News: Recent gigs, new releases, other interesting tidbits...

September 8, 2019:

As my Evita orchestra pit colleague Paul Molloy puts it: my office on Sunday, September 8th was in Golden Gate Park, where the San Francisco Opera performed their annual Opera in the Park concert. This year a Freddy Mercury / Queen tune was featured: Somebody to Love. When I first heard about this, I thought they were referring to Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”. Golden Gate Park, outdoor free concert….of course!

It was the Queen song, however. I got to play the song, including the Brian May solo break with the opera orchestra…a very gratifying and fun experience! A good time was had by all; thousands of listeners, stellar performances by the singers and orchestra, and a beautiful, warm day.

Here’s what the SF Chronicle / Joshua Kosman had to say:

COMING SOON: Somewhere, from West Side Story

Featuring Molly Mahoney, mezzo soprano with Barbara Chaffe (flute) and John Imholz (guitar)

The release of this song is imminent. We’re waiting on mechanical royalty clearance (Leonard Bernstein wrote the music; Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics). The last step in the process is deciding on the cover art…and that’s moving along as well. As soon as all the ducks are in a row: Somewhere gets released! Somehow, someday… know how it goes!

August 26, 2019:

Breaking the Waves; West Edge Opera - August 2019

Playing in the orchestra for Breaking the Waves was a very enjoyable experience for me. My colleagues in the orchestra and the stellar cast, led by Jonathan Khuner, did a splendid job. It's very gratifying to work with such capable and committed musicians and singers. 

Review links for Breaking the Waves:

The guitar rig for this opera was fairly specialized. There wasn't a huge amount of material to play; the guitar appeared as a contrasting voice to the otherwise all-acoustic instrumentation (with the exception of an organ that made an appearance here and there). The guitar sound was overdrive / distortion (as per the composer's directions) whenever it appeared, ranging in volume from "niente" ("nothing", i.e. inaudible) to  fff. These volume changes often occurred within a measure or two. Other techniques utilized by composer Missy Mazzoli included descending portamento slides that echoed the male chorus; abrupt sfz bursts, often tutti, to punctuate vocal phrases; and long power-chord crescendi that emphasized the serious drama that was unfolding over the course of the opera. 

The overdriven guitar sound brought in a powerful, thunderous, often scary and bewildering heaviness when the protagonist Bess felt that she was experiencing direct communication with god. Bess would alternate between her own voice and the "voice of god" speaking to her. One such cue came at the very end of Act 1. Bess, as the voice of god, sings: "Your love for Jan...has been tested." The guitar then hits a high E with feedback that has to sound steadily for a long time, without any particular additional techniques (such as vibrato) used to help sustain the note. 

I used a pedal / stomp box called the Electroharmonix "Freeze" to get that effect. The Freeze pedal enable me to sustain the high E as long as needed. Then, on cue by Maestro Khuner, I released the pedal and reattacked the note, then adding more volume, feedback, and increasingly wide vibrato to help build the crescendo along with the rest of the orchestra, cutting off suddenly into an abrupt total silence. End of Act I!

This is the TMI section, for gear-heads....anyone else may glaze over quickly while reading this section. That's my mahogany Frankenstrat, with the Hannes bridge and Kinman P-90 pickups. The amp is a 75 watt Line 6 Spider IV. The Master Volume on the Line 6 pedalboard let me control the absolute volume without affecting the amount of distortion; the other volume pedal gave me the option of increasing or decreasing the amount of distortion. The Freeze effect only was utilized once, during the aforementioned end of Act I.

Another night at the opera. No Bohemian Rhapsody, though.... : )

Breaking the Waves: pedalboard setup

Breaking the Waves: pedalboard setup

Breaking the Waves: I used my home-assembled Frankenstrat (mahogany body, Hannes bridge, Kinman P-90s).

Breaking the Waves: I used my home-assembled Frankenstrat (mahogany body, Hannes bridge, Kinman P-90s).

Capathia Jenkins and the SF Symphony at Shoreline Amphitheater - July 4th, 2019 

Capathia Jenkins and the SF Symphony at Shoreline Amphitheater - July 4, 2019  Photograph by Chris Tuite /

Capathia Jenkins and the SF Symphony at Shoreline Amphitheater - July 4, 2019

Photograph by Chris Tuite /

It was quite exciting to play Space Oddity (David Bowie), Rocket Man (Elton John), Skyfall (Adele), among other tunes, featuring vocalists Capathia Jenkins and Constantine Maroulis, and conducted by Edwin Outwater. 

Shoreline is always an adventure: big stage, huge crowd, great sound system, Jumbotrons...the whole magilla. That's bassist Bill Ritchen and me, seated just in front of the percussion section in the middle left side of the picture. That's Capathia in the bright blue dress, totally rocking the place. 

On July 5th and 6th, back at Davies Hall, Capathia did her Aretha Franklin tribute. She was beautifully channeling the Queen of Soul: Respect, Natural Woman, Chain of Fools, I Say A Little Prayer...these songs were all in the Top Ten back in the late 1960s when I was in high school and playing in garage bands.  Those songs were played constantly on the radio back then, both AM and FM. Any other Bay Area residents out there remember KYA, KEWB, KSAN, and KMPX? It was a different era. But now, almost 50 years later, I had the opportunity to play those great songs with Capathia and the rest of the rhythm section, featuring Bill Ritchen on bass, Jake Nissley on drums, and Joan Cifarelli on piano, with the San Francisco Symphony. 

