December 28, 2007

Jazz Guitar Endings

The approaching end of 2007 inspired me to write a tutorial about jazz guitar endings:

10 Ways To End A Jazz Song

Do you know more interesting ways to end a song? Let us know at the Jazz Guitar Forum...

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December 11, 2007

Jazz Guitar Chords and How To Find Them

I get a lot of emails from guitarists asking me how to play this or that chord on the guitar.  Please show me how to play a G7b9, or a Bm7b5(11)...?  Now, I don't mind these emails and I will answer them (although it usually takes a while), but what I want to say is: it's easy to find these chords all by yourself, even if you have never played the particular chord before.  All you need to do is learn a little music theory once and you'll never have to ask for a chord again.

I explain it all here: How To Make Your Own Guitar Chords

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December 10, 2007

8 String Guitar: Jason Crawford Plays I'll Remember April [Video]

Jason Crawford is an 8-string solo jazz guitarist who actually makes some music with his instrument. I like the way he lays out the theme of "I'll Remember April" in this video, but I'm not very impressed with the impro though. Not that I'd do it better than him, I never even touched a 7- or 8-string guitar (and I'm not planning to, to be honest). Anyway, Jason does a good job on the 8-string, this theme really swings!

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September 15, 2007

Boy Who Started Playing Drums When He Was 2 Years Old

How old were you when you started playing guitar? I started rather late, I was 16 when I bought my first guitar. I was completely uniterested in music until I was about 15 and then some friends started taking music lessons. Sometimes I wonder how my skills on the guitar would be if I had been playing since I was, let's say 5 or 6. The boy in this video started playing drums when he was 2. You can see his musical evolution going from 2 to 11 years old.

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September 14, 2007

Jazz Guitarist Peter Bernstein

While browsing on Youtube I discovered this video of jazz guitarist Peter Bernstein. I had never heard of him before, but I like what he does, very tasteful. Here's him playing a song called Bones at the Ballard Jazz Festival with Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Chuck Deardorf on bass and Matt Jorgensen on drums.

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September 11, 2007

Joe Zawinul Dies at the Age of 75

Joe Zawinul, the legendary keyboard player and electric jazz pioneer died Tuesday, September 11 at the age of 75. He had been hospitalized in a Viennese hospital since last month.

Joe Zawinul helped shaping the sound of jazz fusion. He played in Miles Davis' band and appeared on albums like In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew.

In 1970 he formed his own band called Weather Report together with Wayne Shorter and people like (over the years) Miroslav Vitous, Airto Moreira, Jaco Pastorius, Don Alias, Peter Erskine and Victor Bailey. Zawinul scored two world hits with the songs Mercy, mercy, mercyBirdland and . When Weather Report split up, he formed the band The Zawinul Syndicate.

Here is a video of the Weather Report playing Birdland (with Jaco):

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August 7, 2007

Pat Metheny Plays House Of The Rising Sun

In this video Pat Metheny is a guest in some Japanese music show called Ongakuy Wa Sekaida. He starts by playing one of his songs with the Pat Metheny Band (sorry, forgot the name of the song) and then sits together with some Japanese guitarists for an interview/lesson. They talk about picking technique, Wes Montgomery and Pat plays a little solo improvisation on House of the Rising Sun.

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July 17, 2007

Playing Jazz Guitar: Stella by Starlight Theme [Video]

Here's my second guitar video lesson: how to play a theme like Stella by Starlight in a guitar trio. You can find the tabs and explaining here: Stella by Starlight

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July 15, 2007

Ted Greene Playing Autumn Leaves

In this video of a jazz guitar masterclass, guitar legend Ted Greene goes through the changes of Autumn Leaves and applies some very nice reharmonizations.

Autumn Leaves is 5/4

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July 2, 2007

Jazz Guitar Video Lessons

I decided to go the video way and made my first jazz guitar video lesson.  The video is about comping and I use There WIll Never Be Another You as example.  The video is hosted @

Video Guitar Lesson 1

The guitar chord charts, tabs, backing tracks and explanation you can find at the website:

There WIll Never Be Another You

Let me know what you think of it.  More video lessons will follow soon.

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June 27, 2007

Incredible Solo Jazz Guitarist [Video]

This guy is incredible! John Phil Wayne is a guitarist from London, England who has been pursuing a career as a solo jazz guitarist since 1961. He plays walking bass, chords and solo improvisation at once in a way and with a speed I have never seen before. He has a very strange, but very effective right hand technique. He really deserves his nickname: Thousand Hands.

Check out this clip of John Phil Wayne playing a fast blues:

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May 29, 2007

Practice Jazz Cds

I got some mails of readers aksing if I can recommend them a particular kind of practice jazz cds.  Although I have used Aebersold cds a lot and I was and still am a big fan of those, I now use Band in a Box.  Of course the Aebersold cds sound better, they are played by real musicians, but I prefer the flexibility of Band in a Box.  The latest incarnation (2007) has real drums and although the other instruments are Midi, you can get a really nice sound if you use one of the free software synths and be carefull about the instruments you choose (who needs strings or steeldrums to practice?).  A simple setup like acoustic bass, real drums and Fender Rhodes sounds really good.

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May 15, 2007

Vince Lewis Trio

Charlotte Swing – The Gift

Points: 8/10

Vince Lewis, long time jazz guitarist and well known studio musician, has just released a new album, entitled “Charlotte Swing – The Gift”. This is trad. jazz that brings you back to the fifties and early sixties. Together with drummer Phil Riddle and bassist Tom Hildreth, Vince has created a nice collection of various old jazz songs, and has accomplished what probably was his goal: to let the listener lean back into that old rocking chair, close his or hers eyes and travel to a place far beyond the stress and intrigues of modern society.

