ONLINE “face-to-face” lessons now available.

November 9, 2020 — Prior to March 2020 I’d given a handful of real-time online lessons, but found the process to be awkward and frustrating at best…my technology couldn’t keep up.

The C-19 pandemic pushed me to get it together and try again as I was required to instruct my East Carolina University students online, and could no longer meet with my other students face-to-face at the Durham Jazz Workshop.

After 8 months of dealing with the pros and cons of online instruction, I’m very comfortable with it, learning how to be more effective, and enjoying the process.

I’ve been instructing for many years, and have learned that there is more than one way to get from point A to point B. I have vast experience performing a very broad range of music and am here to help you. I provide students with personalized instruction, not “cookie cutter”.

Not sure we’ll “hit it off”? I’m happy to offer a FREE 15-minute online consultation to discuss what we could get into.

In the meantime, start here

Upon request I’ll e-mail you info on lesson lengths/fees, and links to recordings and video.

Contact me here: or

Stay safe, Be Well. ~ SS

Nnenna Freelon and Scott Sawyer, a RARE duo performance on Oct 22…

Nnenna and I go back to the late 1980’s…

Brother Yusuf Salim was the connection. For several years we performed regularly as a duo, as well as with other musicians. When Nnenna signed with Columbia, I was there for the Blue Note showcase in NYC and subsequent Philip Morris Superband World Tour. On and off, I’ve continued through the years to record, perform and tour with her, here and abroad.

On Saturday Oct 22, there are two shows at the Sharp Nine Gallery, 7 and 9pm.

Ticket links are here (advance purchase recommended):

7pm show —
9pm show —

Our last NC duo performances were almost 25 years ago (long-time fans may recall Pyewacket, Centerfest, Cappers, more). 

The Sharp Nine Gallery (Durham, NC) is a bona fide “listening room”, and seats only 66 people…this is not just a RARE opportunity to hear our duo, it’s a rare opportunity to see and hear Nnenna Freelon up-close in an intimate club setting.

*The Sharp Nine traditionally gives away some wine by the glass – while it lasts – and offers BYOB (no corkage fee) and free parking. For these shows, there may be other perks…TBA.






nnenna liveshaking free










…a rare opportunity to see/hear JOHN ABERCROMBIE in NC!

The Legendary JOHN ABERCROMBIE returns to NC!

NEXT Friday AND Saturday – June 10 & 11 – at the Sharp Nine Gallery, 8pm both nights.

John had a blast playing with Scott Sawyer and Co. last year and welcomed an invite again this year for 2 nights. Expect some duo’s, trios and quartets throughout the evenings.

Abercrombie has been signed for his entire career to the famous ECM Record label and has over 40 records as a leader. He is absolutely one of the most influential guitarists in jazz and its a real treat to be able to bring him in from NY. His 2012 recording “Within A Song” with Joe Lovano/Joey Barron/Drew Gress is just incredible. One of my all time fav’s. – Dave Finucane

BUY NOW, don’t wait. Tickets are still available, but LIMITED. Shows are at 8pm , $40 general, $30 students. BYOB.

***John will present a masterclass on Saturday afternoon (6/11); 3-4:30pm ($40 general/$30 students)

John Abercrombie – guitar, Scott Sawyer – guitar, Dave Finucane – sax, Ron Brendle – bass, Dan Davis – drums

john abercrombie & scott sawyer

Army Town Madrigal

The NEW David Childers and Bruce Piephoff album, “Army Town Madrigal” has been released. Recorded and produced by Robert Childers, this one is a departure from Bruce’s previous two releases, “Soft Soap Purrings” and “Still Looking Up at the Stars”; it’s a bare-bones, home recording with a whole lotta love and heart. I’m happy to be a part of this album, having contributed electric guitar parts to Bruce’s tunes and poetry…and the “back and forth” – a Childers tune followed by a Piephoff tune, x 6 – really works.

These are absolutely two of the finest songwriters that I’ve had the pleasure of working with (in the land?). Enjoy!

You can get a copy from David or Bruce, as follows:

send $10 to David Childers at 730 Noles Drive, Mt. Holly, NC 28120


e-mail Bruce or message Bruce on Facebook

Army Town Madrigal - front cover

Army Town Madrigal - back cover

Scott sitting in w/ The Lee Boys (excerpt)

So, I stopped in to hear The Lee Boys the other night. My good friend Bill Stevens has been touring with them and invited me to the show. They are family; (the uncle) Alvin Lee on rhythm guitar – great pocket player – and his cousins, including Roosevelt “the Dr.” Collier on pedal and lap steel guitars….the Dr. is smokin’! I hadn’t previously met them, or heard them perform live. My brother Jon did tell me about an after-party show he attended in NYC – during the most recent Allman Brothers Band Beacon Theatre run – where he heard “the Dr.” collaborating with Kofi Burbridge and others; they performed a bunch of Hendrix.

By the time I got to the club, The Lee Boys were already into their set. What a GREAT band!!!  It wasn’t a big audience, but there was no lack of enthusiasm and the same goes for the Lee Boys: they performed as if the house was packed, intense energy.

About an hour into it, I had moved to the edge of the stage and was taking it all in…the band was grooving, as Alvin turned in my direction, caught my eye and motioned me up to the stage. I hadn’t planned on sitting-in, but what the hell! We shook hands, introduced ourselves as the band played on; he handed me his guitar and the rest is history. BIG FUN.

