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How Susan Weinert Discovered Jazz Guitar and Made it Her Life's Passion

Susan Weinert
(Image credit: Rich Serra)

I met and interviewed German jazz guitarist Susan Weinert while I was on tour in Europe in 2005. She showed up for the interview with her husband and musical partner, Martin Weinert. 

Susan’s laid-back, friendly attitude immediately put me at ease. It was one of my favorite and most memorable experiences talking to another guitar player. I always wanted to catch up again and was considering reaching out as I was putting this column together. 

To my shock, I learned Susan passed away from cancer on March 2 of this year. Susan was a beautiful jazz guitarist, composer and human being. To read more about her and purchase her music, visit susanweinert.com (opens in new tab)

When did you start playing guitar?  

At the age of seven. I went to a classical player. He was a nice old man, but not a good teacher, so after three years I stopped. The problem was I couldn’t read music. Later, when I was 14 or 15, I was influenced by a jazz-rock guitar player from our town. I learned theory, and he told me to go to a jazz workshop. That’s where I fell in love with jazz.

What did your parents think of this? 

My dad was a dentist, and he thought I should learn a profession and then study music. I was in school to become a dental assistant when he died. Just before he died, he said, “Do what your heart is telling you, and do nothing else.” That was when I said I would be a musician. 

I’m really trying to do what I want to do, not what other people expect me to do. If someone says they won’t buy this kind of music, I don’t worry about it. I want to do what I want to do in my heart. 

Who are a few of your influences?  

I’m a big fan of Miles Davis, John Coltrane - all the giants of jazz. On the guitar side, I was influenced by Wes Montgomery, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson and Pat Metheny. 

I saw Pat in 1983. It was my first concert. I sat there for three hours, and it was like two minutes had passed. I went right home and tried to transcribe [his music]. It took me hours to transcribe four bars. From that evening on, I was totally into it.

Are you influenced by the guitar players of jazz or the horn players?  

Both. We had a Charlie Parker tape in the car. After a year, I could sing everything on it, and I practiced all of it. I transcribe horns and piano as well as guitar, because I want to be open. That’s helped me create my own style. 

How did you find it?  

For the first five years, we played just straight-ahead jazz with upright bass. When our drummer joined, he asked me to transcribe some John Scofield music. I learned to play all the chords, the solos and melody, and it was a great study for me. I thought, Maybe I should try to find the personality in the chords. So I started to write my own music in that style, and that helped me eventually develop my own style.

When you began to play guitar, did you know of any other women who played?  

Yes, Sheryl Bailey, and Leni Stern - she’s from Germany too. And Emily Remler. I loved her playing a lot. I always sensed sadness in her music. It felt warm, but sad.

How long have you and Martin been married?  

Twenty years. There was a point that we knew it was important to stay together as a couple, because if one person goes this way and another goes that way, it’s not good for a marriage. People ask us, “How can you stay together, play together, eat together, work together, for 24 hours?” But it’s wonderful.