The tight and steady drumming of Phil Riddle makes the perfect “landscape” which Lewis gladly explores, and the lovely, sustaining bass tones created by Tom Hildreth sets the mood. In a funny way these old songs sound fresh and new, though it should be noted that Lewis is far from a newbie on the jazz scene. The first note in “Will You Still Be Mine” shows what is to come, and “Perdido” is the perfect ending for the record. “The Gift” and “Just A Closer Walk” are in my opinion the most interesting songs. “The Gift” with its warm, hot and if I may say so, sexy feel is by far the song that sticks out, in a good way. The latter (“Just A Closer Walk”, that is) starts very gently and melancholic, only to burst out in a beautiful ballad which make you want to pick up an instrument yourself and play along.

All in all this is a very good trad. jazz CD. Vince Lewis uses his great technique and ability to play almost anything perfect to create a calm and cool feel over every song. You can clearly hear that this is a man who lives on the stage! The only thing that might disappoint someone (specially the younger listeners) is the fact that it’s all so perfect. You almost want him to make a mistake. I think it would be very interesting to see (or hear) him do something a bit more experimental. Nevertheless, this is a traditional jazz record, and people who are fond of such music will love it! All in all this is a very good record, and Vince Lewis has set his mark in the history of jazz guitar greats.

Jazz Guitar in Belgium: Philip Catherine

Philip Catherin is a jazz guitarist with a Belgian mother and English father who lived in London during the the Second World War, but returned to Brussels after the War. He worked with Charles Mingus, who called him "Young Django". In the States he is best known for his duets with Larry Coryell. Other people he worked with are Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. In this video Philip Catherine plays a duet with Nigel Clark (Philip is the one on the left) on a life concert in Glasgow, Scotland in October 2006. They play a song called "Gilles et Mirona".

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May 11, 2007

Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar: George Van Eps

In this video clip you can see some rare footage of George Van Eps, the master of fingerstyle jazz guitar, playing the Gershwin tune 'I've Got a Crush on You'. In the late 1930s George Van Eps designed a 7-string guitar (with an extra bass string). He called his style of playing, later adopted by Howard Alden and John Pizzarelli, "lap piano".

Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Tabs

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May 9, 2007

Amazing Fingerstyle Guitar

Here's Don Ross playing Michael, Michael, Michael in March 2006. Like the title of this post says, Don Ross is an amazing fingerstyle guitarist who won the US National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship twice (1988 and 1996). Don was born in Montreal in 1960 and started playing the acoustic guitar at the age of 8. He has the same record company as Andy McKee, Candyrat Records. You can buy guitar tabs of his work from his website here: Don Ross Guitar Tabs

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May 7, 2007

Jazz Guitar Videos: Bill Frisell

In this video from 1993, Bill Frisell performs Just Like a Woman on acoustic guitar on a live concert in Austin, Texas. Vely nice!

Bill Frisell's Guitar Gear

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May 4, 2007

10 Jazz CDs You Must Have Heard

  1. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
  2. A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
  3. Time Out - Dave Brubeck
  4. 25 Greatest Hot Fives and Sevens - Louis Armstrong
  5. The Savoy and Dial Studio Sessions - Charlie Parker
  6. Getz/Gilberto - Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto
  7. Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
  8. The Köln Concert - Keith Jarrett
  9. Lady Day - Billie Holiday
  10. My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker

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May 3, 2007

Andy McKee Tabs

I've got some requests for Andy Mckee tabs, but they are available at the website of his record company Candyrat here:

They are not free though, you pay $19.95 for four songs in mp3 format and matching quality guitar tabs and standard notation in .pdf format.  There are 5 sets of 4 songs each available.

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May 1, 2007

Guitar Practicing TIps

  • Practice regularly.  It's better to practice 1 hour every day than 2 hours every other day.  It's even better to practice 3 hours a day :-)
  • Practice things that need practicing.  Concentrate on those things that you're not good at and don't waste too much time playing things you already now.
  • Make a plan.  Write down what you need to practice on and make a weekly schedule.  Divide the daily time you have in blocks of minimum 10 minutes and give each topic a number of blocks.  Some things require practicing every other day, other more important topics need to be practiced every day.
  • Be patient with yourself.  Don't get angry or nervous when you make mistakes, you are allowed to make them.  When you are nervous you don't learn anything, so you are wasting your time.  When you do get nervous, stop practicing hard stuff, play some easy things that you enjoy.
  • Use a metronome or even better, a software program like Band in a BoxBand in a box is ideal for practicing new ideas, themes and improvisation.  It will straighten out irregularities in your timing and give you a harmonic background so you can really hear what's going on and train your ears.  It's like playing in a band.
  • Listen!  If you want to learn to play jazz music, listen to jazz music when you are not playing it.
  • Record yourself.  Record your guitar playing and be surprised!  It's like looking in the mirror.  Once again, Band in a Box is a great and easy way to record yourself.
  • Start slowly.  Make sure you can play the things you practice in a slow tempo and with a great tone, great articulation and no mistakes before you start speeding things up.  Gradually build speed.
  • Relax!  Don't build up tension in your hands, arms and shoulder.  They should be as relaxed as possible.
  • And most importantly: Have fun!

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April 29, 2007

Free Jazz Chords

The Free Jazz Chords eBook is a compilation of beginner and advanced guitar chord charts bundled with a comprehensive tutorial about guitar chord theory. You can download the eBook when you subscribe to the Jazz Guitar Gazette (free as well), a newsletter filled with jazz guitar lessons, tips & tricks, guitar licks, answers to your questions and much more.

Download the free ebook here: The Jazz Guitar Chords Book

free jazz chords

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April 26, 2007

Brazilian Guitar Book

The Brazilian Guitar Book is a great book that's written by Nelson Faria and published by Sher Music. If you want to learn authentic Brazilian guitar accompaniments and Latin chord melody arrangements, this is definately the book to go for. The book comes with a CD with audio recordings of each exercise and a tune in each style. Highly recommended and only $24.97!

