Archive for May, 2011

Swinging with Stochelo

Posted in Movies, Playing with tags , , , , on May 21, 2011 by theguitarcave

As I related in an earlier post, Gypsy Jazz superstar Stochelo Rosenberg has his own online academy here. I’m proud to be a member and consider myself fortunate to be living in an age when someone of Stochelo’s talent can take on the role of guitar instructor and still live thousands of miles away. I encourage anyone who is interested in learning this style to check the site out. Even though I was self-taught up until a few months ago, I have learned much in the last 12 weeks and was able to fine-tune some technique things I wasn’t doing right. Stochelo shows you how to play all of these songs almost lick by lick and this is how he learned — from watching others do it and from copping licks from Django off his records.

Here are two songs that I’ve already done and can do at tempo…sort of. I still have to get the right-hand much better, but it’s coming along. Sometimes the things I practice go out the window when I try to record or perform and I revert to old (bad) habits. As with the Swinging with Django videos I just tune up and go for it and take the first take. I think it’s important to get to the point where it’s just automatic and THERE when it has to be there. I do better versions when I practice S L O W L Y, but I like to record them fast and on the fly so I can notice where I am reflexively doing it wrong. Posting these videos at the Academy allows the really experienced and helpful staff to comment and that sure does help. I wouldn’t have been able to play any of the songs as well last year at this time. There are more in the works and the Rosenberg Academy encouraged me to post these here…in case you’re wondering. They are super-nice people, and really helpful and attentive to any questions, plus they have already put up a whole lot of material and they are only on month 5. It is a great deal considering you are studying with one of the best guitarists in the world for less than what a local guitar teacher would charge for an hourly lesson.

Swinging with Django

Posted in Movies, Playing with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2011 by theguitarcave

More of me playing along with Django Reinhardt. 3 songs — After You’ve Gone, the 1936 version with Freddy Taylor on vocals, the classic version of Honeysuckle Rose, and finally the duet version of Tears with Stephane Grappelli. While there are mistakes, I’m pretty happy with these versions because they were all first takes and it’s a good measure of how far I’ve come since I started trying to play Gypsy Jazz. My improv skills still aren’t where I want them to be and the right-hand technique still needs to be better, but that’s what I’m trying to work on going forward.

It has been raining A LOT outside the cave lately and it seems to have a severe effect on the sound of the guitar. Not nearly as crisp and biting as it usually is. I felt like I was playing in a bowl of oatmeal today. I’ve never played an instrument that was so sensitive to weather changes. In the winter, when the radiators are on, the top of the guitar body contracts and I can lose anywhere to 1/16 — 1/8 of an inch so I have to shim up the bridge just so there isn’t buzzing and dead notes. But I’m sure Django and all the others who play this music with these types of instruments have similar problems. There are stories of Django putting matchbook covers under the bridge to pop it up. Certainly didn’t seem to make a bit of difference as far as his ability to play well was concerned.

Booker (Bukka) White and the Blues — Then and Now (2)

Posted in Players with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by theguitarcave

Part 1 is HERE

While many guitar players have taken the humble beginnings of blues guitar styling into the realm of blues guitar virtuoso over the years and have done it very well: Johnny Winter, Otis Rush, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Roy Buchanan, Jeff Beck, and Buddy Guy, to name but a few, there have always been those more concerned with the most basic elements; feel, nuance, and (here comes my favorite word again) atmosphere. Two of my favorite superstar bands, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, both did very faithful or very perverted takes on the blues idiom and the blues sound. Both were obsessed with using technology or limited technology to get a sound that was either faithful to the original or a hyper-realistic redefinition. Jimmy Page was a master at recording and production and always stressed the importance of distance miking and microphone placement as two very overlooked ways to achieve an interesting sound of the blues or whatever the vibe of the song required. “Distance equals depth”, he has said many times in interviews. Led Zeppelin did many versions of blues influenced material and always created an interesting sonic approach that built upon what one could hear on the original song — When the Levee Breaks is a very good example. Someday I’d like to write about stuff I learned from listening to and reading about Jimmy Page, but in the meantime this is fascinating reading for anyone who is interested. A guy by the name of Bill O’Neil explores Led Zep’s studio wizardry and I think he does a really good job. The articles on Ten Years Gone and In My Time of Dying are very enlightening, especially if you’re a guitar player who might be doing some recording soon.

The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones, when recording Parachute Woman, a no-frills chugger on the Beggars Banquet album, all gathered around an early Phillips cassette recorder and “overloaded” the levels so it came out greasy and slightly distorted. This was fed into the main board later. The (acoustic) guitar on Street Fighting Man, was recorded the same way, and while I don’t know that Keith has ever said one way or another, the studio release of Jumping Jack Flash sounds very similar to me. The Exile on Main Street sessions are legendary for the very DIY locations and methods of recording of what turned out to be probably one of the most lo-fi blues-authentic major releases ever. As I mentioned already, Mick Jagger copped his whole vocal style from the blues and it’s very apparent on the Beggars Banquet through Exile recordings. Both Keith Richards and Jimmy Page adopted the “open tunings” of many blues players — Booker White, Skip James, Robert Johnson, Son House, and later Muddy Waters — to achieve the same kind of guitar sound that their heroes were getting on these early records. Tuning to an “open” basically means tuning the strings so that the guitar is playing a chord without any fingers fretting the strings. This allows the player to play a chord, bass line or shuffle rhythm on the lower register, while simultaneously playing licks or melody lines on the higher strings. It also allows for interesting drone effects and when combined with a capo, allows a player to play the same patterns all over the neck in different keys, allowing the player to adjust for sound effect or to complement the vocal key he or she wants to play in. Keith Richards began using these tunings on the studio version of Jumping Jack Flash and the Beggars Banquet album and it signaled a new era for the Stones sound. I also think that Jumping Jack Flash might be the first open-tuned top 10 hit ever, but I’m not sure about that. Jimmy Page not only used the traditional open tunings, but also made up his own and I’ll explore all of this in more detail in a future post. There are literally endless possibilities and it’s something anyone should fool around with just to see how it might change the sound of the musical style or even song one is trying to play.

