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Musician’s journey ‘complete inspiration’

John Hall on drums (left), Lance Jeppesen on bass (center) and Joseph Angelastro on guitar perform Nov. 13 at E Street Cafe in Encinitas. (Photo by Scott Landheer)
John Hall on drums (left), Lance Jeppesen on bass (center) and Joseph Angelastro on guitar perform Nov. 13 at E Street Cafe in Encinitas. (Photo by Scott Landheer)

Joseph Angelastro started playing viola when he was in the fourth grade, but only because the lessons got him out of class. That first step into music would eventually lead him to North County with a personal quest to keep jazz alive.

At the age of 11, Angelastro picked up the guitar. Even then, it wasn’t about growing up to be a rock star. It was just about the music.

“When I got into guitar playing, it didn’t matter if I could have a career or not,” he said, “I just felt like I had to do this. If it killed me, it wouldn’t matter. I was just going to do it anyway.”

Growing up in Visalia, where he said “pretty much the only culture is agriculture,” Angelastro was first introduced to jazz when a friend played him an album by The Poll Winners featuring jazz guitarist Barney Kessel.

“It completely turned my head around,” Angelastro said.

He went on to study at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a composition scholarship. He studied under John Adams, a now world famous Grammy and Pulitzer award-winning composer.

After leaving San Francisco and moving to Los Angeles, Angelastro discovered the music of Bill Evans.

“That was a complete inspiration,” he said of Evans’ music. “I devoted much of my life to carrying on the kinds of innovations and his approach to playing jazz for years.”

In addition to bringing with him his gift for playing music when he moved to Carlsbad in 1979, Angelastro brought his passion for teaching it as well. He is currently teaching various styles of music on guitar, piano and bass seven days a week and said it is important to him to foster an interest for jazz in young people.

“I just want to keep it alive for generations to come,” he said.

One way he is trying to keep jazz in the limelight is through his weekly gig at E Street Café in Encinitas. He can be seen there on Thursday nights from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. along with bass player Lance Jeppesen and drummer John Hall.

Angelastro “has a passion about music, and shares this with his audiences,” said Hall, who has played with the Chicago Six for almost 25 years and has worked with many top guitarists, “His technique is very near flawless, his timing impeccable and the tone quality of his instrument is superb.”

With a laid back atmosphere and an eclectic crowd, E Street Café is the perfect place for Angelastro to introduce upbeat jazz classics and his own songs to people who might otherwise never hear them.

“One thing I like about E Street is that they have no liquor license, so people can bring children there and they can get a bit of exposure to the music,” Angelastro said.

He was playing a classical guitar set at E Street a couple of years ago when he was asked to record a segment for Java Jams, a San Diego show that airs on the County Television Network and focuses on local artists. He decided to switch things up and play jazz for the show.

After Java Jams recorded the piece, E Street asked him to play a weekly jazz set. He has been playing there ever since and plans to continue indefinitely.

In addition to performing, teaching and recording a follow up to his “Standards – Volume 1” CD, Angelastro still has a lot he would like to accomplish. While he wants to learn as much jazz as possible and champion the music of others, his ultimate goal in music is a lofty one: enlightenment.

“What I’m working towards is just kind of feeling mentally and emotionally perfect when I’m in the music,” Angelastro said.

“My goal with music is almost more spiritual,” he continued. “It’s just to create music of the highest order that is as completely satisfying as possible. This is something that I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.”

Scott Landheer is a San Diego freelance writer

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