Jazz Guitar Almanac

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The Jazz Guitar Almanac

December 2017

December 1, 2017       Friday

Happy Birthday, Ike Isaacs!  [1919]

Happy Birthday, Chris Standring!   [1960]

     [Standring is seen here with guitarist Joe Finn.]

Tip of the day: Like anything else in life, you will get out of the guitar what you put into it. The instrument may reveal its secrets to you slowly. Be patient. Be prepared to give yourself over to this process of musical development.


December 2, 2017 Saturday

Happy Birthday, Fred Fried!  [1948]

Happy Birthday, Joe Derise!  [1925]

Tip of the day: The Real Melodic Minor scale in C would be spelled C-D-Eb-F-G-A-B-C. As an improvisational resource it can be used  over harmonies like A-7b5, D7b5 or G+7.


December 3, 2017 Sunday

Happy Birthday, Barry Finnerty! [1951]

Tip of the day: This is a good time of year to begin thinking about a musical New Year’s resolution. Expand your repertoire. Practice. Catch up on your listening. Practice. Attend a jazz clinic. Practice. Improve your sight-reading.

Did I mention practicing?


December 4, 2017   Monday

Happy Birthday, Jim Hall !   [1930]

Tip of the day: Make a list of Christmas songs and seasonal favorites as you will undoubtedly be called upon to accompany the annual family sing. Photocopies of lyrics are also very helpful.


December 5, 2017   Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Egberto Gismonti ! [1947]

Happy Birthday, Ralph Patt!!   [1929];

Tip of the day: Trumpet players generally adopt a strong work ethic. Due to the demands of their instrument they seldom if ever allow themselves the luxury of a day off. Can you afford a less disciplined approach?


December 6, 2017   Wednesday

Tip of the day: As an aid to memorization try to visualize the way the music looks on paper. Seeing the melodic contour in your mind’s eye will cue you in when other means fail.


December 7, 2017   Thursday

Tip of the day: It seems that many a jazz guitarist doubles up on Saturday. With an afternoon reception gig followed by an evening date at a jazz club you could be looking at seven or eight hours of playing. It can be a grind, but it does wonders for your chops on that Sunday Jazz brunch gig.


December 8, 2017   Friday

Tip of the day: Never go into a lesson unprepared. Both students and instructors are guilty of this. Each party needs to take some time getting the music ready so as to be fully prepared for the challenges ahead.


December 9, 2017   Saturday

Happy Birthday, Cedric West! [1918]

     [West is seen here with Joe Pass and Ike Isaacs.]

Happy Birthday, Ted Vieira!  [1962]

Tip of the day: It would be foolish to drive a care without a spare tire. By the same token you should never go off to a gig without spare strings, picks and cables.


December 10, 2017  Sunday

Happy Birthday,  Eddie Guitar Slim Jones!  [1902]

Tip of the day: “Open” guitar harmonies featuring 4ths and 5ths are difficult to play on the piano. “Closed” piano voicings are conversely difficult to play on guitar as they may feature 2nds and 3rds.


December 11, 2017  Monday

Tip of the day: Find a rehearsal band to join. This is a fun way to work on challenging or unusual material that you might not normally get to perform.


December 12, 2017  Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Lage Lund!! 

“I think all the musicians in jazz should get together on one certain day and get down on their knees to thank Duke.”  [Miles Davis]

Tip of the day:  You cannot serve two masters. The old saying is true: your jazz chops will suffer to the extent that you are able to perform convincingly in a rock or pop context.


December 13, 2017  Wednesday

Happy Birthday, Mark Elf!  [1949]

Happy Birthday, George Tiger Haynes! [1907]

Happy Birthday,  Wayne Bennett!    [1933]

Tip of the day: Putting the music first means not getting bogged down in the trivial, daily issues that constantly arise. Keeping this in mind is especially helpful in dealing with the interpersonal issues within the group dynamic.


December 14, 2017 Thursday

Tip of the day: Before meeting with a new student for the first time ask them to prepare the most difficult piece that they can play well for you. Let them decide what this means. Later on you can decide what the most difficult piece that you can play well is.


December 15, 2017  Friday

Happy Birthday, Billy Butler!  [1924]

Tip of the day: Some typical turnaround formulas include CM7-Am7-Dm7-G7, C7-Eb7-D7-Db7, and CM7-BbM7-AbM7-DbM7. Practice these in every key and try inserting substitutions with differing color tones.


December 16, 2017  Saturday

Happy Birthday, John Abercrombie! [1944]

Happy Birthday,  Ron Anthony!  [1933]

Tip of the day: Rock’s most innovative guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, was to have begun a project with arranger Gil Evans shortly after he died. The album “The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix” [RCA cpl1-0667] featuring John Abercrombie gives a glimpse of what might have been.


December 17, 2017  Sunday

Tip of the day: Vertical jazz tunes concern themselves predominantly with the chord changes. “Giant Steps” and “Countdown” are examples. Tunes like “So What” and “Maiden Voyage” are more horizontal as they feature few chord changes that move with a slow harmonic rhythm.


December 18, 2017  Monday

Happy Birthday, Larry Lucie! [1907]

Happy Birthday, Barry Galbraith! [1919]

Tip of the day: Get comfortable with up tempo improvisation gradually with a metronome or accompaniment software. Work your way up incrementally until you can handle tempi upwards of 300 bpm.


December 19, 2017  Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Cornell Dupree!!     [1942]

Tip of the day: Joe Pass recorded an album of Christmas tunes  in 1992. It’s called Six String Santa [Laserlight 15470] and  also features guitarist John Pisano.


December 20, 2017  Wednesday

Tip of the day: There is a difference between knowledge and understanding. As all musicians know, performance is the hallmark of understanding.


