Saturday, October 21, 2017

It seems the Gibson Barney Kessel wasn't designed by Barney after all ...


I have been playing my 1963 Gibson Barney Kessel for over a year now and I still dig it a lot. It's a very resonant guitar with a more complex high end than my other laminate guitars.

In my earlier post on the Gibson Barney Kessel I stated that:
"Though the Kessel obviously is a signature model I am not sure to what extent Barney was really involved in designing this guitar. Some argue the model had been designed already and Barney was only asked to endorse it after that fact."
 It seems that George Gruhn has provided the definitive answer to who really designed this model in an article he wrote for vintageguitar.com.

The article states that in 1960, so two years before the Barney Kessel was introduced on the market, an experimental prototype was bought by a guy named Hines from a store in Nashville. You can see it on the left. The owner of the store told Hines
the guitar was one of a pair, and the other was apparently exactly alike except it was single-cutaway and went to Tal Farlow. Apparently, When Hines obtained the guitar, the tailpiece plaque was blank, so Stone sent it back to have Gibson engrave Hines’ name on it.

Gruhn writes: 

"Walter Carter checked Gibson’s records on this guitar and found it listed as being made for Tal Farlow in October, 1960. He found no record of the other guitar. Since Farlow is now deceased, we are unable to ask his personal recollections, but it’s clear this guitar pre-dates the introduction of instruments made with the Barney Kessel endorsement. It would appear Kessel was shown an instrument of this type and decided to endorse it rather than designing a Barney Kessel model on his own."

Maybe this explains Barney's reluctance to play it. For the article, click here.

I have always found many similarities in the BK and the Tal Farlow model. I played a 64 Farlow a few years ago and it was a very similar instrument sound. It was of a lighter build than the current TF models and more resonant therefore, kind of like my BK. Sure, my own TF reissue has a less hifi/complex sound than my BK but even here there are still many similarities, the most obvious difference being the spruce top (BK) and maple one (TF).

Interestingly, at the time, the BK custom was more expensive than the TF. Even more expensive than a Byrdland. The BK is a class act.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

But Not For Me

Every once in a while I hear a tune played in a way that really knocks me out. I came across Joe Pass' "But Not For Me" and somehow I had missed the tune and the album it is on completely ... until now. The album is from 1981 and is called "Ira, George and Joe." It is a wonderfully relaxed but totally swinging take. On the album Joe is accompanied by John Pisano (rhythm guitar) Jim Hughart (bass), and Shelly Manne (drums).


I was so inspired by the track that I wanted to do video of the tune in the same key of D and the same tempo. Of course I could not find one so I had to manipulate an existing (slower) track in a different key. First I had to transpose it and then speed it up. I used Cyberlink Wave editor to do that but there's plenty of other software that can do that too. However, the quality of the sound is often impaired. The instruments usually sound a bit funny after transposing or tempo changing ... I added a comping guitar to cover it up a bit though and then I had a usable backing. Not perfect, but usable.




Time to record my own video take! My turn ...



How about your turn? Here's the backing if you'd like to have a go at the tune. Have fun ...


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Electric Django



It is often argued that when Django returned to Europe after his US tour with Duke Ellington, the new influences he had absorbed had changed his playing forever. Sure, with Duke he had played an electric archtop for the first time in his career (he simply had not taken his acoustic Selmer with him on the plane, not even a toothbrush as a matter of fact ...) but the following statement from Michael Dregni's book seems to stretch it a bit:
"He came to America playing swing. He returned to Paris playing modern jazz."
I think this is only partly true. You don't change your way of playing overnight. That takes a few years. His style had been developing since the late 30s and many of the traditional gypsy elements had disappeared already at the end of the war, in favor of a more modern approach. Listen to this take that was recorded during the historic tour with Duke in 1946:



It already sounds remarkably modern to me. He must have been assimilating the new jazz sounds for a few years ... And he really sounds quite comfortable with the Gibson L5 archtop he is playing. The guitar was fitted with a DeArmond pick-up and amped by a small combo amp. He never seemed to like archtops though. He once called them "tinpot guitars." When he returned to Europe after the war he put a Stimer pick-up on his Selmer.
 At the end of the war recordings from the USA started to filter through to Europe and in 1946 Django at last went to America and heard the developments of the "new" jazz firsthand. It was here that Django played an electric guitar for the first time. Listening to the few tracks recorded with Duke Ellington it sounds as though Django has also got hold of a good amp for the day. He has that uniquely big tone, but very little of the distortion which is characteristic of his early attempts to record with electric guitar. 
By 1949 the Bebop influence on Django's playing is obvious. His lines sound more and more Christian like and at this time he only plays his Selmer through an amp. Here's an old Stimer ad in which Django endorses his gear (pick-up and amp):


In 1951 Django put together a new band of the best young modern musicians in Paris including Hubert Fol, an altoist in the Charlie Parker mould. Listen to these 1951 clips of that band and what you hear is eh ... a bebop guitarist playing bebop.



