Interviews
From Alt-Rock to Jazz: An Interview with Dan Arcamone

From Alt-Rock to Jazz

An Interview with Dan Arcamone

I recently talked with Norwalk, Connecticut, artist Dan Arcamone about his iconoclastic new jazz album, Standards, Vol. 2, and the challenge of making jazz from prog rock.

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Stacy Zering: I found it inspired you should do a standards collection but cover prog, alt rock, and metal instead of jazz. How did you come up with the idea?

Dan Arcamone: Originally I was arranging traditional jazz standards for this project. I was focusing on standards with lyrics. American Songbook tunes. Songs like “Stella By Starlight,” etc. From there, I followed the idea of “songs with lyrics” to songs outside of the standard jazz repertoire. The first ones I arranged were “Roxanne” and “Fields of Gold.” Those two songs didn’t feel too far off from the songs I was originally arranging, and I considered including them alongside American Songbook tunes. Once I had those two songs, I continued onto other songs, and it snowballed from there.

Have you performed these versions before, perhaps in a live setting?

There are a couple recordings of “Roxanne” on YouTube and my Instagram from gigs I did some months back. I play a lot of my original music, but for upcoming gigs I want to add more of the songs from this recording.

How has the reaction been thus far from both the rock and jazz crowds? After all, both sides have their share of purists.

The reaction has been positive from both sides for the most part. The music has things that fans of either genre could enjoy, I think. The feedback I’ve gotten the most has been about the chord melody arrangements of these tunes. Guitarists that play jazz have expressed that they like the chord melody approach to the rock songs.

Was it difficult to rework these tracks as jazz numbers?

At times it was difficult arranging them. It took about a week to two weeks to arrange each tune, working a little each day. I tend to be a perfectionist when I’m writing. I’m often erasing what I wrote and trying other ways to play or harmonize something. I probably make it more difficult for myself than it needs to be. There are certain things I like to do when I’m harmonizing something so the challenge was to find a variety of ways and not lean so much on my go-to ideas.

Which of the songs were the most challenging for a jazz makeover?

I remember spending a lot of time on the Nine Inch Nails arrangements. Those songs don’t have a lot of harmonic movement. Working to create movement in a melody that stayed over one chord was challenging at times. Rhythmically those songs have a lot of movement, but it’s easier to arrange when there are a lot of chords in the song. Movement happens more easily with countermelodies and chord voicings when the harmony changes a lot.

When did you decide to become a musician?

I’ve loved music ever since I was a kid. I’m not sure when I decided. It’s just something I always liked to do. I guess going to school for music would’ve been a definitive decision that music was going to be a job in some way. It’s just always been a part of my life.

courtesy of Dan Arcamone

Growing up, what artists influenced you the most?

Before I went to college for music I listened to mostly rock/metal. Bands that are featured on my recording, as well as Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, Slayer, Mötley Crüe, etc. I still love all that stuff. When I was in college, my teacher Chris Morrison told me to check out Pat Martino. That was the first time I’d heard jazz music that I connected with. I liked the energy of his playing and compositions. It had the same power as rock music to me. John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Pat Metheny, John Stowell, and Ben Monder were influences as well early on.

When did you learn to play the guitar? Any formal training?

I started sometime around 15 or 16 years old. I used to learn songs that were in the guitar magazines. I took lessons for a few months when I was a senior in high school to be able to play in the jazz band. That was my first formal training, and then in college.

Will there be another volume? If so, what can we expect?

There could be more volumes. I’ve been having fun recording both jazz and rock standards. I have a few rock songs arranged that didn’t make it onto this recording. Maybe one day I’ll do another volume like this one. The next one could end up being American Songbook songs, too, if I end up doing another volume. I also have originals that I’ve been working on for a while that I want to record at some point. ◼

Read Stacy Zering’s review of Standards, Vol 2 on Ink 19.

Dan Arcamone


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