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, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Challenging Assignment

I'm taking another lesson in a few days. Wow, has this assignment been challenging! There are some motor skill assignments that aren't too bad, including more samba patterns and a Wes Montgomery solo. I've already worked out the solo, so now it's just a matter of playing with a metronome and drilling to build up speed.

I transcribed a Joe Pass solo for the next lesson. (I'm Beginning to See the Light from his Sophisticated Lady album with Ella Fitzgerald.) The transcription was difficult, but now it's just a matter of woodshedding to get the solo under my fingers.

The biggest challenge in my current assignment is more conceptual than physical. As I've mentioned in earlier blog posts, I'm working on being able to consistently solo well without any accompaniment. My dream is to be able to ditch the looper and fly completely solo.

The first step in this path is to simply comp for two bars and then improvise for two bars over a set of changes (and also reverse that – improvise first and then comp). This can scramble your brain. Most of us are used to just comping or just soloing, not mixing the two. Soloing this way from memory is a surefire way to make sure you know the chord changes! This has been a challenge for me, but I'm getting used to it.

The biggest challenge is the other concept my teacher assigned, which is to play melody for two bars and then improvise for two bars (and vice versa). It's pretty easy to do this when you're looking at the music, but this is all from memory. If you think you've memorized a melody thoroughly, just give this a try! It's one thing to play the melody of a jazz standard straight through. It's a greater challenge to improvise and then jump back to the melody the middle of a phrase! Maybe in a few months this will be old hat, but by then, my teacher will have thrown me another curve ball. (How's that for mixing metaphors?)

I've certainly hooked up with the right teacher in Dave Frackenpohl. Each lesson takes me closer to being the guitarist I know I can be.

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