Jazz Guitar Almanac

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The Jazz Guitar Almanac

December 2018

December 1, 2018        Saturday

Happy Birthday, Chris Standring!   [1960]

       [Standring is seen here with Joe Finn.]

Happy Birthday, Ike Isaacs!  [1919]

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, 2018  Sunday

Happy Birthday, Fred Fried!  [1948]

Happy Birthday, Joe Derise!  [1925]

Tip of the day: The repetition that is involved in practicing music has several effects. Repetition helps engrain the music in the player's brain in different overlapping and redundant ways. How it sounds, how it feels under your fingers, the dexterity needed to play the melodies and patterns, the bigger harmonic and compositional concepts and even how the music looks on paper are all things that are reinforced by repetition. There is really no substitute for repetitive practice. The best instrumentalists are the ones who put in the longest hours during their formative years. Eight to ten hours per day is not uncommon. A lot of the top players continue to put in three or four hours every day long after their developmental years are gone by.  


December 3, 2018 Monday

Happy Birthday, Barry Finnerty! [1951]

Tip of the day: Getting a student ready for college level music coursework is a big job. Many high schools are not geared up to get this done. It's necessary for parents to become involved. A good instructor and the right books are a big help but most of the effort will necessarily come from the student himself.


December 4, 2018   Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Jim Hall !   [1930]

Tip of the day: My experience with self-taught adult guitar students has been the same again and again. They are generally playing for their own amusement in a recreational fashion. The instructor is in the position of having to impose some sort of a formalized approach. This is antithetical to the recreational mindset and takes all the fun out of what they had been getting from their musical experience. Beyond this most adults have busy lives and find it difficult to schedule even an hour a day for practice. This makes progress very difficult and even impossible.


December 5, 2018   Wednesday

Happy Birthday, Egberto Gismonti ! [1947]

Happy Birthday, Ralph Patt!!   [1929];

Tip of the day: I have been finding that in my work with high school age players that the chord/scale approach has obvious limitations. The concept itself is basic; like associating a C major scale with a C6 chord, but when taken to the extreme this idea can become needlessly [and endlessly] complex quickly.


December 6, 2018   Thursday

Tip of the day: It's a good idea to know scales; but there are an awful lot of scales. Just ask Slominsky. My concept at this point is to teach a lot of applications for a few general purpose scales rather than to try to teach a great number of relatively specialized or exotic scales that are specific to certain special harmonic settings.


December 7, 2018   Friday

Tip of the day: The riches of the Ellington/Strayhorn catalogue have stood the test of time. They will continue to find their audience based on the merits of the music. Duke wrote thousands of songs and various orchestral compositions. He was honored with dozens of awards including grammys, honorary doctorates and even a Presidential Medal of Freedom. His place as the leading composer in the history of jazz seems quite secure. His is the standard by which newer works are measured.

December 8, 2018   Saturday

Tip of the day: The best reason to play music is for the love of the music. Your fellow musicians will come and go. Each of us as individuals will one day be gone too. Being involved in music is to be part of something that is bigger than any of us. It connects us to things that are universal and eternal.


December 9, 2018   Sunday

Happy Birthday, Cedric West! [1918]

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

Happy Birthday, Ted Vieira!  [1962]

Tip of the day: It's going to take a beginner two or three years before they can do much of anything on a musical instrument. Guitar is no different than anything else. I'm talking about two or three years with a qualified instructor, regularly scheduled ensemble time, lots of listening, and practicing up to three hours a day seven days every week. This will bring the student to a certain threshold. Continuing a schedule like this will take the student to the next level. Students who begin at age ten or so will then turn 16 with several years of instruction and ensemble experience behind them. Their basic musicianship will then be on a level where theory, composition, arranging, etc. can be introduced in a formal way. Lots of high schools and music camps offer theory classes to children of this age.


December 10, 2018  Monday

Happy Birthday,  Eddie Guitar Slim Jones!  [1902]

Tip of the day: There are only so many chord voicings that are commonly used in jazz guitar. For this reason I encourage students to work in pairs. The session proceeds with one player playing a chord on the guitar and the other player identifying it without looking. The pair can go back and forth playing and listening, listening and playing, etc. This isn't the only ear training trick in the book but it can be quite beneficial and enjoyable too.


