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Guitar heroes dash into Park City

Guitarist John Storie started playing gigs professionally when he was 13. He supplemented music lessons with old Peter Paul and Mary LPs and followed along as they strummed mellow folk songs on acoustic guitars.

Then, during the summer before seventh grade, the boy was named first chair of his junior high school jazz band.

His mom, a music teacher, rewarded him with an old Stratocaster that was perpetually out of tune. It was a humble start, he said, but it was enough to make Storie go electric.

He played every musical venue his high school offered and landed a spot at the University of Southern California, where he studied both electric and acoustic guitar.

Today, he is a member of New West, a guitar quartet that will play at the Sidecar Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 9:30 p.m. The band arranges jazz standards and original compositions that feature medleys and solos on the acoustic and electric guitars.

Band members list Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis as two major influences, and their flair for improvisation has much in common with rock and roll and jazz, says band member Perry Smith. The one thing you won’t see at a New West concert is a lead singer or a drum set. They feature nothing but strings. "Not many people have seen an all-guitar quartet," Smith said. "It’s so interesting to see how you can put guitars together and make a great sound."

Smith, Storie, Brady Cohan and Matt Roberts were classmates before they were band mates. The USC music majors started the group in 2003. They have since toured in Canada, Japan, Europe and the U.S. and released two studio albums.

The Park City concert is part of a 30-show tour of the West Coast to promote "Live @ Rosalie and Alvas," a concert on DVD that came out this month to positive reviews.

Matt Roberts will not be performing with group in Park City.

"People love seeing our group perform," Smith said. "We made the DVD because we wanted people to be able to take the show home with them."

Storie, now in his mid-20s, has parlayed his love of guitar into teaching as well as performing. What surprises him most about his students, he said, is the diversity of their taste and the abundance of music they have been exposed to. "It’s the iPod age," he said. "Nowadays, people are exposed to everything and most people will listen to anything as long as it’s good."

A typical student may have songs from Ella Fitzgerald, Guns and Roses, John Coltrane and Nirvana on his or her play lists.

Smith, who also teaches clinics for high school and college students, said everyone in the band has benefited from music education. "A lot of musicians back in the day didn’t think school was necessary," he said. "But you gain a lot of training and a lot of good connections."


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