Bird Savior

Peter Sprague was eight when his family moved from Cleveland to Del Mar, where surfing and music became, as he puts it, his "life and religion."

Peter continues, "Though I hate to admit it, I don't really like surf music. The Beach Boys? Well, I used to like it when they'd mention Del Mar in their 'Surfin' U.S.A.' tune, but the music that really moved me between surf sessions [was] the Beatles; Joni Mitchell; Jimi Hendrix; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Buddy Miles; and Santana. Try putting on 'Black Magic Woman' and then paddling out at Eighth Street in Del Mar. That combination works for me."

Sprague picked up the guitar at 12. He turned to jazz and formed the Minor Jazz Quintet with like-minded schoolmates. "When we played gigs we had to legally stay on the stage during breaks to keep the ABC [Alchoholic Beverage Control] from busting the club for 'minors roaming in an over-21 environment.' "

Sprague later studied with Pat Metheny in Boston and performed with Chick Corea's band. "Here I am, a young musician, and I'm hanging with my idol Chick Corea. I'm thinking everything is just right in his world, and as far as I can see he's living the great ride. He's playing insane music with off-the-Richter musicians and plays concerts for audiences that devour his every note. Then he tells me that he wishes he could fill large arenas instead of small concert halls. Wow -- that human trait of always wanting more and always being a little dissatisfied with what you have."

Sprague eventually returned to Del Mar and has become a fixture in the local jazz scene, along with brother Tripp (sax and flute) and father Hall T. Sprague (percussionist). Peter Sprague will appear at Ki's Restaurant in Cardiff on Friday, August 19.

WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?

1. John Coltrane, Coltrane's Sound ("One of my absolute favorite musos playing lyrical and modern at the same time.")

2. Solas, The Edge of Silence ("Great Irish folk rock group, their remake of 'Darkness, Darkness' is way up there.")

3. Allison Krauss, New Favorite ("This is aural beauty in its most elegant form.")

4. Chris Potter, Traveling Mercies ("Chris on tenor sax playing with an amazing band, completely devouring odd-meter compositions and making them feel like 4/4.")

HARDEST THING ABOUT TEACHING GUITAR?

"How does the student take all of this information and make it sound like music? How do they cross this bridge and make meaningful notes that tell a story and at the same time live a congruous life with the harmony of the tune? How do they make it sound good instead of a pile of forgettable academically charged eighth notes? As a teacher, I wish there was a magic combination of 'do this and then that. '"

THREE REASONS DEL MAR IS BETTER THAN BOSTON?

1. "Summer in Del Mar is as good as it gets."

2. "Summer in Beantown is humid beyond belief. I never want to live that kind of heat again."

3. "There are some great views in Boston, but my Del Mar bedroom view is out to the blue Pacific."

FAVORITE LOCAL EATERY/ BEST DISH?

"I'm a vegetarian...beans and rice are a veggie's best friend, so Rubio's burritos with nonlard beans fit the bill on a weekly basis."

WORST GIG EXPERIENCE?

"I get a call from pianist Rob Schneiderman and he's got a gig playing jazz in Spain for a month starting in one week and invites me on the tour [but] someone steals my precious handmade guitar...next I'm off to Western Union to receive some wired money from my folks to buy a new guitar. While at the Western Union an armed gangster holds up the bank next door and I'm gathering my money amidst some gunshots...then I fly to Spain and I land at the airport and my friends are not there to pick me up. I'm young and I didn't gather all of their info and so I don't know how to get a hold of them...I take a cab to the city central and I'm literally wandering around the streets not sure what to do. Then I hear the sounds of Charlie Parker playing 'Just Friends' from a nearby street café. I move a little closer and discover my friends listening to Bird and having an afternoon coffee. Unbelievable...I was saved, I thought, but it turned out that the rest of my time in Spain was filled with lousy gigs, canceled gigs, [and] very little vegetarian food. I survived and gained some wisdom, but I also got really sick and spent a week in bed with food poisoning."

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