The fusion of Latin jazz, Flamenco and rumba people will hear when the John Gilliat World Music Ensemble performs in Kamloops next week wasn’t the sound the Canadian-born guitarist set out to play.
He was nine when he first picked up a nylon-string guitar. At the time, all he wanted was an electric guitar so he could play some rock and roll.
His parents told him he had to master the $15 guitar they’d bought him before he was allowed to take up the louder, edgier sound of an electric.
“I was always a rock guy. I always wanted to play Led Zeppelin and music from Queen,” Gilliat said during a phone interview from Vancouver.
The guitar licks Gilliat will perform at the North Shore Community Centre on Friday will be a long way away from his rock roots. In fact, Gilliat has put down the electric guitar in favour of the nylon strings of an acoustic, bringing him full circle to that $15 guitar of his youth.
“When I was growing up my first guitar was a nylon-string guitar and I was, like, ‘yuck.’ I worked really hard so I could get an electric guitar,” he said.
“Now it’s come all the way around. I really love the sound of the nylon-string guitar.”
That love took time to grow. After graduating from high school, Gilliat toured with a variety of pop and rock bands, playing venues like The Grand in Las Vegas.
After spending years on the road, Gilliat decided to come home and hone is craft. He took private lessons before majoring in jazz at Capilano College, where he graduated with honours.
The more he immersed himself in music, the more he respected a wide variety of musical styles. His appreciation for flamenco developed as he listened to accomplished musicians in the genre like Paco de Lucia, Vicente Amigo, and Nino Jose.
And you can’t have that flamenco sound without a nylon-string acoustic guitar.
Gilliat hasn’t completely let go of his electric roots. With his music, and especially on his CDs, he likes to blend the nylon string with electric guitar and steel drum to create a unique fusion of world music, pop, and Latin jazz.
“We can do some really exciting things people have never heard before,” he said. “We’re having a blast.”
Those who come to Friday’s show will hear pop tunes blended with classic Latin jazz and fiery flamenco. Gilliat said music fans can expect something completely different.
“No one else is doing this,” he said.
Accompanying Gilliat on this trip to the Interior — he plays the Chase Community Hall on Thursday and the Vernon Jazz Club on Saturday — are Rossi Tzonkov on Spanish guitar and steel drum, Brent Gubbles on bass and Lyndon Dewitt on percussion.
Gilliat has three CDs to his name, including a Christmas album released in 2003. When he’s not touring, he plays corporate events and teaches guitar in person and online.
In order to make a living as a musician, you can’t just rely on CD sales and touring, he said. There needs to be a lot going on behind the scenes.
“To be a working musician and do it all the time, you’ve got to be pretty versatile,” he said.
The John Gilliat World Music Ensemble plays the Dogwood Room at the North Shore Community Centre (452 — 730 Cottonwood Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5.
Tickets are $25 and are available through Kamloops Live! Box Office either online at www.kamloopslive.com or by phoning 250-374-5483. People can pay in cash at the door.