Jack Duarte

John Wilson Duarte – 1919 to 2004

Guitarist, Composer & Author

JackDuarteJohn William Duarte (born 2 October 1919 in Sheffield; died 23 December 2004) was a British Composer, Guitarist & Writer. Quite commonly referred to as ‘Jack‘, started his musical life as a Jazz Guitarist in the early 50’s. Many of his compositions are indeed full of Jazz Chords.  John Duarte is definitely one of the great UK Pioneers. His deep love for the guitar comes out in his diverse catalogue. He rates right up there and probably will be rediscovered again & again. His music is tailor-made for the Fingerboard of the Guitar.


Jack Duarte’s only Teacher Terry Usher (left) and Roy Plummer in the 50’s – mystery 3rd Guitarist – Curly Clayton or Jack?

Hi – The person in the photo with Max’s father, Roy, is Terry Usher, my father’s only Guitar teacher (6 lessons).  Kickstarter fundraisers hope to record all my father’s music for voice & guitar.  With best wishes  — Chris Duarte – Readers may be interested in financing the project
Kickstart Duarte Music Project

Duarte’s Music hasn’t yet caught on with Guitarists.   Duarte is not an unknown figure, he’s quite well known from his friendship with Segovia, his Bach interpretations and other arrangements, articles and many other Guitar-related aspects.   He is rather “formula-driven” in his writing. He’ll frequently have a 3-movement work, with a fast opener, a slow evocative piece in a different key in 2nd place, and end it all with a rousing 6/8 or 9/8 third movement. The pattern worked for English Suite Op. 31, and was reused in Sonatinette Op. 35, Sonatina Lirica O;. 48, Tout en Ronde Op. 57, English Suite #2, and several others.

Canzona from Suite Piemontese op.46
Ritual Dance and Spring Dance from Tout En Ronde op.57

There’s a more overtly Jazz feel to his works, as previously mentioned, he’s a master at modulation, where he can slip in a key change halfway through a passage and lead one, sometimes unnoticeably, into new territory; and one can vouch from his ‘Greek’ works that he has a “cross-cultural” ear perhaps as good as any Guitar Composer.  In his own words (from the CD’s liner notes), Duarte was content to having never given much thought to what posterity might think of him:

“I will not be here to know it. My aim is to write primarily for the living and hopefully to give pleasure”.

AristoneArchtopIn the 50s; Jack Duarte, as a British Jazz Guitarist, designed the Aristone Guitars for Besson that were made by Framus.  Besson Guitars were produced in the 1950s. They were badged as Besson Aristone. These Guitars were imported and often rebranded. Aristone Guitars were a product of the London-based Besson & Co., Ltd. However, many of them were made in Bavaria, Germany, by the Framus Company. The Aristone Guitar was sponsored by John Duarte, alias Jack Duarte, a Classic & Jazz Guitarist. This instrument was probably made in the 60’s,

Just acquired a 50’s Jazz Guitar, looks a lot like a Hofner.  The bloke I bought it from said he got it second hand in 1961, inside is a Label saying it was designed by Jack Duarte the Jazz Guitarist.  It’s just called “The Aristone” on the headstock. I’m happy to have found out that one of my Guitars was designed & signed by him. I had no idea when I bought it a few months ago. It’s an Archtop Guitar. – Mark F

Plectrum or Thumb?
Jack Duarte cleverly observed that the thumb technique meant some sacrifice of speed “but it was considered worth the sacrifice in view of the gain in expressive capacity.”  Despite this, many recordings clearly evidence that Wes Montgomery had developed incomparable speed & technical agility with the thumb.