But time was running out for Django. He did not record much in 1952 but in his final half year of life he produced some very interesting recordings on electric guitar, on March 10 and April 8. Another quote from Wayne Jefferies:
The March 10th session produced 8 absolute classics, including arguably his greatest rendition of Nuages. despite a couple of great swingers in Night and Day, and Brazil the whole atmosphere of this session is somehow permeated with a great melancholy. Evident on all the tracks is a strange mixture of sadness, beauty and depth. Manoir de Mes Reves has an air of quiet acceptance. It is very peaceful, but at the same time there is an almost unbearably desolate quality to it. As Norman Monyan observed, "its almost like he knew the end was coming."

Here's "Nuages" from the March 10 session.


And from that same fabulous recording session "Blues for Ike." Interesting to compare it with the earlier "Blues Riff" take he did in concert with Duke Ellington in 1946.


There was to be one more recording session on April 8 that produced four more takes showcasing Django as a modern jazz player. Here's "I cover the waterfront."


And from that same last session "Deccaphonie."



Django would be dead a month after this recording session. For a video account of his death click here.

I visted his house and his grave in Samois in 2004. He spent the last years of his life in the beautiful and picturesque village of Samois Sur Seine where he must have enjoyed some tranquillity, just fishing and painting.

It's easy to understand Bireli's remark that I quoted in my previous Blog entry:
"Django helped me to see what was happening elsewhere"
I'd like to close off with another quote from Wayne Jefferies. I think he sums up my feelings on the subject pretty well:
Perhaps with a little more time Django would have been accepted as a modern guitarist. As it was many of his fans would ask him "why don't you play like you used to with Grappelli". How saddening it must have been for this great man, in a sense snared by his past genius, who only wanted to express himself through the music that he felt and loved. Django's influence on the modern movement could have been much greater with another shot at America. But it was not to be. Nevertheless his place in Jazz history is assured, and for many he will continue to be the greatest guitarist that ever lived.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bireli


In my last post I talked about chopsmeister Andreas Oberg. Well, here's an even bigger one. Bireli Lagrene. What's to say about him. He's a phenomenon. If there were an interstellar jazz guitar contest, my vote for the planet earth's contestant would most certainly go to Bireli. He's the virtuoso of virtuosos. The prodigy of prodigies. He was playing Manouche guitar at 7 and recorded his first album in this style in his early teens, But, surprisingly, he looked way further than the gypsy guitar. "Django helped me to see what was happening elsewhere" he likes to recall. And there he was, in the 80s, playing with Jaco:
During the next few years, Lagrène toured with Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucía, and John McLaughlin, all of them guitarists, and played with Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, and Stéphane Grappellii. He joined Larry Coryell and Vic Juris in New York City for a tribute to Reinhardt in 1984, and went on tour with Coryell and Philip Catherine. He also performed with Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, the Gil Evans Orchestra, Christian Escoudé, and Charlie Haden. In 1989 he performed in a duo with Stanley Jordan. 
I remember the first album I heard from him. It was his 1992 "Standards" album. NHOP is on it. He was 26 when he recorded that album. Click here to listen to it. Still a fantastic album.

A few years later he appeared on the Jazz in Marciac festival with his own trio. There is still some footage of that mind blowing set on Youtube fortunately:


I'm not going to expand on his career further. Of course you know about his duets with Sylvain Luc. His countless apperances at Samois, Marciac and Montreux. His impressive discography. These days he is one of the biggest stars in contemporary and gypsy jazz. A musician's musician that can very intimidating to listen to or watch. He switches from Gypsy jazz to Fusion to Bebop to Metal, Blues, to bass guitar to double bass to jazz violin and jazz singing just like that ... I have never seen anything like it. And he does it all well if not ridiculously well. The man is a force of nature.


In 2012 he recorded an album with with franck Wolf (saxophones), Jean-Yves Jung (orgue Hammond) and Jean-Marc Robin (batterie). The title track is calles Mouvements and is basically a Bach like fugue. Here's a live rendition. It's fun to watch:



Here's a transcription of the album version. Listen and marvel. So happy I don't have to play shit like that for a living! 



Andreas Oberg Live in Concert






I have written about Andreas Oberg earlier. I'm not sure what he is up to these days jazz wise (he's making big bucks writing and producing top hit pop tunes for the Asian market) but heck, the man has always been a player I really dig. Like Bireli Lagrene, he's one of those in-your-face chopsmeisters that some jazz snobs on the internet like to discard ("I rather hear one note from Jim Hall than ..." is what you usually get to hear ...) but that I seem to prefer with a vengeance. Such an exciting player. And yes, he's great on ballads too. Guys that can play really fast are always great on slow tunes too. That's because they can really play (yawn ... are we clear here?). Oberg is simply one of the great European jazz guitarists.

The live concert is an older one from 2006. On Youtube it is chopped into 4 parts. A regular bop fest, chops galore. That piano player (Petrescu) is insane too. Have fun ... Bop till you drop!

Click here for a playlist.









Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Home Recording Update




A few posts ago I was kind of enthusiastic about Audacity. I still think it's pretty cool for all free recording software. However I discovered some serious flaws, namely the fact that all the audio editing is destructive. More professional software doesn't have that. A non destructive audio editor saves the steps of the changes that occur on the sound file separately so the edited file as well as the original file are saved. At any point in time you can go back to the original wave form because it hasn’t been modified. Another serious draw back is the latency problem that invariably occurs in Audacity. You have to experiment with latency corrections before you can multi track.

So I went to better mulitracking software and ended up with Cakewalk Producer X2.  Zero latency and non destructive editing. But not free. Here's a track I recorded today. Two tracks, no overdubbing. So complete single takes. I'm still in a learning curve so I don't even how to fix glitches and mistakes yet! The guitar you hear is my most recent acquisition, a 1964 Gibson Es 125.

And also in the hardware department there were some changes made. I purchased a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface (no more hiss and noise!!!!!) and an Art Studio V3 valve preamp. I noticed that there was something missing in the amp modelling sounds I use when I make a video or an audio recording. And i am pleased with the Art Studio V3 preamp. It warms up the digital guitar sounds nicely but also any microphone will sound better through it. The cool thing about the Studio V3 is that has a preset of a number valve "voicings", suitable for guitar, keyboards, piano, bass, vocals, acoustic guitar etc.

Here's the complete signal chain of my current recording rig:



As you can see I send all the sounds through a Behringer mixer before it gets to the Focusrite audio interface that converts them to digital sound before it enters Sonar Producer on my laptop.

The stereo amp modeller is used for recording guitar but I sometimes use a mike to to record acoustic sounds. I still like the Digitech amp modeller better than the virtual amp that is in the Sonar software. I kind of prefer to have a good sound before it goes into the laptop. But it's possible too to record using the on board virtal amp in Sonar. It's not bad.

So much still to discover in Sonar. I've only scratched the surface so far ...






Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jesse van Ruller Live in Zandvoort



In the interview I did with Jesse van Ruller a few years ago - one of my biggest Blog hits ever - I stated that Jesse's appearances in a "straight ahead" jazz context are pretty rare these days. I added a compilation of a few standards from a concert he did in 2010 in Zandvoort in the "Jazz in Zandvoort" concert series. This morning an internet friend hipped me to the complete concert being on Youtube. As I am writing this I am viewing it and it showcases Jesse's  marvellous playing on a complete set of standard among which "You're my Everything" "Prelude to a Kiss", "All or Nothing at All", "Stella by Starlight" and "Sandu". His guitar (the ES 150 he has been playing for quite some years now) is well recorded - what a great sound - and the whole thing was professionally filmed. Thanks PM Brown for hipping me to this. Enjoy the concert!

JESSE VAN RULLER - GUITAR
JOHAN CLEMENT - PIANO 
ERIC TIMMERMANS - BASS 
ERIK KOOGER - DRUMS

Jazz in Zandvoort. FILMED 3 OCTOBER 2010 in DE KROCHT in Zandvoort, THE NETHERLANDS.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Gibson ES 125


In my previous post I reported on my guitar trip to Amsterdam. I stated that I liked the 1964 Gibson ES 125 best. Sure the 1997 L5 I played was great, and the Byrdland too but ... I tend to relate the attractiveness of a guitar to its price these days. In my view,  if a recent 6k archtop sounds great that is hardly impressive. For, it would be a disgrace if it did not. But if an archtop is AND vintage AND sounds great AND is sub 2k euro, well, than that IS impressive. So a week after my trip I made an offer which was accepted and returned to the String to get that 1964 Gibson ES 125.

Checking out the 125
I have owned a 125 earlier. Actually in 1998, a 1951 ES 125 was my first vintage Gibson archtop. I gave it to my daughter years later and I sold it for her about 10 years ago when she needed some money. She always regretted selling that guitar though  ... so she was happy to accompany me to Amsterdam to get another one.

The ES 125 is the most humble of vintage Gibson archtops. It's not very collectible because so many were produced and so many are still around. After all, it was highly successful model for Gibson from 1941 to 1970. Simply because it was so affordable.  "A student model at best" I read on the vintage guitars info pages. So you won't find in the orthodontist's or lawyer's guitar collection. It has no snob appeal. However, in terms of affordable vintage mojo a 125 is hard to beat. Over here in the Netherlands the instrument has gained popularity ever since chops meister Martijn van Iterson chose it as his preferred instrument in the 90s. There is nobody on the planet that plays a 125 better than he does, trust me. And his sound is always fantastic. Student model at best huh ...

The Gibson ES 125 is a plain looking non cutaway instrument with one P90 pick up in neck position. It has a solid Honduras mahogany neck, an arched slab-cut maple back and top; mahogany sides; solid Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. The hardware includes a P-90 single coil pickup, Kluson Deluxe strip tuners, gold bonnet knobs and a chrome raised diamond trapeze tailpiece. 

The body size at the lower bout is 16". The scale length is 24.9" and the nut width 1 11/16". So in spite of the fact that it has no cutaway it is not a big guitar.