December 21, 2017  Thursday

Happy Birthday, Jerome Darr!   [1910]

   [Darr is seen here with the Washboard Serenaders.]


Happy Birthday, James Emery!   [1951]

   [Emery is seen here with Anthony Braxton.]


“ I like to keep the melody going. Soloing is not an excuse to play a bunch of licks over chord changes.”  [Bill Frisell]

Tip of the day:  An attitude of humility and willingness to work hard at making the music sound good is helpful in working with other musicians.


December 22, 2017  Friday

Happy Birthday, Frank Gambale! [1958]

Happy Birthday Carmine D’Amico!  [1954]

“It takes so much time to develop your technique.” [Wes Montgomery]

Tip of the day: Take the required time alluded to in today’s quote by Wes Montgomery to fully develop your technical abilities to a very high level.

December 23, 2017  Saturday

“Don’t rely on theory and other academic devices ...that have little to do with music......forget them when you play or you’ll sound stiff”  [Joe Pass]

Tip of the day: Always seek to increase the number of contacts you make in music. Musicians, studio people, club owners, etc. al. are the ones that make your telephone ring.


December 24, 2017  Sunday

Happy Birthday, Volker Kriegel!  [1943]

“Scales are just like warming up at a bar getting ready to do ballet. It’s not the thing in itself - it’s preparatory to the activity.”   [Barney Kessell]

Tip of the day:  Keep the pots on your guitar clean by spraying  them with contact cleaner. Be careful not to get this environmentally unfriendly stuff on you or the instrument’s finish.


December 25, 2017  Monday

Happy Birthday, Eddie Gibbs  [1908]

Happy Birthday , Oscar Moore ! [1916]

     [Moore is seen here with Nat Cole.]

Happy Birthday, Julian Lage! [1987]

Tip of the day: Several hours may pass before a guitar “takes” a truss rod adjustment. This is due to the different neck materials responding differently to changes in load.


December 26, 2017  Tuesday

Happy Birthday, John Scofield! [1951]

Happy Birthday, Billy Bean [1933]

Tip of the day: Playing jazz standards will elevate your musicality. The shear strength and timelessness of the material can make an average player good and a good player better.


December 27, 2017  Wednesday

Tip of the day: The seventh chords in the key of C are: Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, G7, Amin7, and  B half-diminished 7.


December 28, 2017  Thursday

Happy Birthday, Billy Mackel ! [1912]

Happy Birthday, Leonard Ware! [1909]

Happy Birthday, Joe Cohn!!!  [1957]

Tip of the day: Remember, jazz improvisation is very much the art of the practitioner. Constantly seek out situations in which you can hone your craft.


December 29, 2017  Friday

Happy Birthday Irving Ashby! [1920]

Tip of the day:  Present the chord melody solo in a variety of ways. Use a variety of positions, inversions and fills always keeping the melody in a form easily recognized by the listener.


December 30, 2017      Saturday

Happy Birthday, Frank Vignola! [1965]

Happy Birthday, Ron Affif! [1965]

Happy Birthday, Paul Jackson Jr. ! [1959]

Happy Birthday,  Freddie Bryant! [1965]

Happy Birthday Charlie Creath! [1890]

Tip of the day:  Seek out the original recordings of the masters in addition to later interpretations. Pops, Duke and Bird were pretty fair interpreters of their own material.


December 31, 2017  Sunday

Happy Birthday, Odetta [Gordon] !  [1930]

Happy Birthday Michael Hedges! [1953]

Happy Birthday, Perry Hughes!  [1953]

Tip of the day: Amateur night is once again upon us; that night we guitarists have come to both love and dread. Keep a stiff upper lip and be careful out there. When it’s all said and done, there is nothing left to say or do.

Happy New Year!

More tips:


To solidify your picking technique, try playing everything with upstrokes. This will feel unnatural but you may be surprised at how this can benefit your overall picking skills.


Listen to a favorite classical piece as recorded by two or three different groups and note the range of variety present in the interpretations. In an improvisational style like jazz these differences will be more pronounced and even more dramatic.


The odd looking device screwed into the headstock of Herb Ellis’, George Van Eps’, and Jim Hall’s guitars is a string damper. Bridge mounted dampers are also popular.


The Guild guitar plant in Westerly, Rhode Island was a 55,000 square foot facility employing 120 workers. They averaged 60 finished guitars per day.


When you buy a new guitar amp, plug it in and leave it on for two or three days straight. Failure rates of new electronic devices during the first 40-50 hours of operation are the highest. If a malfunction presents itself it will then be a simple matter of exchanging the unit with your retailer.


The bottom of the bridge on an archtop guitar must be carved to conform to the precise shape of the top for the best sound. For this reason it is important not to inadvertently reverse the bridge when changing strings.

The dilettante practices until he gets it right. The maestro practices until he can’t get it wrong.


 A guitar that is played daily should be checked for fret wear annually. When flat spots develop show the guitar to a luthier. Often times frets can be polished down to a uniform, lower height forestalling the expense of fret replacement.


F hole plugs can easily be made from high density foam. This material can be cut with scissors to fit any guitar and is nearly invisible once installed. The plug will allow you to play at higher sound levels while minimizing the feedback problems typical with hollow body guitars.


Checking neck relief is easy with a feeler gauge and a capo at the first fret. While holding down the high Bb on the first string measure the distance between the 5th fret and the string. Adjust the truss rod and or the bridge to get a clearance of .002” to .004”.


“Music isn’t a craft for me. I have no interest in being a musician. My interest in is being a better person.”  [Pat Martino]



The Jazz Guitar Almanac

is published in monthly installments

on the first of each month.

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