- Tom Godfrey
- 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.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Bebop for a Better You
Although bebop isn't my first choice in music, I've been playing more and more of it recently. Why? Because it's great for building technique. I spend a lot of time practicing Godfrey and Guy music – learning new songs, memorizing our repertoire, and working out guitar arrangements. Most of our repertoire is of the "Fly Me to the Moon" variety, straight out of the Great American Songbook. My technique has improved over the years as I've work on this highly melodic style of music, but nothing gooses my technique quite like working on bebop, which is why I've started working on bebop tunes again.
I don't have an outlet for performing bebop, and I'm not using these tunes to build repertoire anyway. Instead, I'm treating each bebop tune as an etude – a musical study. (My current "etude" is Billie's Bounce.) For me, bebop tunes are etudes in technique, transcription, and learning licks. For technique, I'm working the melody up to speed, or as close as I can get. Because bebop often has unusual lines, the melodies can expose holes in my technique or pose fingering problems for me to solve. For transcription, I'm learning the melodies and at least one solo chorus by ear. For licks, I can use the chord changes to practice new licks, plus I can take parts of the melody or a solo to learn one licks. Each tune is a long study. I'll keep working at it until I get what I need out of it, and then I'll pick another.
Already, I've noticed that my improv solos tend to be more creative when I'm practicing bebop, so I must be onto something. The Great American Songbook is my bread and butter, but bebop will continue to be in the mix.