Local musician Chad MacCluskey has been inundated with music his entire life. His father, the late Tom MacCluskey, known around Durango as a piano player at various spots throughout the aughts and host of the long-running Sunday Morning Mostly Classical radio program on KDUR Radio from 2000 to 2018, kept music going around the house as a player and music columnist for Rocky Mountain News all of Chad’s life. He also grew up with Red Rocks in his backyard, first spending time backstage while his father was on assignment, then later on being dropped off for shows by his mother. As a result, his concert resume is impressive to say the least, as are his chops as a guitar player.
Chad MacCluskey performs twice this month at 11th Street Station, playing solo Saturday, then again with the Clear Spring Jazz Trio on June 23.
“I think I was like 12 or 13, my mom would drive my brother and I in the station wagon. We’d see the Dixie Dregs, Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Journey,” MacCluskey said. “Then it was over, and this was before cellphones, you’d go to a pay phone, call her around midnight, and she knew where to go, we’d get in her car and go home. We were very fortunate that we got to see a lot of great stuff at that time.”
WHAT: Chad MacCluskey on guitar.
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: 11th Street Station, 1101 Main Ave.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 422-8482.
His love of what is now classic rock gave way to a love of the prog-rock of King Crimson and Triumvirat, which ultimately led to the discovery of Al Di Meola and a love of jazz fusion. But all this musical interest started with piano lessons, ultimately giving way to French horn, and eventually from the influence of Tony Levin, he started playing the Chapman Stick, which is a form of bass. This form of instrument hopscotch, and a love of math, is what now influences him as a guitar player, the instrument he’s played for the last 40 years where he’s formed his own style and own tuning.
“The stick led me to being really frustrated with the tuning of guitar. So, I tune differently,” he said. “Because I like math, I wanted everything to be mathematically symmetrical. So, I couldn’t understand why those two high strings were a half step off, so I just kind of tuned them to where everything was even. I tune all in fourths, I’ve been doing that forever. It’s kind of cool when someone wants to borrow your guitar, and they play a C chord, and they can’t quite figure it out.”
He’s a straight up jazz player, one who likes to reinvent himself, and what he plays, every time he plays it. That’s why you’ll hear slight variations in what he plays each time he plays it, and it’s like that whether he’s playing solo, or with his trio, or when he’s playing old standards from the ’20s and ’30s in his duo with vocalist Linda Baker.
“When you listen to Keith Jarrett play ‘All of You,’ it’s so different from when Miles Davis played it. I guess that’s the beauty of it,” he said. “What’s hard on some of the music, what’s difficult, is there’s a lot of musicians that like what they’re doing, but sometimes they’re like ‘I have to play that solo again?’ Don’t get me wrong, any David Gilmour solo should just make you weep, right? But think of how many times he had to play that solo the same way. For me, I would want to do it different every time. Something comes from somewhere and you’re reaching for something, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I like that, and I think that’s why jazz really works for me.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.