The playability may not be what you find in high end guitars. But make no mistake. It IS a vintage instrument. It is of a much lighter build - so with a thinner top - than current Gibson laminates. An ES 125 will be more resonant than what you would expect. Its acoustic sound is pretty loud. Kind of like what you hear from ES 175s of the late 1940s and 1950s, you know the ones with a single P90 pup. Here's a clip that I recorded with my 125 totally unplugged. The tune is "Angel Eyes."



My 1964 ES 125 is very much like the 1951 one I once had. I kind of like my current one a bit better cosmetically because it has a lighter three tone burst instead of the older two tone burst of the 1950s. But for the rest, pretty much the same guitar. Definitely feels the same but it may sound a bit brighter than the older one I had. I do not know much about the consistency of them over the 30 years they were produced though ... Most of the ones I see on the internet seem to be from the 1950s.

And here's a clip that showcases its electric sound (Kenny Burrell's "Midnight Blue"):

Typically, you can find a vintage 125 for under two grand. I paid 1800 euro for mine. It does have some fret issues high up the neck so I will have to spend some 150 bucks more. Most of the times that will be the case for these guitars. You'd be lucky to get one with new frets that is already in perfect playing condition. Many are pretty battered. I wonder how long the sub 2k prices will remain though. Prices ARE going up for this model.

The ES 125 is not for those that seek a shiny new guitar. The finish on these is thin in vintage style. Heck, most recent guitars will feel like plastic compared to the woody vibe the 125 generates in your hands. I love that feel. I think these old finishes (or rather, the absence thereof) really improve the sound. So if you want an affordable full sized vintage ES guitar, the Gibson ES 125 is your best choice. And your only one probably ...






Sunday, April 9, 2017

Guitar Trip to Amsterdam


The number of vintage archtops on the Dutch market has always been very limited. At any given moment in time, there's probably no more than 10-15 vintage Gibson archtops for sale within the Dutch borders. For more you have to shop abroad. In the Netherlands, it's a slow and painfully small market. Some of the more expensive models take years to sell. I actually know a few that have been for sale since 2010 in a local vintage store (!). Asking prices are often ridiculous (20k for an 1950s ES 5 ... lol ... get real) but sometimes there are a few that spark my interest. Since most of the Dutch vintage guitar stores are in Amsterdam, I took a trip on a train (hey, that's a song) with my wife and we combined some sight seeing with some guitar spotting, not all of them vintage by the way. It was a lovely spring day and Amsterdam was in full swing. What a city ... Go there dudes. It's an experience.

First stop was Diamond guitars, situated in a beautiful stately canal mansion with high ceilings that now accomodates a few businesses and organisations. A truly historic place, for in WW II, it used to be the residence of the "Joodse Raad" (Jewish Council). So those walls must have witnessed some very dramatic scenes. The Council was in fact an instrument for the occupying Germans to facilitate the smooth selection and deportation of Jews. Read all about it here.

Owner of Diamond Guitars , Wil Peters, gave us a warm welcome and I checked out a 1997 Gibson Wes Montgomery he has had for sale for a while. It was already the second Wesmo I played this week (a friend visited me with his 1995 Wesmo earlier this week) and the guitar at Wil's place was pretty similar. Very nice guitar with a deep acoustic voice. It was as clean as a whistle.









He also showed me a Byrdland that he sold earlier for a great price and was back for maintenance. I had my eyes on that one a while ago when he was selling it but I was too late then. To me it felt just like a mini L5. Short scale neck, thin body, not so deep voice. Both guitars were in mint condition and were obviously from the same era. Same finish, same woods, even the same flames in the back and on the neck. No vintage mojo though. I'm still not entirely sure if I am a high end carved top man myself.


Though he sometimes has some very nice jazz guitars in his collection, Wil's core business - and passion - is steel string guitars. He probably has the biggest offering of Lowden flattops in the Netherlands. And then there are his Martins, as well as a number of other brands (Collings, Avalon, Turner etc.) I played both a Martin D18 and a D35 and loved the lush and classic strumming sounds that I know so well from the pop hits from the 70s (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, "Horse with no Name" etc.). The Lowden flattops sounded great too. They are pretty expensive guitars so they should sound fabulous and ... they do. Upon leaving, he showed me a Gibson mandoline from 1914 that was in ... mint condition. Really amazing.

Next stop was Dirk Witte in the Vijzelstraat. We went on foot so we got a good view of the city in between guitar stores. The guitar I wanted to check out was a 1950 Gibson ES 150. The condition was very mediocre, the finish was in pretty bad condition and it had two filled holes in the headstock. The tail piece did not look original to me. It felt and played great though with tons of vintage mojo. But considering the condition, I felt the price was too steep. Nice guitar though.





