Star-spangled jammer 

Marcus Machado remembers watching his dad strum the guitar. He knew that he wanted to play, too, and finally asked if he could -- and he was only 2 years old. "He put a guitar inside my hands and just taught me how to play," says Machado. And play he did.

Now Machado is 15 and about to celebrate the release of his first CD, "Live at Will's," on local imprint Richter Records. (Ironically, the July 2 party will be at Sapphire, since Will's Pub, where the music was recorded, has called it quits.) His father, Miguel, an accomplished guitarist in his own right, remains Machado's mentor, as well as a key player in their three-piece, along with drummer Dennis Day.

The disc is a rightfully raw recording that showcases Marcus and his band effortlessly leap-frogging from jazz fusion to blues, then back to jazz and on to R&B.

The diversity is a reflection of the eager learner's early years, which were spent devouring source material and copping licks from Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Miles Davis, Jeff Beck, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Weather Report and Jaco Pastorius.

"I took all that stuff that my father taught me with all the stuff that I was listening to and just put it into my own style of play," says Machado.

In keeping with his own style, he decided to go live on his introductory CD. "Everybody does their first album in the studio; we wanted to give it back to the fans," says Machado. It was after the recording was finished that the group pared down to a three-piece. Gone is vocalist-keyboardist Julie Charity, whose singing did not mesh with Machado's combustible technique.

Picking up the challenge, Machado, who's already mastered bass, drums and keyboards, is starting to sing. "When I first started, we had to get vocalists to give a different variety. ... Now I'm starting to push myself to sing." The July 2 performance also will mark his vocal debut.

But performing itself is hardly a new experience to the veteran. After the family moved from Port Charlotte to Orlando in 1995, it wasn't long before Machado was embraced by the local-music scene. For the last several years, he's been a regular player at clubs, always with his father, of course.

His precocious skills attracted TV coverage, including a CNN segment, along with high-profile jams with guitar heroes Gary Hoey and Zakk Wylde, as well as blues legend Buddy Miles and Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid.

When the Solar Bears invited him to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a game, the then 12-year-old wooed the crowd with Hendrix's signature acid-rock version of the national anthem.

"Everybody just went wild, they wanted me to play more," says Machado of the experience. He was asked to come back for a repeat performance, but this time for the Orlando Magic. He still likes to watch that video.

Later this month, Machado will start to record his first studio album -- not bad for a kid headed into 10th grade. He credits his parents for giving him the right support. "It's not something that my parents pressured me into doing. ... It's something that I wanted to do all the time."

Papa Machado agrees. "He loves music, and I think he has that drive to play because he loves it so. It's not like we are pushing him out there. We are just kind of supporting him. ... He just has a passion for it."

More by Mark Padgett


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