Born in 1969 in Queens, New York, Dustin Ehrlich began playing viola, string bass, and piano in elementary school. At age 13, he began studying electric bass with a former student of Jaco Pastorius and began playing guitar. In the mid-1980’s, Ehrlich studied music theory and performance at a local music school on scholarship. During this same period, he competed in a New York State jazz competition where he was penalized by the judges for playing Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology” at a tempo that was considered to be too fast.
Later, Ehrlich performed a classical repertoire with a local orchestra. He also performed and recorded regularly in the New York City metropolitan area with rock groups including the band Doomsday, the precursor to the band Winter. According to The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal, Winter is considered to be one of the fathers of the Doom Metal movement, along with Black Sabbath.
In 1987, Ehrlich began studying at Vassar College in New York on scholarship. At Vassar, he studied with composers Richard Edward Wilson and Annea Lockwood, avant-garde jazz musician and synthesizer pioneer Richard Teitelbaum, pianist Blanca Uribe, and conductor Tony Rowe. Outside of the classroom, Ehrlich played both guitar and bass in progressive and improvisational groups at local clubs and festivals.
After graduating from Vassar, Ehrlich moved to NYC and studied with Sal Salvador-the legendary master jazz guitarist and veteran of Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, and Herbie Hancock-led groups. In the late 1990’s, Ehrlich was actively composing, recording, and performing. His compositions earned him a soundtrack credit for an award-winning documentary. His performances and recordings included work with progressive jazz ensembles such as Aun, Hannuman’s Cup, the Coliseum Trio, and others.
Influenced by artists such as John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner, John McLaughlin, Terje Rypdal and Keith Jarrett, by 2000 Ehrlich had developed a new voice in the guitar idiom, both compositionally and improvisationally. His 2003 recording “A Distant Star” presents a program of original compositions. On “A Distant Star”, Ehrlich plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, electric bass, and keyboards. He blends acoustic/electric atmospheric jazz and an exciting post-bop improvisational style to create timeless original music.
In 2005, after hearing “A Distant Star”, 20th Century Guitar magazine contacted Ehrlich and notified him that they had selected this CD out of hundreds of CD’s for review that month. “A Distant Star” received an outstanding review. Later, 20th Century Guitar magazine featured an article on Ehrlich, which appeared in 2005 in the Greg Lake issue.
Also in 2005, Ehrlich competed in several rounds of the “Guitarmageddon” competition sponsored by Guitar Center stores. The competition was judged by members of Bad Company, Foreigner, and a variety of top-flight studio musicians. Ehrlich won First Prize in Manhattan, beating out approximately 30-40 other guitarists over the course of several nights of winner-take-all competitions. Ehrlich composed an original piece of music based on concepts associated with Hungarian folk music and then improvised within the composition’s framework. Ultimately, the originality of the composition and the improvisations won Ehrlich the competition’s First Prize.
In 2017, Ehrlich released two recordings. The first recording, “Look to the Dawn”, is an entirely improvised studio recording from 1995 presenting solo and self-accompanied performances using electric guitar, classical guitar, electric bass, piano, and tenor saxophone. The second recording, “Live at the Knitting Factory and Beyond”, features a set of original compositions performed on solo electric guitar. Captured live in NYC in 2005-2006, this recording showcases the continuous flow of ideas and raw improvisational energy of one of today’s most unique and inventive underground musicians.