Archive for March, 2016

Glen Campbell — Guitar Legend

Posted in Equipment, Music Business, Players with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2016 by theguitarcave

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I recently watched two clips on YouTube that profiled Glen Campbell: singer, guitarist, actor, American TV personality. The first was his Behind The Music special from 1999 and the second was 2012 a CBS News Sunday Morning that was Glen saying Goodbye. He had recently made public his Alzheimer’s diagnosis and accepted the inevitable by releasing an album and doing a final tour. Today Glen is in the final stages of the illness at a care facility near his home in Tennessee. He had a very prolific entertainment career and remains one of America’s most popular stars. His stratospheric rise in the late 60s to the top of the pop and country charts, his popularity with American television audiences, boyish good looks and wide array of talents guaranteed he would remain in the public eye even after the big hits stopped coming. His loss is kind of personal because he reminds me of my parents and my days as a child. I can remember watching his show on television while my mother ironed or read stories to my younger sister. His variety show and shows like Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island and The Monkees were all 1st run things for me — I saw them as they happened and it’s pretty wild to think now how long ago that was.

Glen Campbell’s career began very early — by 1954, before he was 20 years old — he was already playing in bands and appearing on local radio in New Mexico. He learned to play as a youth and always credited his Uncle Boo with teaching him in the early days. Life as the son of a sharecropper in Arkansas wasn’t easy, but a way out appeared very early on when his father bought the family a Sears and Roebuck guitar. Because the action was so high, a crude capo was fashioned out of an inner tube and from then on Glen would always be a prodigious user of capos, and obviously a prodigious player of guitars. Eventually he would make his way to Los Angeles and become, by the early 60s, a very in-demand session guitar player.

While it is pretty common knowledge now, many people who became Glen Campbell fans at the end of the 1960s had no idea of Glen’s early history as a session guitarist or his association with a group of people who would later come to be known as The Wrecking Crew; a collection of the finest session musicians on the west coast. As a session musician, Glen is estimated to be on anywhere from “high-hundreds” to “a thousand” recordings — everyone from Dean Martin to Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, The Champs, The Mamas and the Papas, Nat King Cole, scores of garage-y guitar type groups and even Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. There are many resources dealing with Glen and The Wrecking Crew and this makes for fascinating reading.

Other guitarists associated with this group of people who were also known as “The Clique” included Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts, Al Casey and James Burton. Carol Kaye, the first lady of bass guitar also has recollections and information on her site and in an interview here. As she points out, The Wrecking Crew wasn’t really known by that name at the time and there were a lot (50-60) people involved — all of the best session players in Los Angeles at the time…and Glen Campbell was one of them. From the UNOFFICIAL MARTIN GUITAR FORUM here is a funny aside:

Interviewed Glen Campbell once and he recounted a great story about the `Strangers In The Night‘ session.

He got a late call asking if he could do a session next day because the producer needed several acoustic guitars on the track and they were one short. Glen arrived next day all sun tanned, long flowing mane, jeans, boots and Beach Boys-type shirt to find that Sinatra’s musos were all jazz players with short hair, button-down shirts, neckties and slacks. They eyed him disdainfully.

The guitar players were seated in a line with Glen on the very end and the orchestra rehearsed all day long to get the desired sound. Early evening they got the call that Frank was on his way and the tension in the studio mounted. Thirty minutes later Sinatra arrived and went straight to the control booth and the musos all craned to catch sight of `The Gov’nor’

Sinatra walked out into the studio and the orchestra spontaneously rose and applauded him. Suddenly Frank looked over at Glen and yelled to the MD `Get rid of that long haired faggot on the end! Campbell rose to his feat and made ready to leave only to find Sinatra standing directly in front of him challenging `can you really play that thing?’ GC sat down and played some really tasty licks and Sinatra said `Okay, you can stay’.

After the session Sinatra sought Campbell out, stuck a wad of $$$ in his shirt pocket and invited him to a party at his Palm Springs home.

I’m not sure I believe this story totally. Strangers in the Night was cut in 1966 and Campbell I don’t think had a “long, flowing mane” until the 70s. Still… a fun piece of 60s music lore. The fact that Glen was a part of this group of LA session players that included Barney Kessel, James Burton, Howard Roberts and the Session King, Tommy Tedesco was a testament to his guitar talents, his work ethic and his ability to get along well with others. Also, in a short time, he would be one of a few emerging talents [Roy Clark (who is in this post) being another] who could sing like a bird and play the hell out of the guitar.