As posted on Facebook, by NC Band Together‘s own Danny Rosin (thanks Danny!):

“This is what happens when The Lee Boys spontaneously pull one of NC’s native music sons on stage, Mr. Scott Sawyer.

Inspiration comes from many places….

…here’s a poem by one of my favorite writers. Comments welcomed.

Pull A String, A Puppet Moves (Charles Bukowski)

each man must realize
that it can all disappear very
the cat, the woman, the job,
the front tire,
the bed, the walls, the
room; all our necessities
including love,
rest on foundations of sand –
and any given cause,
no matter how unrelated:
the death of a boy in Hong Kong
or a blizzard in Omaha …
can serve as your undoing.
all your chinaware crashing to the
kitchen floor, your girl will enter
and you’ll be standing, drunk,
in the center of it and she’ll ask:
my god, what’s the matter?
and you’ll answer: I don’t know,
I don’t know …

NEW album Scott Sawyer “Dreamers”

NEW album, Scott Sawyer “Dreamers” is available here:

Scott Sawyer - Dreamers cover

Liner Notes

Life’s not always fair, is it? If it were, North Carolina-based improviser Scott Sawyer would be hyped like his better-known contemporaries, guitar heroes Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Pat Metheny. But those of us who have long celebrated his blues-inspired, often understated approach to the 6-string knew that his day would come. And that day, my friends, is today.

With the release of Dreamers, Sawyer announces to the rest of the world that there’s a new name, one that belongs in the pantheon of great American guitar-slingers. Welcome to the club, my man, because this record is the one you always wanted to make.

To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, Dreamers deserves all the hyphens, from jazz-to-blues-to-rock. The album’s flexible rhythm section, bassist Ron Brendle and drummer Brian Sullivan, is straight out of jazz: elastic, ever-changing, strumming and stroking in support of Sawyer’s every whim. But labeling Dreamers as just jazz is like appreciating only one color from the palette of a master painter. The deep blues shade every note Sawyer plays. He bends the strings, hesitates, surges and slurs, dipping the music into the dirty water of some mythical Delta. Beyond the record’s obvious blues and jazz lurks the accessible aesthetic of pop and rock as well. Note the presence of timeless tunes by Nick Drake and Bob Dylan, bittersweet vocals by multi-talented Kate McGarry and even a poetry recitation by Bruce Piephoff.

Out of Dreamer’s 11 tunes, 7 are Sawyer originals, including memorable melodies like “Booshki,” named for sawyer’s dog, “Copperhead Stew,” perilously tart to the taste, and the ethereal “Dreamer,” an unadulterated jazz ballad, all of which co-stars saxophonist Dave Finucane. A resident of Durham, Finucane is a major player who combines fluttering, Joe Henderson-like tone with the abstract ideas of Wayne Shorter. On this date, he plays Robin to Sawyer’s Batman, whether doubling the guitarist’s billowing lines with breaths of fresh air or whispering wry commentary from the music’s shadows. Like Sawyer, Finucane, who cut his teeth on the Boston jazz scene, is a cat worthy of attention far beyond regional borderlines.

McGarry is the session’s wild card, guesting on 3 cuts. On “Dreamer,” her buoyant, wordless vocal becomes like a second saxophone dancing with Finucane’s tenor. Moments later, McGarry reprises Nick Drake’s melancholy masterpiece, “River Man,” with a wispy, vibrato-less reading that starts slowly, but culminates in an emotionally charged conversation with Sawyer as the sounds of two savvy improvisers embrace and intertwine. Drake’s dirge gives way to bawdy Bob Dylan on “Not Dark Yet,” which McGarry blasts like Bonnie Raitt in full honky-tonk-angel mode. McGarry, donning many hats, wears them all with style.

The high-water mark is a 2-song “suite” dedicated to Sawyer’s friend from his days as a fledgling guitarist based in Greensboro. “Dakota” & “Joe Dunn” are heartfelt nods to the late legendary Guilford county musician-visionary from the ‘70s. Bruce Piephoff, who, like Sawyer, knew Dunn intimately, toasts Dakota’s eclectic nature with a poem rife with imagery of dark midnights and lonely train whistles. The words become a toast to “the music that burned inside you and me.” While Piephoff recites, Sawyer picks circles of soft, spiraling notes in the background in a simple but majestic ode to their departed pal. When the poem ends, Brendle and Sullivan re-appear out of the ether with long bass notes and brushes for “Joe Dunn,” a fitting requiem. Those who indulge in the sonic landscape of 21st century Americana, Bill Frisell-style, will recognize this territory, a place where folk-infused reminders of Woody Guthrie sound comfortable beside sophisticated jazz harmony and – maybe, just maybe – the dark, aromatic soil of the blues. Without sounding a bit contrived, the Dakota suite touches all those bases.

Leave it to Scott Sawyer, a rare modest man in these watch-me-now times, to spend an entire record reminding his listeners about other folks, be they departed heroes or merely the other musicians in his band. He has spent much of his career deflecting the spotlight and shining it upon others. Now it’s his time to burn brightly – and live the dream.

That’s what Dreamers is all about. – Joe Vanderford