Blues for Jake
MICHAEL RAITZYK -- JAZZ GUITARIST For the past 15 years, Michael Raitzyk has been one of the top jazz guitarists in the Baltimore-Washington area. Acclaimed for his solid rhythm chops and improvisatory imagination, Raitzyk has played with everyone from Pepper Adams and Mel Torme to Clifford Jordan and Bill Hardman. Raitzyk's versatility has allowed him to play in a variety of settings--from solo recitals to bop combos to big-band dates. He is currently best known as the leader of the Michael Raitzyk Jazz Orchestra, a 16-piece big band which plays weekly in Baltimore, but he also plays with the up-and-coming fusion sextet, the Kenny Wright Experience. Raitzyk learned his big-band education by working in such outfits as the Gene Walker Big Band, Blue Unity, Ed Goldstein's Baltimore Jazz Orchestra, and Hank Levy's Towson State Jazz Ensemble. He honed his small-combo skills in such bands as the Sir Thomas Hurley Trio, Society Red, the Coffee Club and the Mack Rucks Ensemble. Although he is best known for his jazz work, Raitzyk has been welcome in many different musical environments. He backed up Mary Ann Price, former vocalist with Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and Asleep at the Wheel, when she led her own group, Sophisticated Swing. He played lead guitar on 'Then Again,' an album by singer-songwriter Anne Louise White. From 1990 to 1993 he was leader of Pachamama, a reggae-funk ensemble which played throughout Maryland. Raitzyk started playing at six years old when he inherited his father's unused guitar. He began with the usual folk tunes but when he was 11 years old he saw Pat Metheny with the Gary Burton Quartet at a concert in Baltimore and he was an instant convert to jazz. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School, the performing-arts magnet school in Portland, Oregon, where he studied music and resolved to become a professional musician. In 1981, Raitzyk moved to San Francisco and became a full-time musician. He studied Latin American music at La Penza Cultural Arts Center and sat in with many of the local Latin-jazz bands. Other local jam sessions included collaborations with a then-obscure Bobby McFerrin and members of the local hard-bop scene. Raitzyk returned to Baltimore in 1982 where he joined the Creative Artists Music Ensemble, led by pianist Abdul Rasheed Yah-Ya, a protégé of McCoy Tyner. The John Coltrane connection was further strengthened when the young guitarist joined the Carl Grubbs Quartet. One of the biggest influences on Raitzyk, however, was Baltimore's thriving organ trio scene where the guitarist is required to reinforce the groove even as he fattens the sound of the small group. By playing with such organists as Thomas Hurley, Chico Johnson and David Ross, Raitzyk developed an unshakable sense of rhythm and a down-to-earth bluesy approach to improvisation. After playing with most of the other big bands in town, Raitzyk finally decided to form his own to pursue his own vision of what could be done with a jazz orchestra. After three years of performances, his big band has gelled into a tight ensemble distinguished by it's Basie-like arrangements, close harmonies and propulsive swing. Raitzyk is currently working on his debut album, which will include everything from solo guitar pieces up to big-band tracks. For photographs, interviews, bookings or more information, please call 410-243-2258.