One band that Glen did a whole lot of work for, and even joined for a time, was The Beach Boys. The rock and roll sound of the BBs and similar acts like Jan and Dean was right up Glen’s alley and he looked and sounded the part. Some of his session playing (Dance, Dance, Dance) survived through release, some (rock and roll intro to Fun, Fun, Fun) was most likely redone by one of the “Boys”, although it is probably impossible to know for sure anymore. In December of 1964 he filled in for Brian Wilson, who had driven himself crazy with work and too many commitments. Glen was a Beach Boy until mid-1965 when Bruce Johnson took over as a “live” Beach Boy. Also at this time The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell album was released to very little fanfare, but it provides some interesting aural insights into Glen’s musical background. He was already a skilled picker capable of bringing his Arkansas blues, country and early rock and roll licks tastefully to any song. Probably this album was released to try and capitalize on the very popular folk boom at the time. In 1965 The Big Bad Rock Guitar of Glen Campbell was released and sounds like it could have been put together between Wrecking Crew sessions. Great versions of Walk Don’t Run, Ticket to Ride, James Bond Theme, It’s Not Unusual and other pop hits of the day. I like this album much better and like the swinging 60s pop sound from this period. While Glen doesn’t step out into jazz improv on these numbers, his guitar is certainly great as the melody instrument and all of his fills and soloing are pretty cool too! Below he sings and plays a little on a Teisco T-60.

In the early-mid 1960s most of the popular/rock and roll production values of the LA scene imitated in a fashion the Phil Spector Wall of Sound. Here is Simon and Garfunkel’s Blessed as it appeared on the 1965 Sounds of Silence album. This was a hastily-cut record after the initial success of The Sounds of Silence single had garnered some airplay as an acoustic song and was then remixed without Simon and Garfunkel’s knowledge or input as a post-Dylan electric folk-rock number. Here is Simon and Garfunkel doing Blessed as an acoustic number live in 1967. Sounds de-tuned and in drop-D tuning, but still captures the various guitar parts of the original. Notice all of the echo on the studio version; you can really hear it on the drums in the outro. The studio recording has at least 3-4 guitar parts I can hear and there are some cool delay/comb filter-type effects too. This album was produced by Bob Johnson, who produced Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisted and albums by Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen. Not really sure if Blessed was recorded in Nashville or LA, but Glen Campbell is listed on the credits for the album. This production is also very reminiscent of The Byrds and The Beatles mid-60s “folk-rock”. Rubber Soul was released a few weeks before this song was recorded.

On the Mike Nesmith/Monkees song Mary, Mary, a fun, but silly basic rock and roll song if there ever was one, there are 6 guitar players listed: Peter Tork, James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Michael Deasy, and Don Peake. Holy Cow…the Stones could’ve done this without overdubs! Maybe this was another reason the session work dried up, because you know all these guys are billing for the session. It’s the music equivalent of the mafia no-show construction jobs! By the end of the decade this production style would be out of fashion, technology would grow by leaps and bounds, many artists wrested control for their projects away from producers and many bands were capable of playing all of their instruments. But here’s Glen talking about his time as a session guitarist and demonstrating guitar techniques with Craig Kilborn, including his love and use of the capo.

As he recounts in Behind the Music, he did so many sessions he bought a car and had money to burn. After two disaster gigs opening solo for The Doors (wow!) he related that he didn’t go out on the road again until after his television show was a hit. Session work was more rewarding and enjoyable. When I first began playing guitar, I used to read Guitar Player magazine, which featured a regular column with premier session guitarist, Tommy Tedesco. It was always fun to read what Tommy was up to — whether it was a Bop gig, a new television show theme, a movie soundtrack. He would also list the other players, what instruments he used and how much money he made from the session. It was pretty cool reading and anyone who remembers those columns has an understanding of what Glen’s career was like for most of the 60s. Tommy Tedesco’s son, Denny, captured all of The Wrecking Crew‘s glory and history in his 2008 film The Wrecking Crew. Definitely see it if you haven’t.

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John Hartford

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John Hartford claimed to have written Gentle on My Mind “in a blur” after seeing the movie Dr. Zhivago. It was the lead song from Hartford’s 1967 album Earthwords & Music, an album that sounds like bluegrass filtered though novelty music and hallucinogenics. Gentle on My Mind is a very simple repeating chord progression with a descending melody line that ends each stanza. The lyrics and the imagery of the verses is well-constructed stream-of-consciousness and note the perspective of the song moves from the first verse of “behind your couch” to “some train yard” in the final verse. While the subject matter could obviously be interpreted as a drifter song; someone who is free to roam and still knows that a special someone loves him, another reading could involve a sort of Faulkner/McCarthy type of story (Suttree?) about someone who turns his back on a life of privilege (…rocks and ivy planted on their columns…). (Hartford, who was born John Cowan Harford came from a prestigious family). Perhaps the song serves as a metaphor for even bigger life-changing memories and the role people play in the lives of others.