Capathia closed out the show with a duet: "River Deep, Mountain High", featuring vocalist Denzal Sinclaire. Bravi tutti!

This gig was particularly interesting for me because, in preparation for the show, I did some in-depth research and listening to the original rhythm section for all the Aretha Franklin hits (and many, many others as well). I'm referring to Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), Barry Beckett (keyboards), and David Hood (bass), known as "the Swampers" - based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. These guys were hugely influential; you can read about them here:

June 9, 2019:

There are two new releases available now:

Ade zur guten Nacht  is a lullaby that is as familiar to German children as "Rock-a-Bye Baby" is to American kids. This song first appeared in the early 19th century. The composer and lyricist are unknown; the song appears in songbooks from the German states of Sachsen, Rheinpfalz, Thüringen, and other parts of the Franken region.

Daniel Cilli - vocals

Miriam Perkoff - cello

John Imholz - guitar and mandolin

John Cuniberti - mastering

More information can be found here:

Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: Gavotte (Arr. for Strings, Mandolins, Banjo and Mandocello)

The surviving manuscript for the Gavotte was made by Bach in 1720 in Cöthen, Germany. Sergey Rachmaninov reworked the original solo violin part for piano. This arrangement utilizes 2 violins, 2 mandolins, viola, banjo, violoncello and mandocello. An earlier version of this arrangement was recorded in the early 1990s by the Modern Mandolin Quartet (of which I was a  member at the time, playing mandocello), and the Turtle Island String Quartet. The MMQ / TISQ version was an arranging collaboration between me and Paul Binkley (mandola player for the MMQ). I reworked the arrangement and rerecorded it in Oakland, California in 2019. 

During the recording process, we often referred to this arrangement as the: Бах-манинов — Спасибо, Polina! : )

Nadya Tichman - Violin I

Polina Sedukh - Violin II

Emily Onderdonk - Viola

Miriam Perkoff - Violoncello

John (Джон) Imholz - Mandolins, banjo, and mandocello

Mastering: John (Джон) Cuniberti

More information can be found here:

October 4, 2016: THE RAVEN video, featuring original artwork, is now viewable on youtube. Click here  to watch. 

The images in this video were created by local Oakland artists, both students and professionals. The music that accompanies the images in this video was performed by members of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 6. Full credits for all contributors to this project appear at the end of the video. 

You can see the original artwork and hear the instrumental version of THE RAVEN (minus the voiceover) here. 

Image by Sharon Constant / Visible Ink Design

Image by Sharon Constant / Visible Ink Design


March 23, 2015: The Modern Mandolin Quartet's album INTERPLAY is now available on iTunes and CDBaby. 

Audio clips and more information can be found at the MUSIC / ALBUM: INTERPLAY page.

March 21, 2015: THE RAVEN, a new piece written by John Imholz, and featuring the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, has just been completed.  You can hear samples on the Raven link. This piece is dedicated to the memory of William "Bill" Bennett, exceptional oboist, friend, and colleague. You will find more news, production info, and future plans for THE RAVEN right here as things develop.

January 15, 2015: The Modern Mandolin Quartet's album INTERPLAY will be re-released on February 1, 2015. The album, recorded by the Modern Mandolin Quartet in 1999 (and unavailable for several years), is finally going to see the light of day once again. The album features compositions by David Balakrishnan (of Turtle Island String Quartet fame), Utah-based composer Tully Cathey, and Terry Riley. Look for INTERPLAY on iTunes in February . 


INTERPLAY   - 2015





December 29, 2014:     The Raven, a new composition based on the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, is being edited and mixed right now in Erfurt, Germany (as well as a few other European locations). Erfurt is the capital city of Thüringen; this region of Germany is the home of the Brothers Grimm, renowned for their eerie fairy tales. A perfect atmosphere to submerge oneself in the mysterious, picturesque, and also eerie poem by Poe. 

Featuring musicians Dana Bauer (oboe), Barbara Chaffe (flute), Pat Klobas (acoustic bass), Emily Onderdonk (viola),  Marc Shapiro (harpsichord), Nadya Tichman (violin), Rob Weir (bassoon), and John (guitar), this piece also has a voiceover track (with the text of the poem - 18 verses). The projected completion date should be late February...but we all know how these projects take longer than expected. It will be available on youtube and iTunes as soon as it's all finished. 


November 12, 2014:   I'm sad to report that my colleague and friend Paul Binkley passed away early this morning. Paul and I played together in the Modern Mandolin Quartet for many years, and along the way we shared many interesting experiences and musical adventures. Paul was a great musician and a good man. We will deeply miss him.


September 9, 2014:

SO FAR... John's  new album featuring The Brandenburg Bounce and much more. 

Released on September 9, 2014, with musicians Joan Cifarelli (keyboards), Mary Fettig (alto sax and flute), Kelly Fasman (drums), Louis Fasman (trumpet), John Imholz (guitars), Dave Ridge (trombone), Bill Ritchen (electric bass), and a special guest appearance by Nadya Tichman (violin), playing "The Lark Descending".  

The Brandenburg did they DO  that ? !


See the video!