Then off to The String.  I love that store. It's a small, charmingly untidy but very cozy vintage store at a very nice square and Rienk seems like an easy going guy to deal with.  It was at his place that I bought my first vintage Gibson archtop in 1998: a 1951 Gibson ES 125. I played that guitar for years before I gave it to my daughter. Rienk always has a few ES 125s around and kind of specialises in affordable used and vintage guitars from all kinds of brands. He told me the prices for even the ES 125 were going up though and that it was harder and harder to get affordable ones. I played a 1964 Gibson ES 125, a 60s ES 125t and a George Benson signed Ibanez GB 10 from 2008. Of course in the tone department the ES 125t was no match for the full sized 125. The Benson was nice but, again, I missed the vintage mojo. There is something unexplicably cool about playing old and battered guitars I guess. I am becoming less and less a fan of shiny new ones.












The bottom line. I played a few nice guitars today but the one that really knocked me out in terms of price/quality and pure vintage mojo was undoubtedly the most modest of all, the Gibson ES 125. "A student model at best" it is decribed on some "expert page" on the web. Student model my ass. Listen to anything by Martijn van Iterson. It may not have any snob appeal but it is clearly unbeatable for the money. Heck, at least, they used to be. The one I played was 2.0k ...  Mmmm. Maybe the affordable vintage era is coming to a close too. Anyway, here's a 125 in action:











Sunday, March 26, 2017

Audacity



For years I have been making videos using video editing software such as Movie Maker and Cyberlink Power Director. I sometimes edit the video sound track a bit with software such as Cyberlink Wave Director or Cool Edit. But making a video hardly involves multi tracking, You just play over an existing sound track and feed both signals into your camera through a mixer. You make a mistake, you have to do the entire video track again ... There's just no way to overdub a video image. So video recording is way harder than recording a sound clip in your home studio.


A friend hipped me to Audacity a while ago and I finally got to try it out over the last few days. It's actually the first time I got into multitracking ever. Can you believe that? Audacity is free open source digital audio editor that enables multi tracking and all kinds of other audio editing features such as:
  • Recording live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
  • Add new effects with LADSPA plug-ins.
  • etc. etc.
Way too many possibilities to discuss here. It's really very impressive that the software is completely free. What I like about it is its simplicity. It does not require a long learning curve like Protools or Cubase. Heck, I hate learning curves (I never read manuals of any kind) and I could work with it within hours. But there's a shitload of tutorials on Audacity too. Tens of millions of people use it. Here's one for beginners (of course I did not watch it):

The first problem I had to solve was the latency problem though. After some unsatisfactory trial recordings I found a good tutorial on Youtube and once I fixed that problem I was ready to record my first multitrack recording. I did a quick take of "Body and Soul." I stole a bass part from the internet and I added a comping track and a lead track. I did not overdub though, just played twice over the bass part (so comping and lead) and then mixed and edited the separate tracks. I ran the sound file into my camera so that you can see what it looks like. No eq was involved by the way, just some compression You can alter your recorded sounds in many ways but I just recorded what came out of my amp.


The comping track was done on my Tal Farlow. The lead track on the 1963 Barney Kessel. The amp was my Mambo 10. To record the guitar sounds I used a Samson USB Studio condenser microphone. Somehow I have not been able to feed my Behringer USB mixer into Audacity (the programme refuses to record with it) but I hope to fix that in the near future.

I realise I just scratched the surface of the recording and editing possibilites but Audcaity looks very promising. To be continued!





The latest version of Audacity can be downloaded here. Make sure you select the correct recording and playback devices before you start. And do fix the latency problem by finding the correct latency correction for your PC. Like I said earlier, you will find many tutorials on Youtube for Audacity.








Saturday, March 25, 2017

Remo Palmier's 1979 album.


Remo Pamier's only album as a leader - Concord Jazz 1979 - remains a gorgeous album and a personal favourite of mine. I have written about this album earlier. Here's a full playlist with the 8 tracks finally ...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Doug Raney's "Back in New York."


Last year Doug Raney died. I never got to write that obituary that I thought I would. Seems I don't like writing them. But there's no doubt that I have been a huge Doug Raney fan for many years. He is one of the few players whose recordings I like ALL. I mean, all his albums are at least very good if not totally great. His oeuvre is so consistent that there are simply no bad Doug Raney albums. I even like all of his recordings as a sideman (not to mention the fantastic duo albums with his father). In total Doug has recorded close to 30 records and has truly established his voice as one of the best of the modern bop guitarists in the tradition — no small feat given his illustrious father’s achievements on the same instrument.

His debut album from 1977 "Introducing Doug Raney" was already great (listen here) but the album that I rank among the very best DR albums is his 1996 "Back in New York" recording. The first track is a stellar rendition of "I'm Old Fashioned" that makes the album an instant Doug Raney classic. Let me quote once again:
Accompanied by pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Kenny Washington, the quartet's head arrangements of the seven standards on the CD seem to come together effortlessly. The intimate approach to "Skylark" starts slowly, but gives way to a brisk, more complex development of its theme. The rhythm section swirls behind Raney in a driving rendition of "All or Nothing at All," and also features a fine solo by Weiss. Of particular interest is Raney's careful development of "I'm Old Fashioned." Highly recommended. -by Ken Dryden
This, my friends, is what a desert island album sounds like.



Ted Greene's 1977 trio recording.