In 1968 Glen Campbell became a superstar and although he had a hit with Jimmy Webb‘s By the Time I Get to Phoenix it was Gentle on My Mind that really launched this 2nd half of his career. Both he and the song’s writer, John Hartford, won two Grammy Awards each in 1968 for their performances of the song in the Country and Folk categories and in 1999 BMI announced that the song was number 16 in their Top Songs of the Century list. Personally, I think the above version is the best online performance: Hartford’s banjo sounds outstanding and notice how he conjures up images of a train clicking over the rails in between his sung lines in the first and third verses and how he and Campbell both completely go off and deviate from pattern and melody in the second verse. Glen shows how great an interpreter he is and was capable of always injecting different nuances into his performances so they never sounded the same. The fourth verse is a well-done duet that effectively pairs both their voices and personalities to close out the song. This performance serves as a microcosm of the tone of Glen’s television show and it’s easy to see why it was so popular. Wildly talented, good-looking and likable star and supporting cast play great music (and indulge in some comedy). A winning formula if there ever was one! While em>Gentle on My Mind isn’t a guitar number, Glen did pick a whole bunch of guitar on the show. Besides Hartford, who made frequent appearances during the show’s run, there were music performances from Three Dog Night, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Reed, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, The Monkees, Ray Charles Nancy Sinatra, Linda Rondstadt and many more. The show was on the air from 1969 through 1972 and after that Glen Campbell was a household name.

Unfortunately, as Glen’s star kept rising, he was encouraged by management to drop the guitar playing and concentrate on being The Rhinestone Cowboy singer. Country music began to be seen as passe in the mid-70s and because Campbell had so much success as a popular singer it was thought that the guitar image was too “Nashville”, even though hits like The Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights only boosted his popularity. This is probably the main reason that many people never realized just how good a guitarist he is. Fortunately, Glen never stopped playing and there are many performances of his picking during the 80s and 90s preserved online. Not only did he pull out of his personal tailspin in the early 80s, but he became known for being the consummate singer AND player that he always was.

The above performance, really captures the essence of Glen Campbell — his signature song with the vocals and guitar playing people love. Who else can really do this tune? I think the word is ICONIC. While there are many guitar players who sing — Clapton, Richards, Harrison, Gilmour, etc, etc, there are very few singers who can really PLAY. According to his website, Glen Campbell had ‘Twenty-one Top 40 hits with two hitting No. 1. Six Top 20 albums including chart-topper Wichita Lineman. Twenty-seven country Top 10 singles — spanning 22 years — and nine country No. 1 albums.’ If all of the music he appeared on as a session musician is added to the list, his contributions to popular music are staggering! Since so much of his early work and popularity was from the 60s, he (and John Hartford) remind me of childhood and he’s always been there making music through my adult life as well. Though Glen will be leaving soon, he will leave many treasured gifts and memories behind; a multi-talented man, but first and foremost, a guitar picker par excellence!

Getting Into Eastern Music

Posted in Players, Playing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2016 by theguitarcave

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The Beatles, Stephane Wrembel and Ali Akbar Khan

During the past few weeks I have listened to three albums while out walking around: Revolver by The Beatles, Barbes by Stephane Wrembel, and Journey by Ali Akbar Khan. There is a common thread running through all three discs and that is Indian/Eastern music. I’m a fan of different types of music from the Middle and Far East though I really can’t say my knowledge of the subject is very extensive. There are many different instruments and types of music involved and I favor the more traditional/instrumental. I have heard a lot of Asian pop music and some of it is pretty good, but I find that the instrumentation and the arrangements better and more sophisticated in traditional/classical music.

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Like many people, I came to “know” (I use the term “know” very loosely and in it’s most superficial sense), Indian music through bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Beatle George Harrison studied sitar with the late Indian virtuoso Ravi Shankar and became one of Indian music’s most vocal proponents. Norwegian Wood, which was written by John Lennon, was the first Beatle song to use the sitar and was basically a western song that employed the sitar for musical effect (the same can be said for The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black). There is some great background at The Beatles Bible (A great site!) on the London scene at the time of recording Rubber Soul and Norwegian Wood. (As I have written on the blog before) Jeff Beck and The Yardbirds were also early pioneers of Eastern-inspired pop music. The original take of Heart Full of Soul actually had a sitar on it! The Davies brothers from The Kinks were also recording music with Eastern sensibilities (See My Friends) at the time. In the States, The Byrds 1965 hit Eight Miles High had a sitar-flavored Rickenbacker guitar sound playing John Coltrane-esque lines, which was pretty far out and groovy for pop music. As the 60s progressed “that Eastern sound” would become synonymous with being stoned and/or altered states of consciousness, much to the displeasure of Indian musicians like Ravi Shankar. Unfortunately, the sound and influence of the music became so popular that it would invade even the most trivial and superficial nooks and crannies of western culture by the end of the decade.

