Guitarist Nate Jarrell is used to dealing with duality in his professional life. His day job teaching music at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley keeps him busy, but he still has enough energy to pursue jazz and his original love, hardcore punk, which he’s been playing since he took up the instrument at the age of 12. Right away, he started playing with local bands and after high school, he ended up in Christian punk band Born Blind, who toured the U.S. and released two albums.
“That band broke up in 2002,” says Jarrell. “And while I loved playing that music, I realized that I hadn’t learned anything musically since I was 15. So I started taking lessons from somebody who turned out to be a jazz guy — he exposed me to a lot of music I hadn’t heard, and through that experience I decided to go back to school [San Diego State] and get my degree.”
Nate Jarrell Quintet "Frankie's Tune"
Even though jazz became a priority, Jarrell wasn’t done with the world of punk. “We [Born Blind] got back together a few years ago and decided to play some reunion concerts which did really well. But our bassist Chris Acquavella had become a classical mandolin player who moved to Germany, so the rest of the band [singer Judd Morgan, drummer Kurt Love, with new bassist Mitch Johnson] reformed as Gut Punch.”
Unlike Born Blind, the new band has no plans to tour, according to Jarrell. “We’re not looking to hit the road or get a record deal – we just want to do some shows and enjoy ourselves.”
Reliving their life on the road twenty years later doesn’t hold much appeal. “Driving through the midwest during that time period with three other heavily tattooed guys in a van caused us to get constantly pulled over by the cops for no apparent reason. Most of our lives consisted of trying to get from one gig to the next in the days before cell-phones and the internet.”
Jazz and hardcore punk might seem like strange bedfellows, but Jarrell sees a unifying principal. “I think there’s a raw energy and power at the center of both art-forms. Both genres have an improvisational aspect to them where you don’t know what happens next. Also, we’re doing this strictly for ourselves – there isn’t a lot of money in this – that’s another parallel between them.”
What do his students think? “I also teach a rock band class, so this gives me a little credibility.”