LOGAN — A Utah guitarist was featured in two songs that competed for a Grammy on Sunday.
Corey Christiansen, a Utah State University professor, played the guitar on two tracks that were part of jazz musician Chuck Owen's "River Runs" project. One song, "Bound Away," was nominated for best instrumental composition, and another song, "Side Hikes," was nominated for best instrumental arrangement.
“Chuck always writes very difficult music; it doesn’t sound like it might be as difficult, but it's very intricate and technical — just high-level, beautiful music," Christiansen said. "This project seemed to be on a whole other level of his writing. I think it’s really his strongest work so far, and he’s had many incredible projects."
The tracks did not end up winning in their categories, but Christiansen said Owen is a brilliant writer and arranger. The two met while Christiansen was studying composition at the University of South Florida, where Owen was director of the jazz program.
Christiansen has been part of Owen's jazz ensemble off and on for the past 15 years, joining the band whenever it needed textural guitar. He played a variety of instruments, including 12-string guitar, nylon string guitar, steel string guitar and resonator guitar.
“Those parts of the music had so many different layers that on some tracks I was playing multiple guitars and maybe switching back and forth from one sound to the next as the piece kind of evolves,” he said.
Christiansen started playing the guitar at a young age. Now he works as a professor at USU in a large guitar program that his father, Mike Christiansen, founded.
“I’ve been playing since I was 5 and I’ve been making money playing guitar since I was around 10 or 11 years old," Christiansen said. "It’s good that it all worked out because I’m not sure if I’m good at anything else.”
He is also a band leader and tours jazz festivals. He said he loves the opportunity to record and has released five albums. His most recent album, "Lone Prairie," was released in 2013.
“I took mostly old cowboy tunes, some of them that were written probably in the late 1800s, and I arranged them for a modern jazz quintet,” he said.
Christiansen will be playing at the Peaks Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs at the end of February.