When the Beatles’ follow-up album to Rubber Soul, Revolver, was released, it contained the Harrison composition Love You To, which was the first attempt to go “further into the style”. This tune would be a template for later Harrison songs like Within You, Without You and The Inner Light: they are all attempts to play bona-fide Indian music, albeit in a western pop music format. Musically though, I think Love You To is one of George’s best songs ever. Great arrangement and performance and he stays within the confines of the pop style. Other songs from Revolver that are very Eastern, but don’t contain any Eastern instruments, are the fantastic John Lennon compositions Tomorrow Never Knows and She Said, She Said. The former, a drone chant from The Tibetan Book of the Dead on a cool, repetitive Ringo beat with loads of sounds and tape effects, broke a whole lot of rules for pop music and the guitar lines from the latter echo the Eastern-influenced mixolydian lines and quarter to half step bent-notes that one could also hear from Jeff Beck (Shapes of Things, Heart Full of Soul) and Jimi Hendrix (Love or Confusion, Purple Haze) during this time. As the 60s transitioned into the 70s, these Indo/Eastern influences became less of a thing in pop music, but started appearing in the jazz, fusion and progressive rock music of bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, Shatki and many more.

In 2006, Stephane Wrembel, Manouche guitarist extraordinaire, who is also a huge fan of prog-rock and student of Indian music, released his disc, Barbes. Recorded when his group was a trio (with bandmates Jared Engle on bass and David Langlois on percussion) the disc is the perfect modern synthesis of three major styles of music: jazz, prog-rock and Indo/Eastern music. I have always dug this disc! Brilliant playing and my favorite of everything he has done. (To see his band live during this time was also a great experience as the clip above proves). Not only are the originals on Barbes fresh and inspiring, the band also covers Django Reinhardt‘s Fleche D’Or, Dizzy Gillespie‘s Night in Tunisia and John Coltrane‘s Afro Blue. The group takes some of these tunes at breakneck tempos and the performances are a dizzying array of chops and melodic invention. Also, the ambient “mood” tunes, including (Introductions, Detroductions) are music of sparse instrumentation and indeterminate origin; world music ragas perhaps?

a Raga is: in the classical music of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, a melodic framework for improvisation and composition. A raga is based on a scale with a given set of notes, a typical order in which they appear in melodies, and characteristic musical motifs.

Manouche music or Gypsy Jazz has strong Indian roots because it is generally agreed that the group of people known as “Gypsies” originated on the Indian subcontinent and first migrated into Europe in the 12th century. There are various sub-categories of these Romani people: Manouche in France, and the Sinti of Central Europe. Sinti/Manouche guitar playing sounds very similar to not only Indian classical music, but some of the progressive rock and jazz of the 1970s. One huge connection is that IMPROVISATION is everything in Indian music, likewise for Manouche music or a lot of 70s rock/jazz as well. A Manouche player must have a very disciplined mind and an aural technique that includes whole tone scales, diminished and augmented arpeggios, altered scales and arpeggios and an emphasis on the “Django-favored” sixths and ninths of the harmony chords. Modern players like Stephane Wrembel have added depth to the sonic palette of the music by combining it with other influences and adding their own touches of musical imagination. There are rhythmic devices and picking patterns found in Indian music that one does not normally hear in a lot of western jazz or classical music and Stephane explores the picking and rhythmic subdivision topics in his book, Getting Into Gypsy Jazz Guitar, which I review here. He advises picking quarter notes up through nontuplets (subdividing by 9 to the beat) with the metronome as warm-up exercises. He explains that, “musicians in India have their own efficient approach to time consisting of singing rhythms using certain syllables. A similar approach may be applied to right-hand technique which will allow for warm-up…” This is a very good way to improve your picking technique and I can say I did it religiously for about six months. In addition to giving my a bunch of listening pleasure, Getting Into… and Barbes are windows into another world and their influence definitely helped make me a better guitar player. Here are some further insights into the nature of Indian rhythm, courtesy of Ravi Shankar.

“…Indian music is also tyrannically precise, with extremely complex mathematical guidelines for how ragas are played. “There are thousands of ragas,” Shankar explains, “and they are all connected with different times of the day, like sunrise or night or sunset. It is all based on 72 of what we call mela or scales. And we have principally nine moods, ranging from peacefulness to praying, or the feeling of emptiness you get by sitting by the ocean.”

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Ali Akbar Khan “was a Hindustani classical musician of the Maihar gharana, known for his virtuosity in playing the sarod.” Born in modern-day Bangladesh, he was trained on a variety of instruments under the guidance of very strict family members who had him practicing up to 18 hours a day. His sister, Annapurna Devi, was also an accomplished musician and was, for a time, the wife of fellow student, Ravi Shankar. Over the years Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar would perform many times together, including at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and were easily two of the most prominent Indian musicians in the western world. After moving to the USA in the late 50s Khan would found a couple of schools, one in California and one in Switzerland and would spend the next 40 years touring and performing until his health failed in the late 2000s.