Jack Duarte wrote about Wes’ thumb technique shortly after the Guitarist had performed at Ronnie Scott’s Club in England. Through Duarte’s keen observations & analyses, we can better understand how Wes employed this unique & singular technique. The famous right-hand thumb is fairly long (it is just as ‘curly’ as Segovia’s) the tip joint is comparatively long and the root of the thumb is farther than average from the hand. Throughout single note passages and in much of his octave & chord work, the fingers are spread (virtually flat) over the scratchplate resting lightly on the edge of the plate on the Guitar beyond. They are not riveted in position but they move in a limited way.  Single notes receive only downward strokes of the thumb, though chords and octaves are played in both directions- but only when velocity demands it……The action of striking is a curiously mixed one.  It bears a superficial resemblance to the Classic Guitarists’ apoyando, the supported stroke, in which the thumb is pushed through so it comes to rest against the next String. The thumb operates with the tip joint in a plane almost parallel to that of the strings, so it is the fleshly side that meets the string rather than the nail…..

BMG Article by Jack Duarte on Wes Montgomery

MairantsGuitarGroupBBCIvor Mairants, who also witnessed a live performance of Wes Montgomery at Ronnie Scott’s Club, corroborates this description of his right-hand technique.  Access to a tape recording of a Wes Montgomery half-hour performance on a British Television Program (“Jazz 625”), enables one to observe 1st-hand how effortlessly Wes played, using, for the most part, only downstrokes of the thumb.  The predominant use of downstrokes necessitated large amounts of slurring in both single notes & octaves in order to compensate for the bypassed upstroke. This increased slurring is especially noticeable in fast tempos where downstrokes alone cannot account for the myriad of notes being played. Wes used this slurring issuing from the downstroke technique, as a principal enhancer to Jazz phrasing.  Although he employs a great deal of slurring, both in single notes & octaves, I must reiterate this does not give the slightest schmaltzy effect because the finger slur is used only as an essential to Jazz phrasing and for no other effect. It sounds more like a legato phrase produced on the saxophone as compared to a group of tongued notes.

In October 2001, a performance by David Norton in Los Angeles (for the American Guitar Society) of post-WW2 British Guitar Music, went with a heavy emphasis on Duarte’s Music. The Concert was scheduled in May, and about 3 weeks before the show, JWD himself had been told of the event and would be in attendance. The show really went well. He was quite complimentary to the Artist, recognising that he was an enthusiastic player and not a true Concert Artist. They met for breakfast the next day, and he autographed one of the recital program books, “To David Norton, with my thanks and gratitude, John W. Duarte, 26 Oct ’01”.

“On October 26, David Norton presented a delightful program of music by 20thC British Composers, the best-known of whom, John Duarte, was in the audience. From the performer’s point of view, it can be a little harrowing to have the Composer present, but Dave performed with confidence & authority, and Mr Duarte seemed to be pleased. Also in the audience was Luthier Greg Brandt, who constructed Dave’s Guitar. This was an evening of music by and for Guitarists, works which do not often appear in the standard repertoire.”
John W Duarte: Four Preludes, Opp. 13, 3, 4, & 29
John Duarte: Variations on “Las Folias”, Op. 10
John Duarte: Variations on “3 Blind Mice”, Op. 24

He was pretty critical of many performances of his Compositions. One time he almost attacked a player who he said had “botched” his music. He cared so much about the Compositions that he probably overreacted. – but then. Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms were all “exceedingly unpleasant men”

John Duarte talks of Ida Presti

I first met him in 1974, auditioning a master class he gave on Long Island, NY, part of a Guitar event organised by the late Kent Sidon. We got into a sharp exchange about something I already forgot what it was, and found him a formidable opponent. He must have had the same impression of me, as we became friends quickly. That same evening we sat together in Carlos Barbosa-Lima’s Concert at Hofstra University, one of the most memorable guitar concert I have ever heard, and the following evening – Andrés Segovia’s concert at Weill’s.  Over the years, we had a most unique love-hate relationship and not a small number of altercations over the pages of Guitar International magazine, and later Classical Guitar. But we always kissed and made up. There was no way to get mad at him.
When the Internet came about, Jack steadfastly refused to join any discussion group and mailing list, preferring to maintain his own private mailing list, dedicated to the dissemination of his collection of jokes. Some of it, the x-rated particularly, were simply hilarious. I kept them all!  I last saw Jack at the 2000 Kutna Hora competition where he was the president of the Jury, and I, one of the rank and file jurors. Being one of the few English speakers in the group, we spent a lot of time together talking. That is: he talking and I trying to get a word in edgewise once in a while. His style of conversation was unique. It was an ongoing historical manifesto, each word of mine bringing on a long stream of associations of people and events of the past, each sentence beginning with a dateline:  Back in 1974 Segovia said to me….
So at the end of the week, as he was getting into the taxi taking him to Prague’s airport (the rest of us were going to the next event in Mikulov), as we gave each other a good hug saying good-bye, I said to him: __Jack, you are a royal pain in the ass, but I love you nonetheless.  Without missing a beat, he came back at me saying: __Back in 1968.