There is this obscure trio recording of Ted Greene on guitar with Chuck Domanico on bass and Shelley Manne on drums. I downloaded it quite a few years ago but for those of you that still haven't done so here's a reminder. The information surrounding this recording is unclear, but it was made around 1977, possibly to be used as source music for a movie but was shelved and never used. It seems to have been recorded in a studio, the sound quality is very good. And the music is simply gorgeous. 10 standards a la Ted Greene in a trio with Shelly Manne on drums. What more do you want?

You can download the 10 tracks from this studio trio session here. The tracks can be downoaded individually or the complete session in its entirety. It's free but a donation is welcome according to TedGreene.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ted Greene's Blues in G




I have been going through my external hard drive with old videos and I stumbled upon a blues arrangement by Ted Greene that I studied and recorded about 11 years ago. In the video I am playing three choruses. There's no Ted Greene "feel" at all so I probably only had the notation and just strummed the chords in my own way. I leave out certain bass notes that are on the notation that I have found on the web today. I may have used a different source.

This jazz blues appears to have been an actual lesson that Ted did in 1978. It features mainly chords and showcases some interesting harmonic choices.

I had completely forgotten about my old Ted Greene video but it sounded cool enough. I wondered where I got the notation from at the time so I looked for it at at tedgreene.com but I did not find it in the blues section there. Well, Tedgreene.com probably did not even exist at the time I studied it. 

I did find a later video of Tim Lerch playing it and explaining what is going on. He studied with Ted and plays it like Ted would have done. I did not have the video at the time I recorded the vid unfortunately. Tim's video is from 2010 and mine was recorded in 2006. Anyway, here's Tim's tutorial. Now go and get your Telecaster.





Sunday, February 26, 2017

Freddie Green Style Comping


Frederick William "Freddie" Green (March 31, 1911 – March 1, 1987) was an American swing jazz guitarist. He was especially noted for his rhythm guitar playing in big band settings, particularly for the Count Basie orchestra, where he was part of the rhythm Section" with Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums, and Walter Page on bass. His comping style can be explained simply as: "hold down a chord with the left hand and strike the strings with the right hand on every beat of the tune." The voicings that were used by Freddie and other rhythm style players primarily used basic 3 or 4 note voicings without extensions and alterations. You can see a few here:



A big issue in style of comping is volume and sound. You need a sound that does NOT muddy the sound of the bass player. And the volume should be so low that the guitar is rather "felt" than "heard." The sound should be acoustic rather than electric and it is essential to avoid boominess.

I found a few good tips by Tim berens on freddiegreen.org on time, volume, sound and voicings. His page is a must for everybody interested in the style. Some quotes:



Time
Rhythm guitar is about time, not about voicings. Voicings are a detail, but they seem to take up a great deal of space in discussions about Freddie Green comping. If you are just learning the basics of swing rhythm guitar, pay little attention to the discussions of voicings. I suggest that to learn this style you should first concentrate on time.
Volume
A big issue with Freddie Green comping is the volume: how loud should it be? The answer is just loud enough. Not particularly helpful, but completely accurate. Here are things to consider when deciding how loud to play:
  • The guitar part must be just barely quieter than the drums. 
  • The guitar part should be felt not heard. 
  • If anyone in the audience (except other rhythm guitarists) actually noticse the guitar, it is too loud. 
  • The guitar part is often times more for the benefit of the other musicians (to help drive the rhythm home for them) than for the listeners. 
  • As the band gets louder, so should the guitar, but not too much. 
        Sound
The realities of most live performance dictate the use of an amplifier. But the typical amplified jazz guitar sound is too "thick" to properly play Freddie Green comping. The big fat jazz box sound will simply muddy up the rhythm section because it will interfere with the bass player's lines.
           Voicings 

Do not get obsessed with voicings as a beginner. Remember that you do not have to play voicings exactly like Freddie Green to play good Freddie Green comping.
Here are several guidelines for voicings:
  • Primarily use three note voicings on strings 6, 4, and 3; and four note voicings on strings 6, 4, 3, and 2.
  • Avoid barre chords. They take up too much space in the sound spectrum.
  • Avoid perfect fifths between strings 6 and 5. This sounds muddy and will interfere with the bass player's sound.
  • Don't add extensions past the 7th, unless specifically called for in the chart.
  • Don't add your own extensions, as they will likely conflict with the piano player's part as well as the horn parts.

By no means am I an expert in this field. I am still working on a good swing feel myself in this style - and that IS hard - but I did make a short instructional video on how you can apply some common voicings on "There Will Never Another You." I keep the bass note on the 6th string all the time and I use some substitions for certain chords to keep voice leading going. Have fun!



And here's "Fly me to the Moon" in the same style:






Saturday, February 11, 2017

Trying out some ES thinlines

A few weeks ago I visited Dijkman muziek in Breda. I had seen they had both a used reissue Gibson 1959 ES 330 TD and a used 1958 ES 335 VOS for sale and I had always wanted to check these two out. Especially the 330 I was interested in. I first called the store to ask if the used 330 (built in 2012) had the unpopular (two piece) laminate fretboard that Gibson applied in 2012 due to legal issues. I had heard bad things about those layered fingerboards and though I don't know if these rumours are true I simply do not think they belong on a 3k guitar. But the store assured me the ES 330's fingerboard was not layered and told me they had made some enquiries with Gibson even. Mmmm .... OK for now.