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I’ve been listening to Journey for the past 10 years and find it very enjoyable. As I related earlier, I’ve always liked the sound of Indian music, especially if it’s instrumental. Eastern philosophy doesn’t necessarily compartmentalize like Western thinking and Eastern music doesn’t separate Eastern Mystical concepts (that were the lyrics of western songs like The Inner Light or Within You, Without You) from the music. Some of the best musical numbers on Journey include Morning Meditation, Temple Music and Lullaby. I don’t meditate (perhaps I should?), but the sounds of this music conjure up great feelings of emotion and ambiance that I hear in any other great, sophisticated music. The happy, get up and go riff of the title cut, Journey, is brilliant and fun as is the dark and somewhat stormy Carnival of Mother Kali. The romantic, almost child-like melody of Come Back My Love sounds like mid-60s George Harrison song and the other ballad-type tracks have the pacing and deliberate delivery that one can hear on some of the tracks of Barbes. There is a whole lot of crossover between these three discs is what I’m trying to say! Khan’s Sarod has a stoic depth and darkness even in happy moods, and his soulful playing is augmented by Guitars(!), Tabla, Shakers, Tanpura, Keyboards, Duggi and Dholak. All of the music was composed by Ali Akbar Khan and was recorded in 1990, giving the disc a classic, but very modern sound.

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I also own this disc, Traditional Music of India, which is four really long ragas. Very cool, long jams that have none of the more modern arrangements or instrumentation found on Journey, but still a very enjoyable listen. This is the kind of traditional music that one must be a master to play and would probably be impossible for most western musicians or anyone else not raised in the school. It’s amazing that no matter the musical style, or background of the artist, the performance of classic music such as this is basically approached the same way and requires the same skills. The pace and flow of these very traditional ragas remind me of some of the guitar pieces on the Bream and Williams disc I review in the right column, or a Django Reinhardt solo improvisation or Jimmy Page playing White Summer. (Incidentally…sometimes it helps to approximate an “Indian” sound/tuning by using alternate tunings, which I explore here.) Music from the Asian continent has given western listeners and players a very expanded sense of what music (and life) is and I believe any musician can only gain from listening to and experiencing music such as this. There is a nice quote on the cover of Journey that I relate to and maybe other musicians will find it interesting as well:

Music is something I learned all my life and am still learning. Earlier in my boyhood days, I learned naturally—as children learn a language, without deeper understanding of what it can really offer. I kept on learning and playing with rapt attention — with a sense of dedication — but not the deep inner feeling which finally came at the ripe age of fifty! Now when I play, my heart is filled with blissful joy that I can hardly express! I feel a sense of ultimate fulfillment that nothing else in the world can offer me anymore. Indeed, music is a very spiritual experience for me — only through music, I feel I can reach closer to God…”

— Ali Akbar Khan

Be a Better Guitar Player! (Links_2016)

Posted in Education, Players, Playing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2016 by theguitarcave
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There are a whole lot of neato things online these days. Have you noticed? No? Well here’s a few things that you may find interesting, especially if you’re a guitar player. I do try to keep these posts updated and maintained. Currently I don’t think there are any busted YouTube links anywhere on my blog, but that is a challenge and not something I can worry about every week. Sometimes things disappear. Such is life and the internet.

I thought this lesson was way cool when I found it and now I do it regularly — play guitar scales like Bach. This is an exercise you can get under your fingers quickly and it forces you to break familiar patterns. Not only do you develop new ways to see and navigate the fretboard, you also expand your ear potential. Plus, these scales sound more musical right from the get-go as instructor James Scott points out during the lesson. This looks like a good channel with a lot of cool guitar instruction!

For you anyone who aspires to play Gypsy Jazz or Jazz or Shred guitar, or well, anything, The Boss finally has a series of instruction videos. Yes, Bireli Lagrene, King of All Things Amazing has been captured in all of his multi-instrumental awesomeness and he will impart his techniques and secrets to you! Thanks to DC Music School there are now 4 volumes of Bireli instruction available; everything from Gypsy Jazz guitar to Bebop/Modern Jazz guitar with some bass and violin thrown in for fun and education. Seeing as how all of the previews look downright splendiferous I can’t imagine how cool the entire lessons are! While I was away DC Music School released In the Style of video lessons with guitarists Tcha Limberger, Frank Vignola, Adrien Moignard and Sebastien Giniaux. Quite an impressive catalog! By the way…anyone who doesn’t think Bireli is about the best guitarist in the world need only view this live concert. Great band and I lost track of how many jaw-dropping moments there are in the set.

