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Marc Chesanow

Savannah Philharmonic, long-distance relationships, and Burt Bacharach

Marc Chesanow is considered one of the premiere bassists in the Savannah area. He’s played with nearly everyone from Savannah to Hilton Head, including local and regional orchestras, Chameleon Brotherhood, and regularly with the Eric Jones Trio. Here, he talks about his musical upbringing, how he got his start in the Savannah music scene, and much more.

What is your earliest musical memory?

I believe I was at a classical music concert and I got in a lot of trouble for not being able to sit still.

I have had some amazing private teachers in my life and all of them are a huge influence on me.

Talk a bit about your musical upbringing?

My older brother (guitar) and sister (clarinet, organ) both played music so I fell right into it. I actually played drums first and then trombone in school band. I came to upright bass later, and electric bass after that.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

This is a huge question because I play so many different styles. I should first start off saying that I have had some amazing private teachers in my life and all of them are a huge influence on me. As far as musical artists are concerned, I would say that it would be a huge variety. From old school funk and R&B to Burt Bacharach. I love groups like Tower of Power, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, and all the old school jazz guys (Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, etc.). Some of my former students have some great stuff out there too. Check out Sweet Sweet and Oracle Blue, you won’t be sorry.

I play with all three of those folks fairly regularly.

What was it like teaching at the UNC Wilmington college?

At first, I really enjoyed it and I’ve got some amazing former students that I am super proud of. After a while, the politics of it started to really wear me down so it was best to leave on a high note (pun intended).

How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?

My amazing girlfriend Angel came to Savannah for grad school. Since I was going to be back and forth from the Myrtle Beach area, I decided to contact the one musician I knew in Savannah at the time, Alyssa Schoonover who plays the violin. I just wanted a gig here and there for gas money. She gave me three phone numbers: Mario Incorvaia (Hilton Head Symphony), Jeremy Davis (Equinox Orchestra), and Ricardo Ochoa (Velvet Caravan). Ricardo gave me a gig the next week and we hit it off. I ended up meeting everyone in the scene mostly through him. I play with all three of those folks fairly regularly.

Talk a bit about who you have performed with, or are performing with these days …

My main gig is with the Eric Jones Trio (Eric Jones, Robert Saunders). We play a lot at Good Times Jazz Bar backing up different artists. I also play with the Chameleon Brotherhood (Matt Eckstine, Stan Ray) and got to go on a trip to Alaska with them last summer. I play with Jackson Evans and Martin Lesch in Hilton Head twice a week. For orchestral music, I work with the Savannah Philharmonic and sub with the Hilton Head Symphony. Also, Maria and Sherill at the Savannah Voice Festival have been very good to me. I also run an event band called the Elite Party Band with Ricardo Ochoa and Kristin King. I am sure I am leaving someone out.

I am really lucky that I get to work the best cats that I ever imagined I would be working with.

What have been some of your most memorable performances over the years?

I just had two arrangements of mine performed by the Savannah Philharmonic and Mykal Kilgore which was pretty exciting. Last May, the Eric Jones trio released our CD “Azuibuke” which can be found online almost everywhere. I’ve gotten to back up a lot of different artists over the years but I do remember a concert with Jerry Goldsmith and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra that was pretty awesome.

Is there any Savannah artist or musician you have not collaborated with, but have always wanted to?

I am really lucky that I get to work the best cats that I ever imagined I would be working with.

We play some stuff that is on a pretty high level.

Your thoughts on the current state of the Savannah music scene?

I really feel like Savannah has a pretty decent music scene. There are plenty of people who like to bitch about it but I can assure you that we have it better here than a lot of places I have been to. I do wish more people would check out the Eric Jones Trio. We play some stuff that is on a pretty high level.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?

Nothing that is set in stone. I am hoping to record with my friend and amazing vocalist Amanda Jeter soon. Also, another EJ3 record has been talked about so maybe this summer we will lay it down.

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