Zach Bingham is one of the most well-rounded musicians we have in the Columbia Jazz scene. He is a style wizard. He’s also one of the most humble and nicest guys you’ll meet. Zach started playing guitar at age six and soon progressed from rock to jazz and fusion. Comfortable in any setting, he studied at the University of North Texas and USC and now enjoys working as a sideman with several groups around Columbia.
Let’s see what he has to say…
What is your earliest memory of developing a love for jazz music?
I first got into jazz when I was a teenager while studying with Steve Watson. We played jazz standards everyday and he had a large library of jazz discs I could take home and check out.
Where did you study music?
In high school I studied at the Fine Arts Center and Governer’s School. After that I went to North Texas briefly and then University of South Carolina but I’m always studying and it’s best to make learning in the real world a habit.
Is there a story behind your latest composition or recording? Where can we find it?
I’ve always loved composing my own music and my latest can be heard for free at zachbingham.bandcamp.com
What is your favorite tune to play and why?
Whatever I’m working on at the moment! “Love is Here to Stay” is/has been on my mind lately. I usually play “Let’s Cool One” on my own gigs no matter what and of course being a guitarists I gotta play the blues!
How long have you been performing in Columbia?
I started performing in 2008.
Do you have a favorite venue in Columbia?
The Speakeasy has been my regular place for a long time now but there are plenty of great venues all over the city.
What other cities, states, and countries have you played in and how do those experiences compare with Columbia, SC?
Some notable places I’ve played include Nashville, Atlanta, Charleston, Key West, Dallas… the list goes on but so far I make Columbia home base because it’s unique. There are plenty of opportunities for a gigging musician here plus the players on the scene are phenomenal.
What is your most memorable experience as an artist?
Mike Stern came to Columbia and he let me play guitar through his rig! The things he said after the concert made a positive impression on me artistically.
What music genres and/or artists influence your style and approach and why?
Everything. I really admire studio guitarists who can fit in any situation so I try to approach music the same way and learn as much about everything that I can. Having an understanding of jazz really helps accomplish that so I listen to a lot of it.
Who is your favorite Jazz artist?
I’ve listened to a lot of Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Pat Martino, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wes Montgomery. Too many more to mention.
Who would you give credit to as your mentor(s)?
Right now I’m learning a lot from getting together and playing tunes with Jim Mings.
What is the best advice you ever received as a musician?
That playing the music is a given and the important thing is being a good hang. I like to show up on time, play the right stuff, and be nice to people while I’m doing it.
What is some advice or statements you’d like to offer to up-and-coming musicians, your peers, live music venues and/or the community in general?
I’m not sure I can give advice because I’m always making mistakes. Maybe I can say that you should learn from those mistakes and keep getting out there and doing what you do.
Music is a way of communicating and connecting with people. What are your thoughts on this? What are some ideals and values you’d like to reflect in your music?
Being able to get along with other musicians is supremely important. I also want the things I play to come across as authentic so maybe someone listening likes it as much as I like playing it. That’s hard to do.
How often do you practice or give time to your craft?
Every single day. As I’ve gotten older I don’t always have the time or the physical ability to practice for marathon sessions so I’m learning to be smarter with my time and practice what’s important.
Tell me about your band and how everyone came together or about the musicians you usually play with.
The people I usually play with are stellar! I have a regular weekly gig with Tony Lee and I got in with that scene because I used to go watch him play and one day he needed a guitarist. Shortly after that I started playing with Robert Gardiner and my own jazz trio called New Third. Those gigs helped me network and join the other groups I currently play with like the Soda City Brass Band and Jeremy Sakovich’s backing band. I like to play with as many people as I can.
Have you ever lost your instrument or gear during travel? Or do you have a funny story from the road or a gig?
I’ve fortunately never lost an instrument. Too many funny stories but I don’t wanna get any old bandmates in trouble.
What are some ways that we can expose younger generations to Jazz? What are your ideas on how you can help grow the scene?
That’s a tough one but I’d say having a teacher or mentor who is knowledgable goes a long way. I think if you’re excited about something they will be too.
What does the Columbia, SC jazz scene do well and what does it need to do better?
Columbia’s jazz scene is good because the players are real and top-flight. The gigs are cool because it’s not just lounge jazz in the background. The players make it stand out. More clubs is always good but not always possible. Bring back the Blue Martini haha!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep it live ‘till you’re 95.