Christiaan van Hemert is the latest and greatest guy bringing Gypsy Jazz guitar education to the masses. He has been the driving force behind The Rosenberg Academy and is now doing a lot of his own videos on YouTube. He has developed into quite a good guitar player. Some of the ideas, tips and exercises he gives out in this Q & A series are very helpful. Recently he just started a new series called Gypsy Jazz Replay that looks to be a lot of fun. The couple episodes I saw selected a song with a guest soloist and then they all sat around and talked about the thinking behind what they played. Great advice for improvisers!

I’ve mentioned this guy before and I check in regularly with what he is doing — Morten Faerestrand! Really amazing player and always good for a neat idea or tip/technique. You can view these videos as stand-alones or as teasers for a larger comprehensive teaching program or group of lessons you can take advantage of here. I love working these new pattern exercises because, like the Bach scales above, playing these patterns regularly takes you into a completely different zone and it’s especially good for either adding depth to what you already have or breaking out of the dreaded INRsImprovising Navigational Ruts.

One thing that I did over the last few months is get real organized because there were a bunch of specific things I wanted to work on in “the woodshed” as they say. I would get to the end of a practice session and realize I had not worked on ideas that were on the mental list, so I made a hard-copy list and posted it where I could see it during my practice time and even when I was sitting around and oddly enough, I found the internalization process went much faster. As we all know, it can take awhile to work in a new move to an improvised situation, but I was happy with how quickly some of this stuff showed up in my playing. I also tried to target specific tunes I knew I would be doing with specific concepts. So in that way, while the licks/patterns/ideas might not have been completely coming out of that improvised zone, I was able to play them naturally in a jam without that “I’m forcing this in here” feeling that sometimes happens. All in all I think the writing and the targeting drastically improved the woodshed to play-time and I have kept adding to the list. What I do now is work a “new stuff” part of the practice and a “maintenance” part where I go over the things I already feel I have down but don’t want to forget. It works out pretty well and makes for a fun practice because I can play slow on things I need to focus on because they are new and I can alternate that with things I can already rip on pretty well. So the practice is organized and doesn’t get boring is what I’m trying to say. Good Times!

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During the long weeks that I was laid up and couldn’t even play guitar I watched many of these videos from YouTube user Reg523. I believe he is a jazz player from the west coast who puts up stuff to flesh out concepts he talks about on the forum at jazzguitar.be. So he isn’t really doing a lesson and he isn’t doing a performance either. It’s like he’s playing and trying to say what he’s thinking as he does it and he is a great player! I watched several of his videos on standards I play regularly and got some new ideas. I also loved this version of the Beatles Can’t Buy Me Love…so I learned it pretty much as is and do my own soloing. Great stuff! Also…if you become a member of jazzguitar.be you will receive a whole lot of lessons via email, some free, some as part of a paid package with free teaser stuff.

Alex Ipsa-Cowan is another jazz instructor on YouTube who has some really interesting ideas for guitar advancement! He plays a lot of straight ahead standard-jazz and breaks down many topics like playing over rhythm changes, playing outside, the bebop scale, arpeggios and many other guitar-type topics! I think, like a lot of players/instructors now he is available for Skype lessons if you so desire and he also has some performance videos with his band who are pretty crackin’ so definitely give a look and listen.

Though I don’t play it anymore, I was real impressed watching videos of Doug Steele, specifically his Van Halen instruction videos. This guy can shred like a BOSS, explores a whole ton of different players and playing concepts and has a really good teaching style/sense of humor! Makes for very cool, entertaining videos. He also has a page devoted to Gypsy Jazz and Django Reinhardt on his website. Cool! After a day and a half of watching Doug’s channel I wanted to go out and get all of my old gear back and crank it UP!!! But some things you gotta leave in the past and/or with other people. Definitely a good thing for anyone out there who wants to crush!

Finally, the old school, brought to you by a guy who has over time become one of my favorite players, Barney Kessel. I have an album review of his over in the right column and since then have acquired some of his other albums. Really great stuff. I will have a separate post on Barney soon, but back in the day he had a series of guitar instruction videos that are now on YouTube. While the quality of the videos is here and there, the information contained within is fascinating and invaluable. One of the best jazz and chord harmony players ever laying down the heavy-duty rap on how to do it. Definitely recommend. There is another here.

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As I’ve done before, this post will get made into a sticky for the year so it will stay at the top of the page. If I find anything to and add to it I will. Also, the new links for lessons will get added to the right column. Enjoy!

