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, July 15, 2013

Lesson #11

I am continuing my practice of blogging about my jazz guitar lessons with Dave Frackenpohl, who teaches at Georgia State University. This helps me wrap my head around each new assignment, and I hope it helps others who may be on the same path.

I found parts my previous lesson assignment to be quite challenging. We started off playing my transcription of a Zoot Simms solo over It's Only a Paper Moon. The original solo was in C, and part of today's assignment was to play it in B-flat. This was one of the few things that I had an easy time with. After that, I played an arrangement of Triste from The Brazilian Guitar Book. This was a big challenge for me. I fumbled through a couple measures, but for the most part, I played it okay. Considering that I was struggling to just puzzle out the fingerings a couple weeks ago, I was satisfied with my progress on this song. It's a very nice arrangement, and after I get it under my fingers, I'll add it to my regular repertoire. I had also memorized the melody and chords for Triste. I was ready to comp or solo over the chord changes, but we didn't get to it today. We then played Autumn Leaves. My assignment was to find a solo in G minor and transcribe it. I fell in love with an absolutely gorgeous Paul Desmond solo in F# minor, so I transcribed it in F# minor and then learned it in G minor. We didn't get to the final part of my assignment, which was to take a Joe Pass solo (I'm Beginning to See the Light) that I had transcribed in C and then play it in B-flat. I was ready to play it, and I think I would have done a good job. Even though I only had to transpose it one step down, I found this part of my assignment to be a big challenge. It's one thing to transpose a single note sax solo down a step. It's quite another to transpose a Joe Pass chord/melody solo! Even though we didn't get to it, I'm glad Dave made me transpose that solo. Every big challenge takes me one step closer to being the guitar player I want to be.

The new assignment:

  1. Transcribe the Kenny Burrell solo from his classic recording of Chitlins con Carne. I requested this assignment, and I'm super excited about it! I love Kenny Burrell's playing, I love this tune, and I love this solo! I really enjoy soul jazz, and it's hard to pick a better guitarist than Kenny Burrell to dive into the style. The terrific thing about soul jazz, which has a heavy jazz/blues vibe, is that it can help add a touch of blues to anything else you play. I've been learning from a TrueFire.com CD called 50 Soul Jazz Licks You Must Know. I'm only on lick #4, and I'm already starting to find places to infuse bluesy licks into other jazz standards. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can come up with after studying Kenny Burrell and working my way through the soul jazz licks CD. 
  2. Transpose the Zoot Simms Paper Moon to F. Just when I thought I was finished with It's Only a Paper Moon! I had already spent two weeks transcribing the original solo, and then we had to skip a lesson, so I spent four more weeks playing the same solo in B-flat! The purpose of transposing the solo to F is to force me to learn it in a different area of the fretboard. I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy playing the solo for another month, but it has some cool licks, and it's good to know how to play those licks using different fingerings. Paper Moon used to be one of the weaker songs in my repertoire, but not anymore!
  3. Keep working on the Triste arrangement. There are a couple spots to iron out. I was going to continue working on the solo on my own anyway, so I'm glad it's part of my next assignment. I'm looking forward to being able to include this arrangement in my own repertoire.
  4. Learn Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. I requested this song specifically because I'm terrible at it! I play a couple times a month with a quartet. The leader usually calls this song, and it trips me up every time. With some intense practice, I will no longer need to fear soloing over these chord changes!

Whenever it comes up, Dave likes to show me what he calls "trick guitar fingerings." These are just little tricks that are unique to guitar players that are easy and sound really cool. In this case, the trick guitar fingering was inspired by some chord changes in Autumn Leaves. This is over a 2-5-1 in minor. We were in G minor, so I'll use Am7b5 to D7 to Gm. If you play an Am7b5 (the "2" of Gm), then move that same fingering up three frets (a minor 3rd), you get a D7alt (the "5" of Gm). Move that same fingering up another four frets (a major 3rd), and you get a Gm6. It only sounds good in the middle or upper register, and you want to play voicings that use either the middle 4 strings or the highest 4 strings. Some of the voicings only sound right if there is a bass player. I'll be working on this "trick fingering," and I'm looking forward to being able to use it on a gig.

I continue to be happy with these guitar lessons. We work on specific songs, but we use these songs to study concepts and develop skills that I can transfer to other songs. I find that the more deeply I study the material that Dave assigns, the more comfortable and confident I am in my overall playing.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to lessons again!