Roland Gresham, accomplished gospel jazz guitarist and songwriter, has performed throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Bermuda and the Caribbean, London and Hawaii. He has recorded numerous CDs and assisted in concerts and recordings with well-known artists, including Take 6, Daryl Coley, Dottie Peoples, Bobby Jones, and Richard Smallwood. Recent solo CDs include Pillow Talk, which includes five of his jazz tunes; Special Music, a mix of spirituals and other favorites played using a blending of jazz and blues styles; and The Best of Roland, which includes four of his own songs.
Gresham was born and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of a jazz guitarist. Essentially self-taught, Roland began playing at age six, building on the few basic chords his father gave him. Although he did not have formal training and still is unable to read music, he developed a keen ear and a natural dexterity that enabled him to develop a remarkable facility. He listened to his father's recordings of Wes Montgomery and other guitarists and by the time he entered high school, was accomplished enough to win the school's talent contest in his freshman year.
In those first years in high school, Gresham began playing in bars and nightclubs in the area but quickly became disenchanted with what he saw. At age fifteen, he made a commitment to Christianity and began playing at banquets, for wedding receptions, and in churches, activities that continued after graduation from high school. Although he became a licensed and practicing electrician, he continued to play on weekends. As word about his playing spread and requests for appearances increased, Gresham began playing full-time in 1988.
He plays in a variety of venues, ranging from storefront churches and small groups to larger churches with overflow audiences, and for special occasions. He has sold over 350,000 copies of his music. He recently observed, "Music has a tendency to soothe the soul. Because there are so many stressful moments in life, music can be a comforter."
Sources: Reger Smith, Jr., "In All Directions," Adventist Review, May 2005 (quote); Multiple Online Sources.