TravisShook.com – Press
Shook hits Dooley's Tuesday
Travis Shook is only 24 and he's already recorded his first jazz album for Columbia Records. Critics have already lined up around the block dubbing him the heir apparent to Bill Evans.
To boot, his drummer on the "Travis Shook" disc was Tony Williams - a true jazz great who used to hold down the drum kit during Miles Davis' blazing days in the 1960s.
Shook's career got a jumpstart in 1991 when he won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Past winners of that contest include Tallahassee's own Marcus Roberts and another finalist from years past was a guy by the name of Harry Connick Jr. Not bad company.
That's why it was surprising when I called Shook in Olympia, Wash., and he was filling in at his father's rental shop.
"Let me get somebody to take over the counter for a few minutes," he said very matter of factly.
This is how one of the country's hottest young jazz talents spends his downtime? Talk about down-to-earth.
"I help out about 10 hours a week," he said. "It helps me learn about the world - I'm not very mechanically inclined. We rent everything from mowers to party supplies."
Shook's musical influences are about as wide-ranging as the rental items in pop's shop.
Although he started playing the piano at age 7, he soon forsook the keyboards to play electric guitar briefly in a heavy-metal band.
"I was a Kiss fanatic," he told one interviewer.
Hard to believe, judging from the bop vibrations on "Travis Shook," but Shook didn't listen to jazz seriously until he was 16.
"My mom had a Duke Ellington record called 'Pure Gold' that still had the plastic wrap on it," he said. "I found it, opened it and played it. 'Take the A Train' was the first song on the first side. That was all it took."His next step came from another Miles sideman, keyboard whiz Herbie Hancock.
"I was immediately taken by Herbie," he said.
His studies eventually led him to William Paterson College in New Jersey, a school known for its intense jazz programs. By day he studied with the likes of Joe Lovano and Rufus Reid and at night he'd cross the bridge into Manhattan where he jammed on stage with such names as Benny Golson and Branford Marsalis.
"I really exploded when I got to college," he said. "That's when I found out about the discipline it takes to be a professional jazz musician.
Evidently he learned it well by the time Columbia Records came calling following his Jacksonville victory.
Besides inviting Williams to take part, Shook wanted his debut disc "to have a live feel."
Most of the songs - which include standards such as "Love for Sale" as well as originals - were recorded in one or two takes in a cavernous studio.
"The studio guys think they're helping . . . by glamorizing the sound," he said. "But it just sounds artificial . . . I wanted people to be able to hear the instruments the way the would if they were in the room."
Judging by the crackling sound of the record, Shook got what he wanted.
By the way, the name Travis Shook is his real name.
"It's Germanic in origin and it means shoemaker," he said. "Since I've been performing I've heard from a lot of people named Shook. I've even heard about an old band in Las Vegas that was called Travis Shook and the Club Wow. Now that's a name."
(Mark Hinson, Tallahassee Democrat, 5/20/94)