December 11, 2018  Tuesday

Tip of the day: The thing about having solo material as a guitarist is that you can easily go from solo to duo with a bass or second guitar. You have to put yourself at the center of the equation. That means you can cover the gig even if nobody else makes the scene. If bass, drums, piano, horns, etc. are available so much the better.


December 12, 2018  Wednesday

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, 2018  Thursday

Happy Birthday, Mark Elf!  [1949]

Happy Birthday, George Tiger Haynes! [1907]

Happy Birthday,  Wayne Bennett!    [1933]

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect  people so that they are changed...because people are changed by art - enriched, ennobled, encouraged - they then act in a way that may affect the course of events...by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think." -Leonard  Bernstein

Tip of the day: At one of my regular solo gigs there was a man at one of the front tables who appeared to be enjoying the music very much. He applauded politely from time to time, nodding and smiling, etc. Then after one tune he asked, "What song was that?". After I told him the title he remarked, "Oh, yes. I know that one. I just didn't recognize it the way you played it." I had all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.


December 14, 2018 Friday

Tip of the day: When my son was 10 we played together quite a bit. I was giving a lot of lessons out of our house at the time and he would see all these guitar players coming and going. At the end of the last lesson it would be his turn. He would bring his alto into the music room and we would play for another hour. This continued until he went off to college at age 18. Music was always central to the daily routine in our house. It's something we took seriously and still had a lot of fun with too. I think that's the key. The experience of music is a great thing to share with any child and when he's yours it makes it even better. I believe a big part of getting children interested in something is to make it a regular family activity at a young age. Make it fun and make it challenging too. If the activity [and I don't care if it's music, golf or tiddlywinks] is a regular, enjoyable part of family life they will happily join in and love every minute of it.


December 15, 2018  Saturday

Happy Birthday, Billy Butler!  [1924]

Tip of the day: The expression "play what you hear" is sufficiently vague to invite all kinds of misinterpretation. As a result I prefer to use the phrase "play what you imagine".  If the student's musical imaginings take him somewhere other than in the jazz direction, I say fine, go for it. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.


December 16, 2018  Sunday

Happy Birthday, John Abercrombie! [1944]

Happy Birthday,  Ron Anthony!  [1933]

Tip of the day: Many younger players and students have been exposed to all kinds of seductive trash pop music and do not have a handle on the jazz syntax or its tradition. There is only one way to get steeped in the jazz style. You've got to listen to it and live it. You've got to breathe it and eat it and sleep it. You've got to love jazz without reservation. You'll also have to get used to the idea that certain other things in your life will have to take a back seat because the music is the priority.  This is the only way.


December 17, 2018  Monday

Tip of the day: I'm not a real big advocate of practicing scales all that much. The student certainly must be able to play scales, modes, and arps, but if this becomes the focus of your practice routine the danger is that your improv will begin to sound like scales, modes, and arps. I did this myself as a teen. It's a dead end.


December 18, 2018  Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Larry Lucie! [1907]

Happy Birthday, Barry Galbraith! [1919]

“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]

Tip of the day: I have been playing a lot of solo gigs in recent years. I play my constantly evolving arrangements of standard tunes and other material. In this context I will be thinking programmatically about sequences of tunes and setting up contrasting moods, tempos, keys, styles, meters, etc. Even though listeners may not pick up on this it keeps me from getting bored.


December 19, 2018  Wednesday

Happy Birthday, Cornell Dupree!!     [1942]

Tip of the day: It occurs to me that we tend in our thinking to break things down into small chunks as this seems to help the conceptual process. Music is like this. We break it down into playing, listening, reading and various theoretical concepts because this makes it easier to learn. This makes it easier to teach as well. In actual practice playing, listening, reading and things theoretical are highly integrated aspects of the same thing we call music. So while playing what you hear is indeed playing what you know, the epistemological question obviously becomes, "how do we know what we know?". This in turn leads us directly back to listening, reading and the study of theory.


December 20, 2018  Thursday

Tip of the day: Someone who breaks all the rules is sometimes called an innovator. Someone who breaks all the rules without knowing what they are is more frequently referred to as a beginner.  


December 21, 2018  Friday

Happy Birthday, Jerome Darr!   [1910]

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:  By the time I was 13 or so my jazz imaginings were way beyond what I could actually execute convincingly on my principle instrument. I remember sitting on the bus en route to school thinking, "If I can eventually play as well as I can sing, I'll be there." The connection between my imagination and my performance is a little better after these many years. I'm still not sure if I'm "there" yet.