More information about the Brazilian Guitar Book
Listen to a Sample of the CD

Free lesson: Latin Guitar 101

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April 25, 2007

Jazz Guitar 101: Arpeggios

This is a lesson for the beginners amongst us:

Jazz Guitar 101: Arpeggios

The tutorial deals with arpeggios, what they are, how we can play them on guitar and how we can use them in your guitar solos.  It's the first lesson in a series of beginner tutorials, in which I will be covering all the jazz guitar basics.

If you have questions or remarks about this tutorial, you can post them at this thread in the forum:

All the Best,

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April 24, 2007

Emily Remler

Here's the intro clip from E)mily Remler's Advanced Jazz and Latin Improvisation video in the Hot Licks Video series. The tune she plays is one of Antonio Carlos Jobim and is called "Red Blouse" from the album Wave (1967). Emily Remler puts a nice going groove into the tune, although I don't really like how she plays the beginning of the theme, I think she plays it a bit too staccato. Nice video none the less.

Emily Remler Tabs

Bossa Nova 101

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April 19, 2007

The New Jazz Guitar Forum

Good news, has a new forum:

It's going fast: we're only opened for one week and we already have 456 members and 655 posts. There's also a posting contest going on: he who has the most post by May 11th wins the competition. First price is Band in a Box 2007, but there are also prices for 2nd and 3rd place. More Information: The Jazz Guitar Posting Contest

You can post guitar tabs directly into your posts. Here's how: How to Add Guitar Tabs to Your Posts

You can also show Youtube videos directly into your post: How to Add Youtube Videos to Your Posts

And finally, you can register here:

See You There,

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Reggie and Victor Wooten Slap Guitar Battle [Video]

More slap guitar: Reggie and his brother Victor Wooten have a funk off.

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April 18, 2007

John McLaughlin with Shakti

Here's another (black and white) video of John McLaughlin with Shakti, playing live in India in 1974. I love the bending technique he uses to mimick Indian scales.

John McLaughlin Tabs
Exotic Guitar Scales

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April 17, 2007

Bireli Lagrene at the Age of 13 [Video]

Here's a video of Bireli Lagrene playin at the Montreux Jazz Festival at the age of 13. Bireli Lagrene is a French guitar player who was born in a gypsy family and started playing guitar since he was 4 years old. In these beginning years he sounded very much like Django Reinhardt, but a few years later he found his own sound playing fusion and recording with Jaco Pastorius (1986).

The chops he allready had as a 13 year old are really amazing. His guitar is a bit out of tune though.

Bireli Lagrene Tabs

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April 6, 2007

Sylvain Luc Plays Solar (Miles Davis) Slap Guitar Wise

Sylvain Luc is a French guitarist who studied at the Academy de Bayonne as a child. He masters guitar, violin, mandolin and cello (and I was complaining I had to study piano as a second instrument :-) In this video he plays Solar, an original by Miles Davis. I don't like the sound of his guitar too much (what's with the buzzing high E string?), but his incredible technique totally makes up for it. Somewhere in the middle of the video he starts to play slap guitar, very impressive!

So What Guitar Tabs

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April 5, 2007

Listening Tip: Andreas Oberg - Django Reinhardt Swing [Video]

Andreas Oberg is a Swedish jazz guitarist who plays mainstream jazz, modern jazz and gypsy swing. This video is a live recording from a gig in Portland in January 2006. This guy sure has an impressive right hand technique!

His website:

More gypsy jazz: Django Reinhardt Licks, Stochelo Rosenberg Licks, Django Reinhardt's guitars

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April 3, 2007

Playing Over m7b5 Chords

There is a new guitar lesson at the site:

The lesson is about how to play over half diminished chords.  I got a lot of emails of people who are having trouble playing over these chords.  There are 13 tools I use to play over half-diminished chords, a Bm7b5 chord in this case:

  1. The B Locrian Scale
  2. The 6th grade of the D melodic minor scale
  3. The A harmonic scale
  4. The E minor pentatonic scale
  5. The B blues scale without the 5
  6. The G bebop scale
  7. Bm7b5 or Dm6 arpeggio
  8. Dm7 arpeggio / relative major 2 5 1
  9. G7 arpeggio
  10. Fmaj7 arpeggio
  11. Em7 arpeggio
  12. Dm/maj7 arpeggio
  13. Fmaj7#5 arpeggio

Do you know some alternative ways to play over m7b5 chords?

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March 14, 2007

Jazz Guitar Listening Tip: Chuck Stevens

Chuck Stevens was one of the ten semi-finalists in the 2005 Theloniious Monk Guitar Competition. Check his website out, he makes some really nice music:

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March 1, 2007

John McLaughlin and Shakti [Video]

Here's a video from a reunion concert of the band Shakti. John McLaughlink formed the original Shakti after the collapse of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1975. The band played a mixture of jazz and Indian music and featured John on guitar, Zakir Hussain on tabla, Lakshminarayana Shankar on violin and TH. Vinayakram and Ramnad V. Raghavan on mridangam. The band made 3 albums, but split up in 1977. In 1999 there was a reunion with Zakir and Vinayakram for a new album Remember Shakti.

John McLaughlin Guitar Licks

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February 27, 2007

8-String Guitar: Charlie Hunter [Video]

When you're new to Charlie Hunter and walk into a concert of his, you might be wondering where the bass and organ player are hiding. Charlie Hunter plays a custom-made Novax eight-string guitar through a Leslie-cabinet. He plays bass, organ and solo guitar at the same time. Charlie's main influences were Joe Pass and Tuck Andress, both masters of chord melody guitar.

Here's a short video of Charlie Hunter:

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February 19, 2007

Pick and FIngerstyle Technique

Here's an in depth article, written by Tuck Andress, about various pick and fingerstyle techniques used by jazz guitarists. He talks about Wes Montgomery, George Benson, circle picking, wrist motion, the best pick to use and so much more. Check it out, it's really interesting.