More Guitar Instruction Media

Posted in Education, Equipment, Players, Playing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2016 by theguitarcave

I thought this would be a good time to explore some of the Guitar Instruction Media I have collected over the years. I’ve already touched on this in various posts, here, here and here, and here. AND HERE. Probably after this post I won’t have anything left to show. I know from checking the links that people do seen to like what they see with regards to some of the products I’ve reviewed before. I hope that you are all happy with your purchases and they have helped you sound better, play better or achieve all of the musical goals that you have. Without further ado —

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Hal Leonard Best of Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Licks This is the oldest item I’ll be reviewing today. It’s Hal Leonard’s Best of Stevie Ray Vaughan for guitar taught by the boisterously funny and entertaining Greg Koch. Greg has appeared in many guitar instruction places and is all over YouTube too. Greg can play his butt off and does a great job with the iconic Stevie Ray, showing not only how to play the eight classics on the disc, but also sound considerations and further ideas for original soloing. Songs include, Ain’t Gone ‘N’ Give Up on Love, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Crossfire, Empty Arms, The House Is Rockin’, Riviera Paradise, Scuttle Buttin’, and Stang’s Swang. A pretty good cross-section of Stevie’s material and songs that end with n + exclamation point!

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As I said I’ve had this for a long time, probably 12-13 years now and originally I purchased it to learn how to play Stang’s Swang and Riviera Paradise, two of Stevie’s jazzier numbers. They were fun to learn how to play and served as a nice introduction for the real jazz styles and tunes that I would begin to learn a year later with some of these subsequent books. This disc is still available through online sources, some no doubt better than others. If you want to get the Stevie sound and Stevie licks and techniques under your fingers or learn to play some of his more advance stuff I think this disc is a great way to do that!

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Pearl Django Play-Along Songbook Vol.1 This was the second songbook I bought once I started playing Gypsy Jazz and I can’t say enough about it! The book was put together by Greg Ruby from the band Pearl Django, a Gypsy Jazz outfit formed in the mid-90s by Neil Andersson, David Firman and the late, great Dudley Hill. The songs were out of Pearl Django’s repertoire that included covers of Django Reinhardt tunes, old swing/jazz standards and fresh originals. This was a great book to get early on because it has a CD of various members of the band in a play-a-long setting. Any of the seventeen songs start with a head played by guitar or violin and then there are any number of choruses to solo on with just a rhythmic backing. So cool! So helpful! I’ve spent a lot of time jamming out to Pearl Django and it’s a great product.

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I also like the fact that the song list is way cool — especially the Django standards — Djangology, Minor Blues, Troublant Bolero, Nuages, Swing 42, and Manoir des mes Reves. I also learned and enjoyed guitarist Dudley Hill’s chord melody-based compositions New Metropolitan Swing and Radio City Rhythm. Some of the other covers like Limehouse Blues, I’ll See You in My Dreams and I Found a New Baby are jam session standards that any aspiring Manouche player will want to get under his or her fingers. I bought this book from Djangobooks and it’s still available. At $30 it’s not cheap but you do get a lot for the money: meticulous head/melody arrangements by seasoned pro guitarists with 2nd options for harmony in some cases; all manner of Manouche rhythm chord formation and structure, and as I said above, the play-a-long cd with all songs included. Not only that but it is SPIRAL BOUND!! This definitely adds to the cost, but makes it much easier to use. Highly recommended especially for those starting out.

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Jazz Guitar Techniques: Modal Voicings I’ve had this DVD for awhile too and I don’t think I spent more than an hour with it. It was a gift from somebody through Amazon and it didn’t contain whatever booklet was supposed to come along with it. Or maybe there isn’t supposed to be a booklet. I honestly have never been able to figure out what I’m supposed to do when it comes to learning the voicings contained within. This is a Berklee Workshop disc so you would think it would be good, but it just wasn’t. I have subsequently learned a lot of modal ideas and even some modal chords from other sources, so if you want this disc I’ll let it go for $5.99!

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Mel Bay’s Getting Into Gypsy Jazz Guitar Speaking of Berklee and (guys who went there) this book is very unlike the last offering because it is GREAT GREAT GREAT! Stephane Wrembel put this book together after studying with real Manouche musicians for years and then graduating from Berklee. Not only is it an awesome beginners book for those wishing to dip their proverbial toe into the wonderful world of Gypsy Jazz music, it is also a mind-expanding resource that players can return to over and over again. Stephane covers everything from picking exercises (that include a bit of Indian Music influences) to arpeggios, scales, some music theory and example etudes as well as some stylistic techniques that are endemic to Manouche music. It is a JAM-PACKED resource and I’ve gotten a lot of use out of it. Originally I bought it in a store (you know one of those things…OUTSIDE) but this book is also available at Djangobooks for a very reasonable price. Learn from one of the modern masters!

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Mel Bay Presents Wes Montgomery Jazz Guitar Artistry Speaking of Mel Bay and modern masters, here is a songbook of transcriptions from one of the absolute pillars of jazz guitar. Wes Montgomery completely reinvented what playing jazz meant and this book tackles fourteen of his greatest pieces including, Jeanine, Work Song, Missile Blues, Full House, and Mi Cosa. There seems to be some problem getting this book now, or there was a version with inaccurate transcriptions (allegedly). I don’t know what’s going on. It’s available at Amazon for a reasonable price. But there is another listing here where it costs $30 or $55, which is wrong. There is no CD with this book, but the version I have has very accurate transcriptions. I just played along with Wes from his album cuts of the song I was learning. But I guess buyer beware on this one! The good version takes you headfirst into the music of a guitar legend!

