first album. After I wrote that song I knew I could do this.
AM: That is such a wonderful discovery for you.
RH: It gave me the confidence to know I could write in this style. I have something to offer that is a little different than what is already out there.
Photo: Psymon Imagery
AM: Do you feel established?
RH: Yes and no. As with any artist, you believe you can always do more and that you want to do more. Part of the reason there was such a long-time gap in between the second CD and the third one is I got invited to be a part of so many projects for other people. That was great but after a couple years I realized I needed to put out my own new album. I had been so busy doing other people’s projects but I did get into film scoring.
AM: Oh wow! Looks like you’re set for a while.
RH: I would like to get to the point where I could tour under my own name playing this style of music. This will always be my home base. I like exploring a lot, so I may re-image my music in Big Band style or Quartet style, for example. I want to continue to branch out working on other people’s projects as well.
To learn more about Russ Hewitt visit his web site http://www.russhewittmusic.com/