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February 16, 2007

Get Your Free Copy Of The Jazz Guitar Chords Book

I just revamped and updated my Jazz Guitar Chords eBook. Here's what's inside:

  • The guitar chord theory tutorial
  • How to make your own voicings
  • All the basic jazz guitar chords you need to know to get started
  • More advanced chords

You can get your free copy by subscribing to The Jazz Guitar Gazette (which is free as well):

Get Your Free Copy and Subscription by Clicking Here

Jazz Guitar Chords

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February 12, 2007

Female Guitarists: Emily Remler (& John Abercrombie) [Video]

The title of this post might imply that I'm having doubts about the masculinity of John Abercrombie, which is not. This video is an excerpt of a Berklee alumni performance of 1988. The band with Emily Remler and John Abercrombie on guitar plays Brigas Nunca Mais, a tune composed by Emily. The band is introduced by John Scofield. The video quality is awful, but the solos and the tune are great.

Emily Remler graduated at Berklee at the age of 18 and recorded her first album at the age of 24. Unfortunately she died at the age of 32 after a heart attack.

Emily Remler Guitar Licks

John Abercrombie Guitar Licks

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February 8, 2007

Female Jazz Guitarists: Mimi Fox [VIDEO]

There are not an awful lot of female jazz guitarists around. The ones I can think of right now are Emily Remler, Leni Stern, Mary Osborne and Mimi Fox. Here's a video of Mimi "Fast Fingers" Fox playing When The Saints Go Marching.

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February 1, 2007


For those who are interested in excellent fingerstyle jazz, check out Stephen D.Anderson’s fantastic album ‘Remembering The Rain’,an impressive solo guitar Bill Evans tribute, released on Art For Life Records (
Stephen als wrote a must have book on Lenny Breau’s style. ( Virtually every aspect of Breau's playing is analyzed and and well-presented in this book: two-note comping, harmonics, quartal harmony, three-against-two rhythms, and more.
Hereby follows an interview with Stephen on his influences, his different azppraoches,his techniques,….

When did you start playing the guitar? What got you interested? What was the first music you played?

My mother actually taught me the first thing I ever played on guitar. All of her family is musical and her father was a traveling fiddle player, among many other things. She knew about 3 chords and when I was around age 7 or 8 she showed me an old song called "Little Brown Jug". There was an old guitar around the house, much too big for my hands then but I got it and liked to play around and make up things. It was like torture on my hands and soon someone took away the guitar anyway. I would have to say that Elvis Presley was who I was into back then and I think just the fact that he played guitar attracted me to it. We lived in a very small southern town and there wasn't much modern music to hear. At that time I hadn't heard jazz or classical music really, but mostly music at church. And of course when Dylan, the Stones, Beatles, Kinks, etc, came out they made it even to my little town and I was totally into it. When we moved to Nashville I was around ten years old and my folks got me my first guitar: a cheap little acoustic, like a Stella or similar. That year I came down with an illness and was out of school for weeks. It was during this time that I truly got into the guitar and began teaching myself to play in earnest. I was totally committed and played constantly.

I recall something from that time that might be of interest. My older brother and was in the Navy, living in Spain. He sent the family a package that included a record by the great flamenco guitarist Sabicas. I was immediately intrigued with the sound and played it constantly, trying to figure out what he was doing, without much success. Another item I found in the package was a music box. I can’t remember exactly what song it played but it was a Spanish theme of some kind. Well, it really captured my attention and interest and I began trying to figure it out on guitar. After winding the box up it would play at a faster tempo at first and then gradually slow down. Well, of course I found that I could hear the distinct notes more easily while it ran slowly and I was able to work it out on guitar. If you think about how music boxes work you know that the music is arranged in a polyphonic manner. Rather than block chords with melody on top, it has single voices in a more linear fashion, in counterpoint, like most classical music. Although I’ve heard some music boxes with quite complex arrangements**, usually they are fairly basic, with the harmony clearly defined through the separate moving voices. Having had no classical (or any other) training, I had been accustomed to hearing/playing straight (block) chords for the harmony with melody (vocal or instrumental) on top, so this was something of a revelation for me at that time. Well, I found that I could control the tempo or turn the winding-key to play just a few notes at a time and stop at any point in order to work it out on guitar. I would follow the movement of a certain voice and figure it out and then do the same with another voice.

I did this with other boxes after that first one and as they all had quite basic arrangements there were usually only two or three voices (lines) to figure out. I know that I would often get the fingering and positions all wrong and would have to re-configure it all in order to come up with a way to play it on guitar but this was actually a good thing, as it made me explore the fingerboard and music in general. I go into this experience because as I think back on it now, I believe that it was more important to my playing than I may have previously realized. It revealed a great deal to me about the structure and movement of music, both harmonically and rhythmically and in a way that I could understand: not through explanation of theory (which came later) but just through listening and experimenting. Certainly this is an unusual thing but I feel it made a real impact on my playing, which evolved through the years.

**The most incredible collection of music boxes (indeed of all kinds of musical instruments) I’ve ever seen is at a museum of musical instruments in Bruxelles.

Did you take lessons?

As I said, I taught myself guitar from the beginning. Along the way I met many musicians and picked up a lot. Around age 16 I met a great blues player named Glen Schwartz who had just left a well-known band called 'Pacific Gas and Electric'. He showed me some real stuff on the blues and it meant a lot. I mostly learned from listening to records and just experimenting, playing with bands & alone. Shortly after I met Lenny Breau (which was my true education, so to speak) I did attend Blair school and studied classical guitar for a year and later attended University of Tennessee in Knoxville and studied with Jerry Coker. But I think for the most part I would consider myself self-taught (with very fortunate direct influences along the way).

