Cliff Jack is a jazz guitarist who performs with Bob Gardner. He is a physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic.
What sparked your interest in music?
In the generation ahead of me, everyone was very involved in music. My mom was a music major in college, and my grandmother was the church organist. Everyone played a musical instrument. I started playing trumpet in grade school, and then I picked up guitar when I was 12 years old. I played both of those instruments through college. Once I got into medical school, I dropped the trumpet, but I kept up with the guitar.
How did you continue to play during medical school?
Medical school is not that hard. People think it is all-consuming, but it’s not. People are scared of medical school, but it’s mostly just interesting.
Most listened to song in the last week?
Gene Ludwig and Pat Martino’s song, ‘Who Can I Turn To.’ Pat Martino is one of the great jazz guitarists of all time, and this is how jazz players learn how to play. We listen to great players and emulate them.
Are some instruments not well-suited for jazz improvisation?
It’s easier to play jazz on a saxophone, trumpet, or piano. I can’t really say why that is, but it’s a whole lot easier to improvise on a saxophone than on a trombone. Improvisation on a guitar is not as easy as a saxophone, either.
What is your musical philosophy?
People enjoy listening to music. That, to me, is adequate justification for having music in the world.
If you could run sound for one artist no longer among the living, who would it be? Why?
Wes Montgomery. In my book he was the greatest jazz guitarist ever. He was one of these people who had amazing natural talent and music memory. He could listen to a song once and play it back in any key.
Kindest words from an audience member?
One remark that rings home to me is when someone comes up and says that I sound like one of my favorite musicians. The highest compliment is to be compared to someone that I idolize.
What makes you stand out as a musician?
Being a full-time doctor and still playing music professionally is a bit unusual.
What motivates you to keep performing?
I never saw a reason to quit playing – I never lost my desire. The thing about jazz improvisation is that it is always interesting. There is always something new, and I can always get better.
Why is live music important to you?
The most important thing is to have a place to play. I’ve played at the Redwood Room since it opened 25 years ago, and I am very grateful that they have had me play there for so long. In fact, I am grateful for any place that uses their establishment as a venue for musicians to play.