I took my trusted ES 175 to the store so I could compare the sounds of the thinlines to my 175. Of course that comparison is not really fair but still ... I thought it would be interesting to see how the full hollow thinline ES 330 would sound compared with a full sized ES guitar . I had also taken my Mambo amp through which I played them all.

So there I was ... The first guitar I test drove was the 1958 VOS ES 335. I owned a 335 earlier (traded it in on a 350t years ago) so I knew what to expect. And yes, the sound of VOS was typically 335. It did have a baseball bat neck though. Huge. Compared to a regular 335 neck not very comfortable. They probably made the 335 like that in 1958 but ... would be a deal breaker for me. The 2015 ES 335 had a much slimmer neck and was way more comfortable to play therefore.

After playing the 1958 VOS, the regular 2015, a reissue 1963 ES 335 TDC and a reissue 1959 335 TD, I had to conclude there was not that much difference to be noted sound wise. They all sounded like a 335 does. I think I liked the 1963 TDC somewhat better but, like I said, the major differences were cosmetic only. Apparently there is a market for VOS made Gibson guitars but personally I would not pay the premium prices these instruments demand. Heck, they ARE expensive at 4-5k euro.


And then I got to the 1959 ES 330 reissue. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a lightweight guitar with a more traditional jazz sound than what I heard from the ES 335s. With way more acoustic volume, because, obviously, the 330 has no full center block like the 335. The full hollow body has mahogany sides, a mahogany tailblock and headblock (so not full) and a 3-ply maple/poplar/maple top and back. A notable difference with the 335 is that the neck of the 330 sits further into the body, joining at the 16th fret. This creates a shorter guitar with a different feel. The 335 has better playability in the higher positions therefore. The neck of the 330 was a bit too clubby for my taste but I guess I could get used to that. The sound I found pleasing enough. A nice traditional jazz sound. I could not find a decent demo for the guitar (nobody plays jazz on jazz guitars in demos ever ... sigh) but here you can see and hear it:


I have to admit, none of the thinlines, including the 330, produced such a woody and classic jazz sound as my 175 but you can hardly expect that from a thinline of course. Still, the 330 is closer to what I want to hear in a jazz guitar than the 335. That does not mean the 335 does not work for jazz, many great players prove otherwise of course. But I would rather use the 330 for that with its hollow body.

Now for the bottom line ....  I think the  ES 330 will make a great guitar for straight ahead jazz. No doubt about it. It does not really sound like you hear on Grant Green recordings of course (Grant used very unusual EQ settings on his amp) but it is easy to get some cool bebop sounds from the ES 330. Definitely one of the cooler thinlines in the Gibson stable and it does have that cool vintage look with the slightly dulled finish, the P90s and the vintage Mickey Mouse horns.













Saturday, January 21, 2017

Solo Tal




Tal has a very characteristic approach to harmonizing melodies. If you are a bit familiar with his style and sound, you immediately hear it's him. Tal usually uses a pianistic approach to playing chord melodies because of the counterpoint possibilities and indepedence of movement. He alternates bass lines, melody and all kinds of voicings in his chord melody style.  Other effects are single line fills, intervallic lines and chords moving under a repeated melody line. His large hands enable him to create voicings with five or six notes in them, with his thumb covering the root or the 5th of the chord on the last two strings. They also enable him to stretch for high range melody notes with his pinky while playing mid range chord voicings. He will often use his right hand index finger to hit a bass note on the 6th string. Tal often emphasizes the melody notes of a chord by strumming with an up stroke. The bass lines he uses keep the progression and the forward movement alive and in them he often prefers the 5th over the root. For a more detailed study of Tal's approach to reharmonization I recommend Steve Rochinski's book on Tal Farlow
The Jazz Guitar Syle of Tal Farlow

I came across two transcribed solo pices on the Tube. The first one I would like to mention is Autumn Leaves. It's a personal favourite of mine. I read somewhere Tal was just warming up in the recording studio while the tape was already running ... It's a great one to study. Tal retuned his A string on the original recording but the transcription uses standard tuning.




And here's a transcription of Misty which he gives a rather advanced harmonic treatment.


There are many more solo Tal performances on the Tube for you to enjoy but these are the only transcribed ones that I found. You can buy the PDFs from Francois Leduc here. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ted Greene



The first time I learned about Ted Greene was when I visited the music department of a library. It must have been in the late 70s or early 80s. I came across a guitar book that blew me away. The title was " Chord Chemistry" and on the cover there was this long haired bearded guy with spectacles holding an electric guitar. I was puzzled. A book by a jazz guitarist that looked like a Woodstock hippy? The book was very intimidating. I was a young rock guitar kid and  had never seen so many chords at one time. Most of the chord names and shapes I did not know. It all looked like all this was from another planet. The names of the chords sure did. WTF was this? It was to take many, many years before I returned to the book.