What were your first experiences with music? When did you first get involved in jazz guitar? Who was influencing you?

I think I always had a natural feel for music and always improvised and played by ear. I took piano lessons around age 5 and learned the basics of notation but never liked reading and usually would only use written music to learn a piece then would play it either from memory or by ear... I still do this today. This kept me from developing an ability to sight-read but this is just how I do it. I do write a lot of music down just to capture it until I can work with it, mostly using my own kind of code/notation, along with standard.

I listened to so much music that I probably heard and dug many jazz guitarists without thinking of them as such. But I do recall being really moved by some of the stuff I would hear on occasional country songs that had that richer harmonic thing happening, like Billy Byrd, Hank Garland, Chet Atkins and some pedal-steel players, etc. And of course the term 'jazz' is so wide that it's difficult to pin it down. But I always loved anything that like goes somewhere unexpected and opens new sounds to me so of course the more I discovered jazz of all kinds the more I dug it. But when I first started playing seriously, around age 10 or so, I was more into playing and singing like popular and folk songs. I was into writing songs right away, lyrics and music. I was mostly into the idea of great songs, like Dylan, Lennon & McCartney, Brian Wilson, Bacharach, etc. and also instrumental music like Chet Atkins and some classical music. I did hear Wes back then but very little and hadn't heard bebop or any jazz much. I began performing solo and as a duo with another guy, sorta like an Every Brothers thing.

I think my first professional gig was a solo performance at a huge concert hall with many others on the bill. I did a Stones song called ‘As Tears Go By’, age 11 or so. This was 1965 and I quickly got into lots of the greater music that was happening then, great pop music, experimental stuff and of course Hendrix, Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett and so many others. I was too young to go but I somehow managed to go to some of the pop festivals. It was an incredible time. I was into Velvet Underground and such a wide variety of music. I really liked The Doors with Robby Krieger on guitar. I dug him I think because until then most of the rock stuff I heard was basically blues based, like Hendrix, Bloomfield, etc, but Robby went somewhere else. Also a couple years later (1972?) I heard David Bowie and loved it. Mick Ronson was a great player.

Around this time I was starting to get into jazz more too: Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bird, etc. Then, hearing John McLaughlin was a huge awakening: first with Miles and then explosively with his band (M. Orch.). But the impact it made on me was not so much about the guitar or jazz, but more about conceptual possibilities. I heard them at a tiny hall on Vanderbilt University campus (Nashville) before I knew much of him except for his playing with Miles. I think there were maybe 30 people there and it was one of their first shows, maybe 1972 or so, not sure. Well, it changed my life. This wasn't jazz or rock, and it wasn’t jazz-rock, as it was often erroneously termed. Really it was simply (or not so simply) McLaughlin's own vision fully realized and like most truly inspired art it defied category or description. The experience, at least that night, was like symphonic, electric, angelic/demonic, apocalyptic, visionary music... and this doesn't describe it either. It did a lot to me but one of the most important things was that it shattered the limitations and preconceptions of what music could be, and after this I began getting into whatever I was into on much deeper levels. More than influencing me stylistically or as a guitarist, it was a conceptual thing, in the same way discovering Coltrane was for me, and some others. Then and now, McLaughlin's approach to harmony is much more interesting to me than his technique as a guitarist, both of which are so different from my own.

Well, getting to jazz guitar specifically, I was digging a lot of great players: Django, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Tal, really anyone I could find, including people like Thumbs Carlyle, Les Paul... just so many. Well, I thought I had heard almost everyone around when one day Danny Davis, a producer at RCA, gave me 2 records he had co-produced. Totally obscure to me, the guitarist's name was Lenny Breau and it was another life-changing experience. As I said, I thought I had heard at least the major innovations on guitar but hearing Lenny was like discovering an entirely new world, and the most intriguing guitar sounds I had ever heard. Something very special happened as soon as I heard him play.

Well, I've digressed somewhat from your original questions but this may give some ideas of my involvement and influences. Of course, as with most artists, my influences are too diverse to name but to focus on jazz guitar specifically I would say that, while I listened to everyone I could find: Hank Garland, Kessel, Bickert, Van Eps, Johnny Smith, Wes, Tal, Burrell, etc, I was probably influenced most by Jim Hall and, of course, Lenny. After hearing Lenny everything changed, initially because the possibilities of what could be done on guitar hit me and then, after Lenny and I became close, things much more profound opened up and influenced my own musical vision. So without a doubt I would say that, on guitar, Lenny was my biggest influence, for some reasons that are obvious but for many others that are perhaps less so, but even more important.

Have you been influenced by classical guitar. In what way?

Certainly I've been very influenced by classical guitar. This may be the only example where an influence is of a more technical nature. I feel that the ways in which music and all art has influenced my own work is of a more general and conceptual nature rather than specific. Certainly there are exceptions, especially early on, but this is true overall. My music (and other creative work) comes from a very intuitive place, at least my more inspired work. It's a difficult thing to talk about but I'm sure many artists understand my meaning. So often I simply need to stay out of my own way as well as keep too many preconceptions and stylistic/technical concerns from holding sway. Of course there are certain parameters so to speak when working in an established form (such as jazz, however one chooses to approach it). But even within a framework it's most desirable to remain open and let things flow as much as possible. I want to go into this more later, but for now my point is that, in general, my influences have not been so much of a technical or stylistic nature. However, I suppose what I have gained most from my experience with classical guitar is indeed technique, specifically right-hand. Of course this is oversimplifying it and the classical tradition is too important to limit it to one area but I think this is where it's been most important for me as a guitarist. I basically use classical technique, with some modifications (some of which would no doubt appall a purist). Most drastically, I use a thumbpick and keep my nails longer than usual, more like a flamenco player.
I do use many of the devices, etc, of the classical approach: rest-stroke, free-stroke, tremolo, etc. I could go on but will cover more about my approach later on. My point here is that classical guitar has certainly had an impact on my playing.

