By Morgan James

Jazz on the 12th Floor Lounge at Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino has successfully brought incredibly talented jazz musicians up close and personal to a gracious, enthusiastic audience this year. With complimentary admission, this month’s show will be held on Sunday August 28th from 2pm – 5pm. This month boasts three fantastic players, showcasing the fine talents of jazz guitarist Howard Paul, along with legendary touring and recording artists- jazz drummer Gary Novak and multi wood-wind player Bob Sheppard. I was fortunate to speak with Howard Paul about his personal career insights and highlights, as well as the upcoming show.

Celebrated jazz guitarist Howard Paul has been fortunate to turn his love of music into an incredible career producing jazz guitars, playing jazz guitar, and lecturing on the history and artistry of the jazz guitar. Running the day to day operations of Benedetto Guitars in Savannah Georgia keeps Paul busy, however he believes strongly in preserving an important part of musical history by producing quality jazz guitars. “There’s a certain romance to musical instruments, particularly really finely made musical instruments,” he begins, then continues thoughtfully. “They are not just tools, but works of art if made properly. There is just not enough artistry left in the consumer world that allows really high grade instruments to be available. My company only makes about 100 jazz guitars per year. If we were trying to bust the doors down, we might do 150. There is no way to do what we are doing and do it at the level we are doing it and be a mass prod shop. It’s not the most lucrative way to make a living,” he laughs. “But I believe it really is something that needs to be preserved. And jazz guitars are really a microcosm of the musical instrument world and only been around since 1922 and only developed until the early 1950’s when electric guitars took over and became the popular instrument that they are today. There hasn’t been a lot of effort to preserve what those original jazz guitars were and how they sounded so I feel a responsibility to maintain that art.”

Add to Paul’s day to day business, performing consistently in jazz festivals and opportunities to tour the United States and Europe playing music, Paul finds himself immersed among legendary places and players regularly. “I love traveling,” he states enthusiastically. “There’s nothing better than touring Italy or Greece; any opportunity to play abroad and also in New York. There are so many musicians that come out to support one another out there. Places like Jazz Standard, Iridium, Bar Next Door, are all cool venues.” Changing focus, Paul says wistfully “I have played with a lot of groups, which is usually the case with jazz musicians. So part of it is not so much where we are playing, but who I am playing with. I have really enjoyed over the last 5 years collaborating with Bob James. Also I am a big fan of the jazz organ genre, so I have done quite a bit of work with B3 player with Tony Monaco. I am so fortunate to have worked with so many great names in jazz.”


One would assume that this guitar aficionado would have his hands completely full with these two huge pieces of his life, however Paul still finds time teach and offer lectures. “My favorite story to tell is the origins of Benedetto guitars.” he shares. “When Bob started building these in 1968 he didn’t know where to access the materials and it was a sort of a secretive, protected art form you would learn from an apprentice. If you didn’t have those connections, you had to disassemble and reassemble and repair and preserve those instruments to teach yourself. So in looking for those materials- the hard, dry curly maples and spruces, he started by cutting up his family’s kitchen table and then he went to his sisters bedroom set. His grandfather was a wood carver for Steinway piano and his father was a master cabinet builder, so the family kind of understood, but eventually he had to move on to find more materials.”

With so many incredible activities, Howard Paul shares his secret to balancing his passions, his career, and his personal life. “I tell this to college jazz musicians. You have to have a partner in life. The most important thing to me is having a wife that has her own profession and life and would be perfectly fine without me. We are able to spend a lot of time apart pursuing our passions because we are not busy trying to live one another’s lives. It has to be a partnership. Raising a kid was 50/50 for us. I jokingly tell people that I have been married 25 years , but it has been the best 6 yrs of my life because of the cumulative time we have actually spent together,” he laughs. “My wife is an attorney and also a semi-professional musician. We don’t play together because she is more classically oriented but she certainly understands what drives a musician to play as much as possible.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming show here in the Coachella Valley, Paul exclaims, “I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be able to work with my friend Gary Novak who is one of the best jazz drummers in the world! Also I haven’t played with Bob Shephard ever before and to meet him for the first time, with his incredible reputation playing with Herbie Hancock’s band, wow! The two of them are absolutely world class. I really have no business playing on stage with them. These guys are legendary mainstream, touring and recording musicians, so to get them on stage for an impromptu set in front of a dedicated listening audience will really be great.”

Jazz on the 12th floor lounge

Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino

Sunday August 28th 2pm – 5pm

Complimentary Admission