Ken Leighton 12:30 p.m., Feb. 21
- Musician Interviews · April 30, 2008
Influences: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Steely Dan, Larry Carlton, George Benson, Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, Carlos Santana, Peter Frampton, Larry Coryell
A musician who has been labeled "San Diego's best kept secret," Hank Easton has developed a unique style of jazz-pop-rock-blues-fusion guitar playing and songwriting. It seems a sure bet that Easton is destined to become a important figure in jazz/rock guitar and composition over the next few years.
Easton has spent nearly his entire life with a guitar in his hands. Originally from New York, he began playing guitar at age five. He was classically trained at The Cleveland Institute of Music from early childhood until age 17. During those years, he also began playing electric guitar.
Already a seasoned club guitarist after graduating from Ohio State University in 1985, Easton decided to move to Southern California. He continued developing his own style and gaining new fans. While Hank has sustained his love of classical music and acoustic guitar, he is known mostly for his prowess on the electric guitar.
Easton's artistic fluency and versatility as a guitarist immediately established him as an in-demand performer, sideman and studio musician on the Southern California circuit. In addition to his solo guitar work, he has a four-piece fusion band, The Hank Easton Group, which displays all facets of his guitar work. Easton also plays guitar for the Steely Damned, a local Steely Dan tribute band.
While best known for playing jazz and blues, Easton has lately been nursing his inner rocker on the electric guitar. He says his playing is influenced by the likes of Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, Carlos Santana, Steve Howe, and even Peter Frampton. A highlight of Easton’s Steely Damned set is a medley reproducing the guitar solos from several Steely Dan guitarists, including Larry Carlton, Denny Dias, Elliott Randall, Rick Derringer, and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.
Steely aficionados typically marvel at how Easton slips from one guitarist’s signature riff to the next — the jaw-dropping medley frequently earns him standing ovations. The first time I viewed it on YouTube, I gave him one too, standing right there in front of my computer.
Easton released three CDs in 2007: Snapshots, Nylon and Steel, and Eleven. His albums feature some of San Diego’s best-known singers, including Tony Davis, Keni Yarbro, Leonard Tucker, and John Toomey.
Aside from live performances, Easton continues producing in his studio. In July 2012, he landed a weekly Wednesday residency at the Hilton Mission Bay, performing between the pool and bar from 3pm to 7pm.