• Smooth Jazz Network

Wayne Gutshall: Behind the Beats

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Wayne Gutshall.


Wayne Gutshall is one of the rising stars in smooth jazz, now with his 2nd CD coming and two successful singles from his debut… and an original Christmas tune introduced last year! We caught up with Wayne this week and chatted about his recent smooth jazz success and his experiences as a musician.


Thanks for taking some time with us Wayne! Your latest single is emotional and I would even say ‘ominous’. Your saxophone and Brendan Rothwell’s bass really combine for a unique sound. How did this come about?

Thank you Allen! I wrote “Going Up” during the pandemic. When I was writing the song I had Canadian bassist and chart topping Smooth Jazz artist Brendan Rothwell in mind for the duet. I met Brendan at a Jazz Festival in Carmel, California right before the pandemic. We were both guest artists at the festival.


Brendan and I kept in touch on FaceTime after the festival and I decided to ask him to play on the song. Believe it or not, I recorded my part in my newly renovated home studio in Miami, Florida and he recorded his part in Calgary, Canada. The engineer on the track did a great job mixing and we were able to double layer the bass and saxophone in the mix to get that unique balanced sound you hear on the recording. Also, the mastering engineer Mike Fuller, who is a Grammy winner, did an incredible job at separating the frequencies between the bass and the saxophone to give it that special touch. It definitely was a team effort.


I believe this is the first single for an upcoming album? Tell us about the new project and/or any new tunes you are working on.

I’m really excited about the new project! The new project will feature several #1 Billboard Smooth Jazz artists including: Kim Scott, Carol Albert, Paul Brown, and Steve Oliver! Also on the project are some incredible chart- topping guest including bassist Brendan Rothwell and trumpeter Rob Zinn.


I am currently working on two singles from the new project that feature guitarist Steve Oliver. Steve Oliver is a blast to work with and an industry professional. Steve is producing one of the songs on the new CD. I’m really looking forward to working with all of them and excited to see what comes out of these new relationships.


This past 20 months has been challenging. How did the pandemic impact you as an artist and how have you dealt with it?

I think the pandemic has been challenging for everyone in the world. I also am a music educator and have continued to teach throughout the entire pandemic online and in person thankfully. I did have more time than I usually would have and that gave me the chance to focus on my composing. I actually was able to finish composing all the songs for my next CD during this time. I also did quite a few online interviews and some online performances during the pandemic. Hopefully things will start getting back to normal soon God willing. It looks like it’s starting to go in a better direction already.

Prior to your entrance into the world of smooth jazz as a solo artist, you have had a broad experience performing with artists in the pop music world… Please share some highlights.

Because I live in Miami, I was fortunate to play with many of Latin Music’s most famous pop stars. While he was still teaching us, my high school band director, Victor Lopez, was the original


trumpet player for Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. I remember hearing “Conga” before it came out because they wanted to see what we thought of it.


Not realizing, at the time, that that environment was going to lead to bigger and better things. I later was able to get to play at the opening of Gloria Estefan’s restaurant “Bongos” and meet Gloria. One of my most important saxophone teachers, Ed Calle, played with Gloria Estefan. He asked me to play on his CD and the next thing you know, that CD won a Latin Grammy for best instrumental album and I was fortunate to get to play on it. It was a real blessing and great experience.


There were always famous artists passing through town and they needed horn players to play with them. Many times I would get called to play with groups like: the Motown group The Four Tops or play a gig with a Broadway star like Rita Moreno or Rock ‘n’ roll acts like Bobby Rydell.


Actually, I got to play with more Latin pop stars then American pop stars but for a horn player that was good experience because Latin music uses a lot of horns and usually has tricky rhythms in it to challenge you which makes you a better musician. While touring with Grammy winner Willy Chirino we shared the stage with legends like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. I remember hanging out in the green room with Tito Puente and his band before we went on stage. That’s a really cool memory.


My first gig with someone who was famous was with Actress/singer Maria Conchita Alonso who was known for her movie appearances with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robin Williams. Than I toured with Grammy winner Willy Chirino and after that I played or recorded with a slew of Latin Pop stars: Franco De Vita, Roberto Carlos, Olga Tanon, Albita


Rodriguez, Yolandita Mongue. That one won a Gold record. At around the same time I was playing on the latin world’s most popular game show “Sabado Gigante” backing up even more Latin stars. Sabado Gigante is one of the first shows Enrique Iglesias appeared on. I was playing that show the day he came on and was being introduced to the world.


Who is on your wish list of artists to perform or record with?

If you say past or present. For past it would be Miles Davis and James Brown. If you say present it would be Pat Matheny in Jazz. In Smooth Jazz it would be Maysa, Marcus Miller, David Sanborn, the Manhattan transfer, Jeff Lorber, the Jazz Holdouts, and Lindsey Webster. For pop it would be cool to play with Sting or Sade and for rock Foreigner. Love that Sax solo on “Urgent”.



Music education played a big part in your development, with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree under your belt. Please tell us about that experience and the importance of it in your journey.

The benefit of having a degree is that you learn things that took other people years to learn in a short period of time along with your fellow peers. Many people I went to school with are very accomplished in the music industry and are now Grammy winners, producers, and successful musicians. The professors pass on their experiences to you and it saves you precious time in your development process as a musician. It greatly helps you on your journey as a musician and you have a wealth of knowledge to pull from. For example in composing, music theory, etc.… On the other hand, there is a lot that you must learn on your own independently in the music industry and for that, experience is the best teacher.


When did you start getting into music?

When I was very young, around five or six, my father let me hold his guitar but my hands were too small to fit on the fretboard correctly. However, this did begin to spark my interest in music. My dad is a music fanatic and loves listening to all kinds of music all the time. We would go on drives and I would be listening to all the cool music from the 70s he would play in the car.


I started playing bass clarinet when I was 13 years old then switched to saxophone when I was 15. My high school band director Victor Lopez, who was the lead trumpet player for the Miami Sound Machine, had us do an assignment for Jazz band where we went home and wrote out our solos for the song we were playing. When I came back and played my solo for him he stopped, looked at me very seriously, and said “you got something special”. I think that’s the first time I understood that I knew I had a gift. Then I won my high school talent show playing Gato Barbieri’s “Europa” and I knew this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life.


Any advice for newer artists or musicians pursuing a career in music?

Be honest with yourself about your ability and progress as a musician. Make sure you record yourself so you can hear what you need to improve on and absolutely use a tuner but always play by ear and trust your ears. Learn from the masters but be your own player when you play. Make sure you learn about the current music industry, because like in every industry, it is always evolving. Have confidence in your ability because, in my opinion, your talent does not come from you. It comes from God and I believe He will bless your playing if you acknowledge that truth. Make sure you practice because “A man reaps what he sows”. Galatians 6:7-8.


Find out more about Wayne Gutshall on his website.

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