Riffs of Wisdom

As in any field of study, countless volumes have been written about music.  With the increasing popularity of the guitar, particularly in the last 50 years, a wealth of guitar literature has been established, much of it penned by the instrument’s greatest masters.  Today, many of us learn from teachers, in person, but truth be told, if we were all well disciplined, self-motivated students, we could learn everything we would ever need to know about the guitar from books.  Although it is immensely helpful to have a teacher synthesize and communicate this information, some books hold a special knowledge only receivable though the intimate reading, studying experience.

In the “books” section of Riffs of Wisdom, I will shed light on some literature that could greatly help all guitarists on their journey towards musical nirvana.  Some will be advanced, theoretical books, some will be instructional methods, some will be…

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I’d like to thank…

As a guitarist, when I think of my favourite Jazz musicians, I lean towards Django Rheinhart or Grant Green. But, when it comes to people who have influenced my playing directly (in person), I can credit a handful of very intimate performances for influencing my playing style.

The first recollection was in a Thai restaurant in London. I remember being in this tiny venue, on a warm, sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The performer was a lone Jazz Guitarist with an amp and a loop pedal.

The cafe was small, but full of people milling around talking. There was a birthday party in the back and people sitting enjoying great food, with the aroma of coffee and Thai spices swirling around.

Then, without any big opening, or announcement, the guitarist started to play a Jazz bass line on his hollow body electric guitar for what I can only assume must have been 12 bars and then simultaneously stamping on his pedal and starting to comp his own bass line for the next 12 bars, and again after he laid that down, he continued to add layers, and depth to his track.

The room remained pretty much the same, people milling about, food being served, customers talking and laughing. Everything was the same but me… I was hypnotised by this guy and what he was doing with his guitar. After about 10 minutes, I realised that I had not spoken to anybody for the whole time he was playing. It was so rich and melodic. I didn’t know that one person could produce such a polished sound from just one instrument.

That was way before I started to learn guitar, and before I really listened to Jazz.

It was an experience that changed my music tastes forever…

There have been a few other experiences which have had similar impacts, but I credit that one experience for guiding my path in the direction that I am on, and to this day, I still hold it as one of the best gigs of my life.

I am sure that I am not the only one with experiences like this. Please feel free to send me your stories and I shall put the best on my Contributions page.

Response To Bebop or not to Bebop? That is the question…

Alfredo – I couldn’t agree more. This genre of jazz is what gets my musical juices flowing. I can’t hear T. Monk or Charlie Parker without wanting to pick up my horn and try to play along (emphasis on th word “try”). Over the years I have met a number of people who say they like jazz, but not the improvisation only the structured parts-the music that sounds familiar to them. To me it is the solos that rally reach within and express the fluidity and beauty of music.

To Bebop or not to Bebop? That is the question…

Inspired by http://www.opus28.co.uk/bebopperp.pdf

While surfing the internet this morning, I stumbled upon this piece and I remembered how and why I fell in love with Bebop.

Bebop is so much more than just a small movement from the 40’s, with a meagre following of die-hard supporters. According to the article above, it is “pretty much the “grammar” of modern jazz, and bebop “licks” are not so much clichés as essential elements of speech within the jazz language”.

I got hooked into Bebop from the moment I heard it in my favourite Coffee Shop. It was Charlie Parker I believe…

The first 30 seconds or so of the track started off and to a practical jazz virgin sounded pretty generic, jazz standard. Then… the bomb dropped! The next 3 minutes would change the course of my taste in music (yet again).

I remember sitting there mesmerised by the skill of the players, the way that they seemingly conjured up this melody from a collection of random notes. With ever member of the band saying their piece, with their own style and rhythm, in their own musical accent. As I have mentioned before, I love when I can feel the energy of the band, playing off each other, competing to try to out-do each other. It was as if I was sitting in the room with them, listening in on a jam session. I felt like I could almost reach out and touch them.

My favourite tracks from Jazz, to this day, still have the feel and the ambience of the Bebop movement.

Although it sometimes sounds random, or un-arranged, there are logical rules to this genre which were experimental and complex for the day. These were real musicians, who truly pushed the boundaries of what was possible with music.

Many of the musicians that came up through the “Bebop era”, like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian and Sonny Stitt,  took the Bebop blueprints and evolved them into a myriad of different types of Jazz. The free-form style of Miles Davis, was a logical evolutionary step from the equally rebellious Beboppers all those years before.

Whether you like it or not, I believe, it was the Bebop generation that made Jazz as we know it.

For those of you who are new readers of my blog, don’t miss the Hank Jones Interview from last month, or take a glance at more Jazz articles


Guitarist corner #2

A little something for those of you who are slightly more advanced guitar players.

This guy has a very easy style of instruction, and makes it easy to understand. Please try not to laugh at the way he says about, it’s not his fault…eh?


Guitarists Corner…


I have been noticing that lots of our readers are guitar players, so I thought I might try something a little different today.

Here we have a great youtube clip introducing guitarists the wonders of Jazz Guitar… youtube has proved to be a great resource for me, as it is a great way to get a visual help learning something you read in a tablature book.

Response to Music Philosophy Debate #2

Arnold Faber – I know the following music cited involves lyrics, but I really think it illustrates the minor/major discussion as well. I mean, if you substituted instrumental music in the following, I believe the scenario would still hold true. It’s all about recognition and association to that recognition.

In my experience, it seems to come down to “context”. Imagine yourself, at a party having a great time, a few drinks etc.. Billie Holiday is in the background, seeping into your ear while you are engaged in an interesting conversation. Say there is a selection/album/continuous, of Fine Romance, All Of Me, Strange Fruit, Ain’t Misbehavin’; a complete mix. At best, you probably will enjoy the overall “hipness” of the sound as well as your personal recognition of the tunes. At the worst, you probably won’t even take notice; I don’t think it will spoil your mood or good time through the overall party din.

If however, you are at home by yourself, a bottle of scotch and Billie on the sound system when you just lost your job, your dog died and your woman left you, well…

I think that comments reflected concerning Debate #1, are relevant along these lines as well. Different cultures, ears with varied listening experiences AND pertinent contexts of theories musical, or otherwise, that may have been thrust upon the listener, would be of influence.