Did you always play fingerstyle?

Yes, I have played fingerstyle from the beginning although I didn’t begin using a thumbpick until I met Lenny, after which I also kept my nails much longer. Now I play and make contact with the strings almost entirely with my nails (and the thumbpick). But I also play with a flatpick for certain things. Through the years I have developed my own way of playing with a flatpick and written music that requires this. There are patterns and sounds I work with that I can only do with a flatpick and I dig doing it, although it’s a far more limited area for me. As you know, I write and perform a good deal of original music, vocal as well as instrumental, that is very different from jazz or other of my work and for some of this I use the flatpick.

How did you acquire your vast jazz knowledge?

I don't know if I would consider it vast, especially compared to some of the artists around who are into jazz exclusively (as you know I'm involved in many other kinds of music). But I do love jazz and I think when one is passionate about something then it becomes part of life and one’s experience, and thus knowledge, grows. This is the case with me. I listened a great deal and the more I discovered the more I wanted to discover and experience. I think there are a few ways to learn about jazz and all of them begin with and require a passion for it. I feel the most desirable is to be, right from the beginning, performing the music with more experienced musicians, learning on the bandstand so to speak. I believe this is not as possible as it was in past years, like the 1940s-1960s, but certainly can be done. Another way, probably more prevalent today especially among younger musicians, is studying formally at university, workshops, etc. And still another way is basically as I have done: through listening to great performances & recordings, self-study, analyzing the music and experimenting and performing as much as possible. There weren’t so many opportunities for me to play with other jazz musicians, good rhythm sections, etc, and I got into solo playing mostly. Solo performance, along with some duo with bass, remains what I’m most involved in.

No matter what approach one takes to learning jazz I feel that one of the great advantages can be having personal contact with an experienced artist, a mentor so to speak. I think this is more true with jazz than with any other form, as so much that is vital is not documented or available as any kind of 'system'. Although the language is constantly changing there are traditions and acknowledged vocabularies, so to speak. These are not an end in themselves but rather points of departure, mutually agreed-upon and at the discretion of the artist. The elusive nature of all this can make having a mentor-relationship a wonderful thing. I consider myself very fortunate in this regard. To have had the experiences I had with Lenny was a great gift and our years together were precious to me in every way.

Your most recent release is a solo guitar CD titled, “Remembering the Rain: the Music of Bill Evans” (Art of Life Records, AL 1022-2). What attracts you to the music of Bill Evans?

I first remember hearing Bill Evans on Miles’, “Kind of Blue” LP. The pianists I was into at the time were Monk, McCoy Tyner and especially Art Tatum so hearing Evans was quite a new experience. I was also very into some classical music, especially the music of Eric Satie, who remains a real influence on my music. There are many qualities and aspects of Evans’ music that attract me but in the beginning it was something that I think is beyond definition. I just connected and it was almost like discovering something vital that was missing before. It was like a great deal fell into place, harmonically and otherwise. Certainly at that time I understood little of what he was doing but I felt it and it just seemed totally right somehow. I often experience this when first discovering music/art that later becomes important to me; certainly this was the case with Satie as well. I actually went for years just listening and getting into Evans’ music before I ever dug deeper into it in a technical way, before analyzing it or working on any of his music as a performer. So this kind of intuitive connection is certainly what attracted me to Evans’ music. There are many specific aspects as well but I won’t go into all the obvious ones here. One that I can focus on however is his harmonic sense, particularly his approach to voicings, which has greatly influenced my own and which I find surprisingly natural on guitar. I’m very involved & interested in playing from inside (for lack of a better way to define it), moving voices, connecting and playing through the harmonic structure (changes) employing several voices/tones, exploring relationships and discovering/creating the most interesting possibilities: voice leading certainly but more than that. This, as opposed to simply playing chord changes and soloing over them (single-notes) in a linear fashion, is one important way that Evans’ music has influenced me. Certainly no approach is absolute and many players employ variations with many of these characteristics. But for me, especially with solo guitar, Evans has been a great influence in this regard, as well as in many others.

On what grounds did you choose the Bill Evan's tunes for the CD?

Mainly I chose those compositions of his that have special meaning for me. I also included one song not written by Evans (‘Haunted Heart’) that I have always connected with him, since his recording of it made a strong impression on me early on. And I obviously considered the nature of my instrument and how compatible with solo guitar a piece might be. Certainly the project presented a great challenge for me but also a wonderful opportunity to explore this music that I love. There is one song that I was especially moved to include. “My selection of ‘Peace Piece’ was… influenced by current events and the conflict that we, in our folly, seem determined to unleash upon a world ever at odds with the concept of peace”. It is my understanding that Evans wrote this song during the crisis in Viet Nam and given the current situation (Iraq, etc.) I felt the song to be particularly relevant.

Tell me about the techniques, approaches you used for arranging the Bill Evans compositions.

Although I was familiar with most of the songs I selected, I wanted to commit my utmost energy and focus to the work. I wanted to not only explore Bill’s own performances but also to bring something unique to it, to find my own voice and, most importantly, to experience and convey the spirit of the music. So to prepare, I took each song individually and lived with it, listening to as many of Evans’ performances/recordings of the piece as possible, just listening and digging it without trying to analyze, which came next. Then I secured the structure, changes, etc, getting inside the music. I then moved ahead and found my way and began playing, putting together my arrangements. Although I followed my own path and direction I wanted to pay homage to the composer and his legacy, so I made an effort to explore some history of each piece. So I often referenced recordings and interpretations from different periods, mostly in spirit but sometimes with direct quotes as well. This is something I would not usually do but given the nature of this project I felt it appropriate, if not vital.