December 22, 2018  Saturday

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, 2018  Sunday

“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: An over emphasis on technique is indicative of misplaced musical priorities. I've had many guitar students like this. They present themselves at age 14 or so and can play a handful of simple scales and patterns at ridiculously fast tempos. This usually means they have worked on this to the exclusion of everything else. This is a huge mistake representative of a deeply misguided perspective. When the instructor tries to steer them in the direction of repertoire, harmony, reading, etc. they can lose interest quickly. This is because music to them is an athletic event in which the goal is to play as many notes as you can as quickly as possible. Everything else is tedium.


December 24, 2018  Monday

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:  Wes has been one of the players that I have listened to very closely for many years. Along with Pass, Martino, and Benson he is still on my short list and continues to be a favorite of mine. I have dozens of his recordings. I even had some on 8 track. Only dinosaurs like me can say that. I have heard Wes fight his limitations sometimes. I hasten to add that I have seldom heard a jazz player who is worth spit that does not struggle with his technical limitations as he tries to push the improvisational envelope. Even on his worst night, Wes' impeccable phrasing remained conversational, logical, coherent and in general unbelievably solid. This is really at the heart of his style and the technical ability to pull this off never escaped him. One thing you have to understand about his articulation is that the callus on Wes' thumb would come and go. At times it would be hard and edgy and after a while it would fall off and he would be back to a very muted sound. You can hear this on this recordings.


December 25, 2018  Tuesday

Happy Birthday, Eddie Gibbs  [1908]

Happy Birthday , Oscar Moore ! [1916]

     [Moore is seen her with Nat Cole.]

Happy Birthday, Julian Lage! [1987]

Tip of the day: The successful guitar/piano combinations are many. Freddie Green played time while Basie comped. Wes' collaboration with Wynton Kelly is the stuff of legend. Then there is Martino & Rubalcaba. Krall & Malone did some nice work together too. There are hundreds of other examples. The main thing for a guitarist is to listen to the piano and to be prepared to play with economy and taste. I play with pianists all the time. They are the first ones I call.  This is because the texture is rich and the harmonic possibilities are wide open. The potential outweighs the risk.


December 26, 2018  Wednesday

Happy Birthday, John Scofield! [1951]

Happy Birthday, Billy Bean [1933]

Tip of the day: One hour of practice per day is sort of a maintenance level on a musical instrument. It's enough time to prevent your chops from evaporating but that's about all. Try two 90 minute sessions per day: one first thing in the morning and another one later on. Catch a nap in the afternoon if possible. You can also run patterns and melodies while you sit in front of TV before bedtime. You won't have to think about this part much; it's just for exercise. It keeps the juices flowing. A schedule like this will have you up to four hours per day in short order. After several weeks of this you will see progress. I promise.


December 27, 2018  Thursday

Tip of the day: One of the best things about working with children as students is that they are not afraid to try new things. It is just when we get older that we tend to adopt certain ways of thinking about and doing things. The rigidity that can set in is a problem in many aspects of life, not just music.


December 28, 2018  Friday

Happy Birthday, Billy Mackel ! [1912]

Happy Birthday, Leonard Ware! [1909]

Happy Birthday, Joe Cohn!!!  [1957]

Tip of the day: "Play what you know you can play, not what you wish you could play." I heard a band director say that while I was in high school. He was addressing a young drummer who was trying to pull off a whole bunch of ridiculously complex stuff without much success.  In improvisation it's a fine line. You can't just play it safe. You have to be a risk taker at least now and then. All of this makes for a paradoxical situation but it's worth it. The risk taking is dealing with the unknown and this can lead to beautiful discoveries.


December 29, 2018  Saturday

Happy Birthday Irving Ashby! [1920]

Tip of the day:  While practicing I'm very visual. I look at the fingerboard most of the time and I'm thinking in terms of fingerings. Performance is another thing entirely. If I'm performing with a group I'm thinking about the blend and the dynamics or maybe the mood we're going for. I always notice the audience too. If I'm playing behind a soloist I'll be thinking about coloration and creating a texture that they can play off of.


December 30, 2018      Sunday

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:  When it's my turn to solo I'm just going to do my thing. I'll just play something and try to develop it into a coherent statement. I'm thinking exposition/development or theme/variation, etc. Locking into patterns and scales has its place. I do this in the woodshed all the time. A performance is different. As we used to say; "forget all that and just play."


December 31, 2018  Monday

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!


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