After his death in 2004, David Norton commissioned Angelo Gilardino to write a memorial piece to Duarte. The result was “A Quiet Song”, which is a sort of neo-baroque fugue on the English song “Barbara Allen”, drawing its inspiration on JWD’s great love of folk songs. It is published by Berben, and has been performed a number of times.

A Quiet Song”, to the memory of John W Duarte
JackDuarteIt was two weeks ago today that the sad news arrived that the famous British musician John Duarte had passed away.  For some months previously, I had been toying with the idea of commissioning Angelo Gilardino with writing a new solo classical guitar piece for me. The news from London of Duarte’s death spurred me to take action on this idea, especially considering that Angelo and Jack had been friends, and also that Angelo had published a number of Duarte’s pieces with Berben Publications of Italy.  In the remarkably short time span of 11 days, Maestro Gilardino has delivered a wonderful new work. Because it is important to Angelo and to myself that Jack Duarte’s memory be commemorated.

In 2001 Dorothy Duarte and Guitarist Brendan McCormack approached e-tv productions and asked if it would be possible to give John (‘Jack’ to his friends) the opportunity to tell his story to Camera. Paul Balmer was delighted to offer his services as cameraman & director and Judy Caine dealt with the myriad of details.  The Author Graham Wade interviewed Jack about his life and music – interspersed with his own unique brand of humour, wit and British eccentricity.


Joplinesque – Shades Of Green – Varieties Of Scotch (John W Duarte)
Alexandre Lagoya said: `For one Guitar you can write what the Guitar will allow you to write. For 2 Guitars you can write what you choose.` While there is a measure of overstatement in this, it remains true that the medium of 2 Guitars allows much greater creative freedom to the composer. There are many kinds of Guitar-duo works- at one extreme the very simple, at the other the call for 2 virtuosi; those in this book inhabit the middle of this spectrum. They are not in effect accompanied guitar solos but equal duets in which two players of moderate technical ability converse with one another, sharing the lead. This they do without sacrificing musical interest. Two of the pieces consist ov variations on folk tunes – `Shades of Green` uses the Irish tune `The Next Market Day,` while `Varieties of Scotch` is based on the well known Scottish tune `Ye Banks and Braes.` The remaining duet is an affectionate nod in the ragtime direction of Scott Joplin. The 2 sets of variations are suitable for concert use, and `Joplinesque` is a natural encore piece.

One of the things I most appreciated about John W Duarte, and that I later put to practical use, was his extremely precise and beautiful handwriting and copying skills in preparing his arrangements. My work over the years preparing parts for Hollywood feature films were greatly influenced by my time under his watchful eye. Gregg Nestor Guitarist

I am a Norwegian Guitarist & Composer who studied with John W Duarte.  He gave me a Scholarship at Cannington International Guitar Summer School & Festival (1993) because of my Jazz improvisations in the Bar every night and presentation of my compositions at the Closing Concert.  I travelled on to London to study with him a few times and I composed a suite in 3 movements to his wife Dorothy “The Woman Behind”. This composition is widely performed, but not in the UK. I wish it was possible to do something more attentively with this composition as both John and Dorothy appreciated it.  John wrote liner notes in the CD “Cumulus – Norwegian Contemporary Guitar Music” where the composition is performed by the Norwegian guitarists Stein Erik Olsen and Egil Haugland. All the best  Frode Barth

Ike Isaacs collaborated with Gordon Toland & Cedric on his album The Sounds of Guitar. Listed on Spotify.  The Gordon Toland pieces may have been played by Jack Duarte. under a recording pseudonym.