I didn’t follow any exact form or approach for all the arrangements but generally I opened each piece with a feel from Evans’ own interpretation, and on a few songs with direct quotes: phrases, voicings, etc. Then for the main body of the piece I would go into my own thing, sometimes returning to a more direct connection to Evans’ approach as the song concluded. I wrote about this process in depth, covering details of each piece in artist’s notes published by the label (Art of Life Records), included with the CD on request.

I didn’t use written music: transcriptions, etc, except in two instances. I made an interesting discovery: I found an original piano score of ‘Time Remembered’ that Evans wrote quite early on I think. It was a real challenge to play this on solo guitar but I managed it without sacrificing any vital material. This was very interesting and rewarding for me. I opened the piece by playing once through his score and then into my own thing, repeating the score to close. ‘Time Remembered’ is perhaps one of Evans’ most harmonically unique compositions. It doesn’t follow any standard song form (AABA, etc) and doesn’t seem to lend itself easily to the kind of treatments familiar in jazz (improv, etc). It contains neither dominant 7th chords nor function, nor the kind of progressions found in most songs, particularly those that lend themselves to jazz improvisation. But it’s a beautiful piece and it made me extend myself and move beyond familiar territory.

The only other written music I used was a partial transcription I found by chance. It is from a live recording, released on “Bill Evans at Town Hall”. It’s a very early version of ‘Turn Out the Stars’ and on that record it is actually played as part of a three-part piece for solo piano titled, ‘In Memory of His Father’ (Evans’ father had just died). I based my opening on this, working it out myself and using the transcription as well. Again I open with it and then go into my own thing.

All the pieces are played on solo guitar except for ‘Turn Out the Stars’ and ‘Peace Piece’. Most of ‘Turn Out the Stars’ is played solo but in a few sections I wanted to add more voices so I overdubbed another guitar part. The technique of multi-tracking is not often applied to music of this nature (that is, jazz and other improvisational music) but I felt it was appropriate and the only way to achieve the sound I was hearing for these two pieces. My decision to do overdubs was also supported and encouraged by Evans’ own use of the technique on at least two LPs that I’m aware of: ‘Conversations With Myself’ and ‘New Conversations’.

One thing I did with overdubs is something I’ve explored a great deal in my own compositions for two or more guitars. For the first part/track I play harmonic arpeggios, either stating a theme or, as is the case with Turn Out the Stars, playing through the changes. Then on part/track two I again play harmonic arpeggios (the same patterns) but harmonized in 4ths. Sometimes a 4th interval may not be desired for a specific note, so you must use your ears. This technique can be done using other intervals as well, like harmonizing in 3rds or 6ths, but I dig the sound of 4ths the most and the chord forms for harmonic arpeggios naturally yield 4ths for the most part. The key is to play both parts with precision, striking the notes at exactly the same time and matching the type of strokes; that is, play the straight, plucked notes in part one with the straight notes in part two and the same with the harmonics. This is obviously not something that can be done on solo guitar and I haven’t employed it much for this kind of music (jazz, standards, etc.) but for this piece I heard it (in my head) right away as I approached that section of the song and since I was doing overdubs already elsewhere in the piece it was a nice possibility. Also, this is a technique that is interesting to do with another guitarist, if you can find one that can play the harmonic arpeggios.

The other piece with overdubs is ‘Peace Piece’. Unlike ‘Turn Out the Stars’, which had only some brief overdubs, this one is done with two guitar parts throughout, and occasionally with a third. To open and close the piece I followed some of Evans' melodic motifs using natural, open string harmonics: both octave and those produced at 7th, 5th, 4th & 9th frets.

Obviously the harmonic content here is less complex than most of Evans’ other compositions. It’s beauty lies not in it’s structure but rather in the overall feeling it evokes: the sense of perfect balance and motion achieved and sustained through repetition and the precise placement of notes, like weights and counterweights.

What techniques did you use that are related to Lenny's style?

It would be impossible to measure the overall influence of Lenny’s playing on my own. When I first discovered his music I was fairly young and it made such an overwhelming impact on me that I’m sure I wanted to emulate him in almost every sense. After we met I think this was still the case, especially early in our relationship. But he was adamant about making me realize that I needed to find my own voice and follow my own path and this was perhaps one of the most important things I learned. But certainly I have incorporated specific techniques that come straight from him. For our purposes here I’ll try to focus on some that appear on this CD.

I suppose the most obvious technique associated with Lenny is the harmonics: that is, harmonic arpeggios, or any other term one might use to describe them. I do use this a good bit on these recordings and have already described one instance: the two-part harmonics in 4ths. I suppose I use harmonics more substantially than most players, that is, more than simply in an ornamental fashion. I think I got most involved with it on the song ‘Only Child’. This was not initially part of my arrangement but came about through improvisation. For ‘Peace Piece’ I used an entirely different type of harmonic technique, natural harmonics on open strings, but as this is not really something related to Lenny (and I did cover it previously, in the commentary on overdubs) I’ll not go into it further here.

A perhaps less obvious (yet more prevalent) influence Lenny had on my playing involves several elements, and is present throughout these recordings, as it is in most of my music. Overall it has to do with feel and those qualities that are actually beyond description, but I’ll try to focus on specifics. One aspect involves playing simultaneous chord/melody, where rhythmically independent chords support the melodic line, approaching the guitar more like a piano. This is one of Lenny’s greatest contributions and a very different approach for the guitar. Fingerstyle is essential for this and, for me, this approach is the only way Evans’ music can really be fully realized on solo guitar. As far as mechanics, a few things are required to best facilitate this:

One technique is to create chord voicings that can be placed on the lower strings: the 6th, 5th, 4th and sometimes 3rd, strings, leaving the remaining, higher strings for playing melody, improv, etc. This includes another of Lenny’s innovations: what he sometimes called ‘comping chords’. These are partial chord tones that suggest a chord, implying the harmony rather than stating it in full, usually 2-note or 3-note voicings. These contain the 3rd and 7th: a tritone for dominant 7th chords and a 4th interval for major or minor. For 3-note chords, 4th voicings are most effective. Indeed, 4th voicings are another important aspect of Lenny’s approach, and of my own. Voicing in 4ths is not only a good sound but it also makes playing the chord extremely accessible on guitar and can be played using only one or two fingers, leaving the others free for melody, improv, etc.

