Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Krantz, Wayne (Meredith)

Wayne Krantz incorporates blues, rock and country influences into an improvisational style which has proven influential the post-fusion world of jazz guitar. In collaborations with guitarist Leni Stern, saxophonists Chris Potter and Dave Binney among many others, he has demonstrated that there is still more to be done with the guitar in the jazz idiom.

Wayne Meredith Krantz was born on July 26, 1956 in Corvallis, Oregon. As a child, Krantz was exposed to several different styles of music including the classical stylings of composer Claude Debussy and the sheer power of rock band Jethro Tull. At an early age, Wayne studied the piano, but it wasn’t until he heard The Beatles that he decided to think seriously about a possible future in music. Another band that further influenced his decision to become a musician was the rock band Sons of Champlin.

Around the age of fourteen, Krantz decided to switch to the guitar and began to perform with local rock and country groups. While in high school, Wayne began to listen to jazz by way of his father’s vast record collection. One guitarist he was particularly amazed with was Barney Kessel, who soon became an influence. Upon graduating from high school, Krantz enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

While attending Berklee, Krantz supplemented his education by performing with local groups such as the D Sharp Group, which included guitarist Bill Frisell. He graduated from Berklee in 1979 and stayed in the Boston area for several years. From 1980 until 1981, Krantz took private lessons with local teacher Charlie Banacos, whose students included guitarist Mike Stern.

In 1985, Krantz moved to New York City and began to perform with pianist Carla Bley. During a tour with Bley, Leni Stern heard Wayne and decided to include him on her 1988 album Secrets. The following year, he performed on Stern’s album Closer to the Light as well as bassist Victor Bailey’s album Bottom’s Up. The latter album also features the talents of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts.

In 1990, Krantz recorded with bassist Michael Formanek on his album Wide Open Spaces and continued to perform with him on a regular basis until October 1992. 1990 also Wayne releasing his debut album Signals for the Enja label. The album includes the musical talents of Leni Stern, bassists Hiram Bullock and Anthony Jackson and drummer Dennis Chambers.

1991 proved to be a rather prolific year in Krantz’s professional life. In addition to performing with drummer Billy Cobham, Wayne recorded with Formanek on his album Extended Animation as well as Stern’s Ten Songs. The following year, he began to perform with Michael Brecker as well as teach at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.

In 1993, Krantz formed a trio with bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Zach Danziger. The group’s incorporation of different styles gave Wayne a suitable platform to showcase his unconventional technique. The group recorded the album Long to Be Loose in February 1993, though it was not released until 1995. The album’s opening number “These Instrumental Pieces Were” is a great example of the album’s efforts.

The solo composition is a prime model of Krantz’s affinity for merging several styles into one song. Wayne delivers the chords by performing with a country style that utilizes pedalpoints and sustained pitches high in the instrument’s register. This style along with brief sections of jazz oriented phrasing allows him to unite different layers that he can switch to at any given point.

With his trio, Krantz began to perform at the 55 Bar in New York City where he maintained a Thursday night residency on and off for over ten years. In 1994, Krantz served as an arranger for drummer Jeff Williams’ album Coalescence for the Steeplechase label. In 1995, he released 2 Drink Minimum, his first live album. Recorded at the 55 Bar, the album features the compositions “Dream Called Love” and “Alliance/Secrets.” The latter song is an excellent example of the ensemble at its best.

The song showcases Krantz’s fusion inspired phrasing with guitar effects and other ornamentations. At times Wayne’s style sounds like guitarist Al Di Meola and at times he sounds like an electrified version of country guitarist Chet Atkins. This blend of different styles along with his warm timbre serves to create a frenzied atmosphere that he perfectly executes. The atmosphere is further enhanced by Goines, who performs with a slightly laid back style that serves as the cohesive element between Krantz and Danziger.

From 1996 until 1997, Krantz toured as a member of the jazz-influenced pop group Steely Dan, an association that helped boost his profile in the pop-music world. 1996 also saw Wayne accepting a position at the University of North Texas, a position he held for a year. The following year, Wayne recorded an album of duets with Stern entitled Separate Cages. In 1998, upon leaving his position at North Texas, he taught at both New York University and Berklee.

The following year, Krantz recorded with Victor Bailey on the bassist’s album Low Blow. In the late 1990s, Wayne formed a new trio with bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Keith Carlock and in 1999 they released the album Greenwich Mean. The album was praised by fans and critics alike with Guitar Player magazine calling it “dynamic; vivid...rife with surprising harmonic moves and tongue-twister melodies.”

In 2002, Krantz contributed to keyboardist/saxophonist David Binney’s album Balance for the Act label. The album also featured Lefebvre, drummer Jim Black, vocalist Tanya Henri, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and guitarist Adam Rogers. Beginning in 2004, Wayne became a member of the faculty at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at the Banff Centre in Banff, Canada. On May 22, 2004, he married vocalist Gabriela Anders, daughter of Argentine clarinetist and saxophonist Jorge Anders.

In 2005, Krantz released his book An Improviser’s Operating System, a book that outlines and explains his approach to improvisation. In 2006, Wayne performed with tenor saxophonist Chris Potter on his album Underground. The album was praised by fans and critics alike and reached the number eleven position on Billboard Magazine’s Top Jazz Albums Chart. His talents on the album can best be heard on the album’s third song “Nudnik.”

The song begins with a brief introduction from Potter before Krantz and electric pianist Craig Taborn enter the arrangement by playing brief motifs that Potter improvises over. The three melodic instruments then begin to play a melodic device in unison before Chris plays a chromatic phrase that Wayne helps to enhance by playing chords over. Krantz perfectly balances the different qualities of the song by switching between a light tone for certain parts and a distorted tone when needed. Along with Taborn, Wayne’s precise performance serves to elevate the song into new and exciting places.

The same year, Krantz performed with Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen on his album Morph the Cat. On June 28, 2007, Wayne performed his final recurring Thursday night gig at the 55 Bar. On August 18, 2009, he released the album Krantz Carlock Lefebvre along with Keith Carlock and Tim Lefebvre on the Abstract Logix label.

Krantz lives with his wife and daughter Marley in New York City where he continues to compose and perform.

Select Discography

As a leader

Signals (1990)

Long to Be Loose (1995)

2 Drink Minimum (1995)

Greenwich Mean (1999)

Krantz Carlock Lefebvre (2009)

With Victor Bailey

Bottom’s Up (1989)

Low Blow (1999)

With David Binney

Balance (2002)

With Donald Fagen

Morph the Cat (2006)

With Michael Formanek

Wide Open Spaces (1990)

Extended Animation (1991)

With Chris Potter

Underground (2006)

With Leni Stern

Secrets (1988)

Closer to the Light (1989)

Ten Songs (1991)

Separate Cages (1997)

Contributor: Eric Wendell