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Mel Bay Guitar Arpeggio Studies on Jazz Standards Here’s another book courtesy of Mel Bay and authored by jazz guitarist Mimi Fox.  Mimi is a jazz player I’ve heard over the years and I’ve always like what she’s done. This book, which comes with an accompanying CD, was a gift ten plus years ago. I spent some quality time with this book it (along with the Wrembel book above) and that got me going in a big way on arpeggios and how to use them. Well-known jazz standards are used to illustrate how one may pull out various arpeggios from the harmony to begin the arduous, but fun task of understanding how to play an effective solo. The second half of the book focuses on advanced arpeggio concepts and how players can build their own. I think the book is less than 75 pages, but it is an effective study course for what it sets out to do. It gets very positive reviews on Amazon, but I think there is something weird happening with Amazon’s current pricing schematic because there are “new” books listed for almost $100 and I didn’t pay anywhere near that…so don’t buy it there. Buy it HERE where it is the very reasonable price of $19.99.

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Django Reinhardt: Know the Man, Play the Music Finally there is this book, which was also a gift from my late friend and leader of Cab City Combo, Paul Rubin, who I’ve written about here, here, here and here. This is an interesting book and one I’ve obviously had for a long time given the shape of the cover. I believe that Paul ordered this for me as soon as I told him about my Manouche aspirations. It was definitely a book I used in the early days and I will always treasure it for sentimental reasons.

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The first part of the book (Know the Man) is Django’s biography and is a fairly well-done primer for those who don’t know Django’s story. It’s illustrated with cool pics and considering at the time I received the book I knew 10% of what I know now, it is another one of those books that delivers exactly what it promises. The 2nd half of the book (Play the Music) that focuses on technique and six of Django’s most famous performances including Honeysuckle Rose, Nuages, Bouncin’ Around, and Djangology. An accompanying CD will help you work out the songs. By the time I started playing Gypsy Jazz with other people I had Django’s intro, solo and outro bits to Honeysuckle Rose completely worked out thanks to this book, so I think it rocks! Kudos to authors Dave Gelly and Rod Fogg! The book gets good reviews on Djangobooks forum, is spiral-bound, and can be purchased here and here. It’s on Amazon too at almost double the price if you’re into giving more money to Jeff Bezos

Paco de Lucia (II)

Posted in Players, Playing with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2016 by theguitarcave

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I posted here about Paco de Lucia in the wake of his death a few years ago. Lately I have been playing the album and song Zyryab constantly. What an amazing piece of music! Named after Ziryab, a 9th century poet and musician who many credit with introducing Spain to the Persian lute, which would evolve into the Spanish guitar. The album also features jazz keys virtuoso Chick Corea and flamenco guitarist Manolo Sanlúcar. There are many live versions of this on YouTube, but this one below from 1992 in Sevilla, Spain is really hard to beat. It’s amazing how much more awesome Paco looks and sounds playing this compared to EVERYONE ELSE on YouTube. I mean, seriously, it’s not even close.

I also watched this documentary again recently. It has English subtitles and is REALLY GOOD retrospective of Paco’s life, has many great live performances, and also has a lot of camera time with the maestro himself. The viewer can really get a a great sense of the man behind the artist. The word that always comes to mind when I hear or see Paco (aside from virtuoso or maestro) is dignity. He had a very fiery and explosive passion that was always balanced with the softest musical side known to man. The kind of control needed to strike that balance can only be found in a real genius. The world and music is poorer for him not being around anymore.

http://tvpacodelucia.blogspot.com.es/ is also a very good link for all things Paco, flamenco and guitar-o. Really cool stuff. The more I’ve listened to Paco lately the more I realize how much of a huge influence he had on Manouche Superstar Stochelo Rosenberg. Probably only 2nd or 3rd after Django Reinhardt and Stochelo’s father or uncle. You can really hear the influences on The Rosenberg Trio’s albums Sueños Gitanos and Gipsy Summer both of which I have. While Stochelo almost always plays with a plectrum and doesn’t employ any obvious flamenco technique that I know of, he certainly channels the sound and feel of the music very well and his compositions are always exciting, colorful, and passionate. There is a lot of crossover between gypsy music and flamenco (and that probably is part of the “tribute” behind the song Zyryab). I’m sure Paco de Lucia appreciated Django’s brilliance as well. Paco played the yearly Django Festival at Samois in 2010, a few years before he died. For any aspiring guitarists out there looking for influences, it’s hard to go wrong with guys like Django and Paco!