Using the techniques described above one can explore some interesting possibilities and create sounds that would be impossible without their use. The many rhythmic variations that can be played on solo guitar using these techniques are among of the things that make them exciting. All kinds of syncopation are possible when you develop the ability to sustain rhythmic independence. One that I like is playing quarter-note triplets against straight quarter-notes. You can play the triplets on top for melody/improv while comping with straight quarter-notes, or invert it (triplets for the comp). Sometimes called ‘3 against 2’, this is just one of many possibilities.

Obviously I could go on but it’s clear how important Lenny’s music is to my own. No matter how independent and original my music and vision may be, I can never underestimate the importance of Lenny’s music. Indeed his influence was/is about much more than technique, or music in general, and he remains with me both musically and spiritually.

How much improvising is involved in this project? Do there exist transcriptions of your compositions and arrangements and are there any plans to publish them? What are your future plans?

I’m sure it’s clear from what I’ve said so far that this project is quite unique and has required expanding my approach a great deal. This is true concerning improvisation as well. Actually the usual approach that I often hear in jazz, and particularly jazz guitar music, has become uninteresting for me, with exceptions certainly. Even so, on another project I may have followed a more standard approach but my decision to undertake this project was not something I took lightly. My respect for Bill Evans is such that I would not presume to interpret his music unless I could bring something unique to it, something of myself as well as paying tribute to Evans. I didn’t want to treat his compositions simply as vehicles for improvisation. But improvisation is vital in exploring Evans’ music and for an inspired effort. So, as I worked, a kind of process and direction unfolded which I followed through the course of the project. Without going into too much detail (obviously not an easy task for me) the basics are as follows:

After learning the changes and working out a basic chord/melody arrangement, I reviewed the parts from Evans’ recordings that I wanted to reference and play in tribute, so to speak. Then to prepare for improvising I did the usual things, for me at least. I worked out substitutions, 2 or 3 alternate harmonic choices at most important points, and then I would try improvising on the changes. But rather than going right from there to recording a final version, I recorded multiple rough versions. I did this because I had the luxury of recording at many different times and basically whenever I felt inspired. When recording the many versions I was able to relax and free my mind and open myself to the moment, since I knew I wasn’t going for a final take to be released. In this way I feel I was able to do things that may not have happened otherwise. I then listened to each take and found ideas and motifs that I felt were most inspired. When I was finally ready to record I had a definite picture of where I wanted to go during the improvisational sections, but I left it open until the moment came. In each song there are purely improvised sections where I didn’t reference any prepared material, and there are points where I introduced material from previous improvisations. So like most artists I played both prepared and improvised material but I also did something a bit different, although I imagine others have followed a similar process. This might be referred to as a kind of hybrid of composition and improvisation; that is, composition derived from improvisation. So within the arrangement of each song I employed both purely improvised music as well as this hybrid, if you will.

I do plan to transcribe some pieces from this project as well as more of my own music but I don’t know when it will happen. It’s a very slow process for me; especially given it’s rhythmic complexity. But I get many requests for this and certainly plan to make it available at some point. I’m currently involved in some original compositions and also working on another project for Art of Life records. I’ve been very pleased with the response to ‘Remembering the Rain…’ and truly want to thank everyone for their interest and support. Also, many thanks to you Gilbert: our mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s music has been a very positive thing for me and I look forward to our future correspondence and interaction. En toute amitie´. Stephen

January 29, 2007

January 13, 2007 - Our World Looses a Great Saxophone Player

After a two and a half year battle with MDS and leukemenia, Michael Brecker, aged 57, passed away on January 13, 2007 in a New York hospital. Michael Brecker was the most influential tenor sax player of the last 25 years. Brecker recorded a final album while being very sick, he managed to finish it the beginning of January.

He will be greatly missed.

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January 8, 2007

Gilbert Isbin : Introduction

Hi, I am Gilbert Isbin, Belgian acoustic fingerstyle jazz guitarist.

I released thus far 16 albums as a solo artist or in collaboration with a.o. Joe Fonda, Cameron Brown, Jeff Gauthier, Scott Walton, Ernst Reijseger, Hugh Hopper, Jatinder Thakur, ...

My initial inspirations were Joe Pass, Ralph Towner, Bill Connors (in his ECM period), John McLaughlin, Lenny Breau, Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Egberto Gismonti but also classical composers like Leo Brouwer, Charles Ives, or folkartists like Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, etc. to name a few.

For more on my musical activites please visit,

Some of my compositions have been published by Berben Ediziones Musicales (Italy) and Copa (Belgium) others, a 50 thus far, can be found on

Into the future I want introduce you to the different aspects of fingerstyle jazz playing, fingerstyle improvising tools, hot fingerstyle licks, interesting chords, doing some interviews, reviewing CDs, ... If you are a fingerstyle jazzplayer and want to be reviewed, contact me.

Look out for a forthcoming interview of mine with S.D. Anderson, a close friend of Lenny Breau and amazing fingerstyle jazz guitarplayer who released the CD 'Remembering the Rain', a solo guitar tribute to Bill Evans. Stephen also wrote 'Visions', a book on Lenny Breau's style. More later.


January 4, 2007

The Jazz Guitar Gazette

I recently started a new jazz guitar newsletter, called The Jazz Guitar Gazette.  It is packed with guitar lessons, jazz licks, chords, cool offers, contests, site updates and answers to all of your questions.  Best of all, it is completely free to join!

Subscribe here: The Jazz Guitar Gazette

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