|CHRIS DUARTE BIOGRAPHY
In Chris Duarte’s musical view, the journey is as important as the destination, maybe even more so. Since emerging in the mid-1990s from Austin, Texas, a blues guitar hotbed, Duarte has forged new pathways for the blues and scouted numerous fresh trails for creative musical expression. Lauded for the exquisite artistry and vivid tonality of his six-string work, over the last decade Duarte has also proven his considerable mettle as a songwriter, singer and bandleader.
The sum total of his talents prompted Blues Access to extol him as a “genius,” but Duarte sees his work in a much more basic and fluid context. “I’m a musician who is still out there searching for better ways to get from point A to point B, and better my craft. I’m just not content staying in one place.”
Duarte’s open-ended and exploratory approach can be traced to his initial inspiration to make music when he saw “Fiddler on the Roof” on TV as a youngster. “I immediately wanted to play something. Didn’t get an instrument in my hands for about eight years, but the seed was planted.” In his early teens, growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Duarte started learning to play on his older brother’s guitar while voraciously digging into everything from the Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Black Sabbath to punk rock. By 14 he got his first electric guitar and locked into a devotional connection with the instrument and its possibilities.
In 1979, at the age of 16, Duarte on his own moved to Austin, Texas and bought a ‘63 Fender Stratocaster, as old as he, for $500. He initially explored his love for the jazz of Coltrane, Miles Davis and John McLaughlin, but enjoyed a blues epiphany when he heard the then largely-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Continental Club. “Blues was king in Austin,” Duarte recalls, and he soon earned a virtual PhD in blues music. Playing with Texas favorites like Bobby Mack and Night Train and Junior Medlow and The Bad Boys, he quickly earned a rep as a hot new gun in a town with an army of guitar talents. At the same time he dug into the work of such Austin guitar legends as Jimmie Vaughan, Denny Freeman and Derek O'Brien, paying special note to the rhythmic foundation that’s a hallmark of the Lone Star blues style. He released his first album in 1987 backed by The Bad Boys, Chris Duarte and The Bad Boys.
Duarte’s creative spirit prompted him to join forces with his longtime partner, bassist John Jordan, and step out front in the early 1990s. “I just wanted to get out there and play the ideas and voices I heard in my head,” he recalls. He won a major label deal with Silvertone Records and released Texas Sugar/Strat Magik in 1994 to considerable immediate notice. He was named “Best New Talent” in Guitar Player’s 1995 Reader's Poll, and finished fourth in the magazine’s “Best Blues Guitarist” category behind legends Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and B.B. King. But something more than just blues guitar wizardry was at work within the Chris Duarte Group. Musician magazine recognized it three years later on Tailspin Headwhack, praising “Duarte’s monstrous chops, from funk to punk, from Hendrix to B.B. King, all marked by Duarte’s percussive, in-your-face Strat sound and a subtle use of samples, loops and electronics.” Love Is Greater Than Me, his 2000 debut release on Zoé/Rounder, even further expanded Duarte’s lexicon with whiffs of grunge, jazz and funk amidst the rocking blues.
His discography rounds out with Romp (2004), Blue Velocity (2007), Vantage Point (2008), 396 with Bluestone Co. (2009) and Something Old, Something New (2009). Now based out of Atlanta, GA. Chris is backed by Joel Powell on Bass and Chris Burroughs on Drums. The band still continues to play well over 200 nights a year in every state and many countries abroad.
After all, the journey is still at hand. “I know I have a long way to go,” concludes Duarte. “It’s all about exploring more in music and seeing what else is out there. That’s what eggs me on. And making people feel good. There’s nothing like it when you get on stage and move an audience. It’s an incredible feeling."