Ted Greene is one of those forgotten jazz heroes that has acquired a cult status among jazz guitar fans. Though a a heart attack claimed his life on July 23, 2005, he continues to teach through his books, videos, and lesson guides. Many of these are posted on his official website. You can download tons of his material there. Highly recommended. The man was a genius. On Youtube you will find lots of live videos and transcriptions too.

Ted began playing the guitar at the age of 11 and was an accomplished player while still in high school. He played with local R&B and Blues Rock groups. He briefly studied accounting at California State Northridge, but dropped out to devote his life to music.

While he is often regarded as a jazz musician these days, he actually played many musical styles. Among local players, he was mostly known as a music educator, which included private teaching, seminars at the Guitar Institute of Technology, columns for Guitar Player magazine and his series of instructional books on guitar harmony, chord melody and single-note soloing. He wrote four books on the subject of jazz guitar performance and theory: Chord Chemistry, Modern Chord Progressions: Jazz and Classical Voicings for Guitar, and the two-volume Jazz Guitar: Single Note Soloing.



He would also make occasional live appearances at clubs in the San Fernando Valley, usually playing a Fender Telecaster. Ted had a very nice collection of vintage guitars, among which many vintage Telecasters.Ted typically worked as a vocal accompanist, which he preferred because he found group settings restrictive. While he was a sought-after session player, he derived much of his income from tutoring. 

His playing style included techniques such as harp-like harmonic arpeggios, combined with gentle, tasteful neck vibrato, creating a "shimmer" to his sound. Other notable techniques included playing songs with a "walking bass" line with simultaneous melodies. Greene often used counterpoint to improvise. Below is an example of these techniques. The track is "Danny Boy" (1977).

He used a large variety of chord voicings, often creating the effect of two simultaneous players. He recorded one album, Solo Guitar, in 1977, and although respected by guitarists, he was not well known to the public. The recording, originally released in 1977 on PMP Records, contains no "over dubbing" (recording on multiple tracks). Here's another example: "Send in the Clowns." (1977). Notice the ending "classical style."



Personally, I don't think solo jazz guitar playing can be prettier than this. Just gorgeous.  Surely, a master at work. There is an entire playlist on Youtube of the 1977 album "Solo Guitar" the above tracks are from. Click here to listen to the entire album. So pretty ...

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Ibanez Piccolo Guitar


Last Christmas' Santa was very kind to bring me an unusual present. To my big surprise I was given an Ibanez Piccolo guitar. I had no idea such an instrument even existed! At first I thought it was some kind of toy but once I got used to the very small scale of he neck, I was excited to find this was a real instrument. It did not take me very long to play bop lines on it. I don't think Ibanez made this baby guitar with the jazz musician in mind - it was probably designed as a grab-and-go open chord strummer - but that won't stop me of course. Chord melody playing is a bit of challenge on such a narrow neck but hey ... it IS possible. Single note is more comfortable though ...


By the way, the nut width is 42 mm. It's just that the scale is only 432 mm. It's basically a baritone Ukelele.

The guitar is perfect for travelling. Here's what the sales talk says: 
"Smaller scale instruments have increased in popularity over the past few years, because not only do students seem to be starting younger than ever, but also the easy-to-transport guitar has become recognized as an excellent companion for the weary traveler. From the on-the-go businessperson who needs a guitar that can fit in a plane’s overhead compartment, to the happy wanderer just looking to animate his sojourn with a song, the compact travel guitar can be an uplifting addition to any expedition."
The guitar's official model name is "EWP14OPN." It is a 1/3-size, steel string Piccolo acoustic guitar. Similar in scale to a Baritone ukulele (17”), the EWP14 sports a cutaway body. The top, back, and sides are made of ovangkol, a wood found in Western Africa, known for its beautiful figuring and rosewood-like tone. An Open Pore Natural finish allows the body to resonate more freely for improved tone and projection. Other features include an abalone rosette, rosewood fretboard, bridge and chrome die-cast tuners. To optimize string tension, intonation, and tone, the EWP14 is tuned in the key of A (A, D, G, C, E, A), up a fourth from standard tuning.

Here's a jazz standard on it, both comping and single string, as you can see. A duet with myself ...


O yeah, not unimportant, it's dirt cheap!!!!

SPECS
body shape Cutaway Tenor Style EW body
top Ovangkol top
back & sides Ovangkol back & sides
neck Mahogany
fretboard Rosewood
soundhole rosette Abalone
tuning machine Chrome Die-cast Tuner
bridge pins Plastic Bridge pin, black color
strings Coated Phosphor Bronze, Extra Light (.010 - .047 Gauge)

NECK DIMENSIONS
Scale : 432mm
a : Width 42mm at NUT
b : Width 50mm at 14F
c : Thickness 20mm at 1F
d : Thickness 21mm at 7F
Radius : 400mmR

BODY DIMENSIONS
a : Length 12"
b : Width 9 3/8"
c : Max Depth 2 3/4"