The Jam Messengers at Booker White's grave

A groovy great band that has come on the Cave Radar lately is The Jam Messengers, a righteous duo who understand the essence of the blues, dangerous living, analog dreams and bourbon washed down with Furry Lewis. I’ve known singer Rob K. for a long time. He and his partner for many years, Scott Jarvis, were NYC’s premier downtown bluesy rhythm section, the furious and notorious Workdogs. They had a lengthy, glamorous career on the once rough streets of the Lower East Side and had many a fine side-man and woman sit in with them. I was lucky enough to catch quite a few of their shows including one with Blues Explosion founder Jon Spencer, another on the same bill with modern-day blues twister, Poppy Chubby, and quite a few with the late, great Jerry “Dublee” Williams. They made quite a few recordings and I believe some of them are still available if you check out their website.

The Workdogs "Roberta" album

Rob K is still a blues entertainer-philosopher supremo front-man extraordinaire, now with a new partner, “Uncle” Marco Butcher, a guy who wakes up and drinks the blues for breakfast. They recently finished a tour of the eastern/southern states and there are rumors they will be returning over the summer. While in Memphis they visited Booker’s grave and Booker was pleased and said “Yea, so you shall go to the Big Apple and Shake ’em On Down!” (I’m paraphrasing). They tore it up for two nights in NYC and were able to record a whole lot of songs with Scott Jarvis while they were here so I’m sure there will be even more blues in the future for fans of their music. (Check out my review of their CD Dictionary of Cool in the sidebar) Marco lays out successive fiery riffs and swinging grooves on the guitar…while playing traps and shouting along on the choruses simultaneously! Holy cow is that super impressive! His open-tuned, slide-induced riffing and chooglin’ through a dirty Fender Champ would please Booker White, of that I am sure. So would his great sense of time and keeping the beat right up the big old butt of the audience. Rob K. is a master of the church-brought-low — a modern-day Testifier with a capital “T” — and he preaches his life gospel to all of the faithful and the faithful leave redeemed and relieved of all burdens. Politics, sexual roles, the profane and the mundane have all changed quite a bit since the days of Booker White and Rob K is a man with his finger on the pulse and his foot on the gas. Real blues singers throughout the years have always prided themselves on pushing boundaries, musically and lyrically, and the trouble with the majority of mainstream blues is that many an artist has retreated to the safe confines of the cliché. Not so with the Rob and Marco and this is an important common thread to the blues legacy and it resonates with people all over the world, because in just a short space of time, these guys have done some serious TRAVELIN’! Yea!! Taking it to the people like you are supposed to and hitting them with music and a message that the people need.

Because of artists like the Jam Messengers, Workdogs and many others that I will profile in the future, somewhere men like Booker White and Howlin’ Wolf, and women like Sister Rosetta and Memphis Minnie are pleased and maybe a little surprised that their artistic efforts and life stories have not only left a deep impression on the skin of this world, but continue to inspire lost souls who struggle through the muck and the fog of the jagged night in search of that sound, that feel and deliverance from all that is common and predictable. Through their recordings, films, stories, and performances these greats of yesteryear have left behind a legacy that can inspire and lead any musician with interest and an ear to the Promise Land.

Wolfgang’s Vault

Posted in Players with tags , , , , , on May 1, 2011 by theguitarcave

I was a member/regular at Wolfgang’s Vault years ago. I used to listen to the streaming shows at work and they had some really cool stuff — everything from Hendrix, Who, Allman Brothers, Zappa with the Mothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Zeppelin shows to some early punk from the late 70s and early 80s. I visited this past weekend and now THEY HAVE VIDEO. I can’t figure out how to embed links and it doesn’t look like they have all the bugs worked out yet (videos don’t seem to play on all systems) but I’m sure they’ll get it fixed. There is A TON OF GREAT STUFF HERE and hopefully they will add more as they find it / get it. I’ve already watched Allmans live at the Fillmore East in 1970, which I’ve seen before but as a low quality video. The Who at Tanglewood — great and hilarious; it’s impossible to watch a Townsend/Moon performance and not have at least one belly-laugh. Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Fillmore West in early 1976, the SEX PISTOLS at Winterland in 1978!!! and AC/DC and Aerosmith at the Monsters of Rock in 1979. There’s a lot of other stuff I haven’t gotten to yet, and there looks to be a bunch of stuff I will never get to. But it will be worth  going back to see what develops and there is a whole lot of glorious guitar to be watch and listen to.

Cari Dell

Posted in Players with tags , , , , , , on May 1, 2011 by theguitarcave

Whew! You go girl!

Really great performance of a well-known song. Cari Dell plays all of the right licks from Jimi’s and Stevie’s versions and adds quite a few tasty ones of her own, while doing all of the tricks in the guitar-slinger book. She sings it very nicely too!

The guy in the cowboy hat rules. Anyone who has ever played a show at a place like this knows what I’m talking about.