HOMETOWN: Binghamton, N.Y. Moved to Augusta from Baltimore in 1993
OCCUPATION: Fund-raiser for Golden Harvest Food Bank
PLAYS: Piano. "I prefer acoustic, but I have a Kurzweil PC 88 digital piano." Also violin.
FIRST LIVE PERFORMANCE: The youth symphony orchestra in fifth grade on classical violin. "But my first jazz concert had to be my senior year in high school. I consider my first real gig to be the University of Rochester my freshman year, because that was when I formed my first band."
PLAYED WITH: Air Apparent, 1978 to 1982, Armen Boyajian Quartet, 1985-89, Word of Mouth, 1993-94; Air Apparent, 1996 to present, regular substitute for The Section at D Timm's Jazz Cafe, January to present
FIRST CONCERT HE ATTENDED: The Byrds in 1969 at State University of New York at Binghamton. "My first real jazz concert was Miles Davis in 1970 at SUNY Binghamton. I was only 16 or 17, and seeing Miles opened up a new world to me. It was the late '60s and rock was really more creative at the time, and I think he worked with that."
PERSONAL BEST: Air Apparent at the Carter Amphitheater in Washington, D.C., in front of about 2,000 people. "It was almost like riding a bucking horse. The guys in my band didn't need to be lead, they were better than me. It was one of those nights when there was a lot of ESP going on among band members."
IF HE COULD PERFORM WITH ANY MUSICIAN: Miles Davis. "When I got into him, it was more of his electric fusion phase, so I went back and did my research when he was doing acoustic, almost be-bop. You have a voice, it's just a question of what instrument you're going to use to find it. I found it easier to reinterpret works by the giants on the piano."
IF HE COULD PERFORM ON ANY OTHER INSTRUMENT: "I'd wanted to be a saxophonist. If I had one wish, I'd be Wayne Shorter."
BEST WAY TO MOTIVATE A CROWD: "You really need to have an original voice. It helps if your stage charisma is good, but you've also got to reach people where they are. In Augusta, for instance, people are more into R&B instead of jazz, so I try to reach out to that but also do original compositions. That way they can be educated to sort of come out of their comfort zone."
- Patrick Verel