About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lesson #7

Continuing the practice of writing about my jazz guitar lessons with Dave Frackenpohl at GSU to get a handle on my latest assignment and hopefully pass on some wisdom to other developing jazz guitarists.

We started off running through three different chromatic scale fingerings that Dave assigned last time. I played them easily enough, but Dave noticed that my left hand was tense. From now on, I'll be focusing more on relaxing my left hand.

Next, we looked at I'm Beginning to See the Light. This wasn't part of my assignment, but I wrote to Dave yesterday, asking that we begin working on this song. It's a well known standard, and I should be able to improvise on it more easily than I do. We worked through it, and by the time we were finished, I was feeling more more comfortable with the tune.

Then we played through Girl from Ipanema. Dave specifically suggested that I experiment with some Mixolydian #11 licks to fit over the dominant chords in the bridge. This went pretty well. I had stolen a lick from the classic Stan Getz solo, and Dave showed me a few more. With a little more practiced, I'll be well armed the next time I play this tune.

Finally, we played through Gone with the Wind. This tune offers plenty of chances to play ii-V licks, which I've been working on quite a bit. Part of my assignment was to transcribe the first chorus of Wes Montgomery's solo over these chord changes. This was a difficult assignment. I've completed most of the transcription, and I've learned the first half of the solo. This solo is loaded with tasty licks, and I'll steal as many as I can! One thing that strikes me about Wes Montgomery's solo playing is how bluesy everything sounds. Gone with the Wind isn't even close to being a blues tune, yet Wes manages to infuse his solos with blues sounds. It works so well! I'll be studying Wes for a long time to come.

Here's the new assignment:

  • The "Samba Intro" from The Brazilian Guitar Book by Nelson Faria. We're going to be alternating between this book and Galbraith's Guitar Comping. I'm really looking forward to expanding my range of Brazilian guitar styles.
  • Whole Tone Scales. Yes, another scale to learn. This is jazz, after all! Dave showed me three fingerings for a whole tone scale. I had already figured out two of them on my own, so it's just a matter of learning the third form. Again, we're also using scales to focus on relaxing my left hand.
  • I'm Beginning to See the Light. In addition to learning the song in greater depth, I'll be transcribing a Joe Pass solo from an Ella Fitzgerald/Joe Pass duo. I'm very much looking forward to this part of the assignment. When I perform in a voice/guitar duo setting, I will often loop the chords and then solo over the looper. Sometimes I will get brave, skip the looper, and "solo out of thin air," as Dave puts it. It's much more difficult, but I think the solos "out of thin air" sound better than the solos with the looper. Someday, I would like to leave the looper at home and solo out of thin air all the time, a la Joe Pass.
  • Gone with the Wind. I'll finish transcribing and learning the Wes Montgomery solo.
Toward the end of the lesson, I commented on an observation that I blogged about a few days ago. Through much of our lessons, we hardly ever take music out and read it. There's a big emphasis on memorizing and listening. As we worked through I'm Beginning to See the Light, I improvised better than I ever have, mainly due to the fact that I wasn't reading music. I was listening very intently. When I'm reading chord changes and improvising, I tend to get too focused on the written chords, worrying about how I'm going to navigate from one chord to the next. When I take my attention away from the page, I play more musically. I still need to know the chord changes, but taking away the written music helps me calm my analytical voice and play more intuitively. I'm assigning myself is to memorize the repertoire for Tea for Two and Godfrey and Guy. This is going to be a major undertaking, but it's going to make me a better musician in so many ways. I'll have a host of standards in my head, I'll play more musically, and I'll be really good at memorizing!

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