It’s difficult to pin down Jake Cinninger’s musical style, because he draws on so many varying musical influences.
Suffice it to say that Cinninger, guitarist with progressive jam rockers Umphrey’s McGee, has taken everything from country and jazz, to metal and progressive rock and crafted it into his own unique voice.
And he’s certainly a guitar player you should know.
(photo courtesy of umphreys.com)
Born in Michigan, Cinninger was playing in local bands by the time he was just 12. He made his way into the Midwest music circuit, and founded the fusion/jazz group Ali Baba’s Tahini in 1997.
The band became a regular attraction in the Chicago music scene, where Cinninger also became familiar with another up-and-coming local band, Umphrey’s McGee. When Ali Baba’s Tahini disbanded in 2000, Umphrey’s founder Brendan Bayliss came calling.
“I came here about late 2000,” Cinninger told an interviewer with guitar.com. “My band, Ali Baba’s Tahini, disbanded. We were a three-piece kind of progressive rock outfit, kind of like King’s X or McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. Fun, kind of funky at times. That band broke up and Brendan had always said, ‘Man, if your band ever breaks up bring all yoru songs over and let’s re-do this thing.’”
“It was a challenge for me to learn the bulk of their songs and a challenge for them to make more arrangements of these old Ali Baba’s Tahini,” he told guitar.com. “We just joined forces and it’s been great to bring a little bit of what I had to offer.”
Cinninger was a perfect pairing with Bayliss and Umphrey’s McGee. Cinninger brought a harder edge and new arrangements to the band, which had already begun to build a reputation as a jam-based improvisational group that delved more deeply into progressive rock than other bands like jam based starwarts like Phish.
With Cinninger and Bayliss sharing guitar duties, the band has become a staple on the jam circuit, and has continued to build up a loyal fan base.
Meanwhile, Cinninger has done solo work and also reunited with Ali Baba’s Tahini in 2004 to perform and record.
What remains undoubted is his remarkable ability as a guitarist.
(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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