“The View From Here” . . . : My First Soundtrack

It all started a little more than a week ago when my old friend Dennis emailed me ith an interesting proposition. His latest obsession has been flying drones and making videos of his aerial adventures. His latest video had a soundtrack that wasn’t working for him and he asked if I could come up with something. I had never done anything like that before but I was immediately interested. Dennis gave me a wide latitude to come up with something since the video was still just a rough cut. The only instruction was to have it between 2:15 and 2:45 minutes long.

I watched the video repeatedly with the sound off while I would play musical ideas on the guitar. My initial attempts were basically pathetic imitations of the Pat Metheny tune “New Chautauqua”. After a while, I simplified what was a overly busy acoustic guitar rhythm part to just outlining the basic chord progression and a simple drum track from my library of drum loops. After that things came together pretty quickly. The opening melody is played on a six string bass, followed by sections where I use some of my favorite tricks: open string chords up the neck (which produce a slightly off “jangle”), slide guitar and guitar harmony lines a la Allman Brothers. I sent off the results off to Dennis who, after re-editing, produced with the video below.

Lake Lanier 2 –

I must say that I’m pleased with the result and I am definitely looking forward to doing something like this again.

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“All The Blues You Can Use” . . : The12 Essential Blues Chord Progressions Jazz Players Need to Know

I just came across this item from the You Tube channel Jazz Duets (https://www.jazzduets.com/). In the video below, you are given a short but concise rundown of twelve different blues progressions that are used in jazz. Starting with a straight 1-4-5 twelve bar progression, the video walks you through increasing more complex variations. Each example is illustrated with a jazz tune that is based on that chord sequence. Going through the variations, you are also getting a cool little lesson in chord substitution. If you are just coming to jazz from a rock or straight blues background then this is a great introduction to the chord progressions you’ll encounter in a jazz tune. Historically, the jazz repertoire came from two main sources, the blues and popular songs of the day or what we now refer to as standards. We’re talking about George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and others  The chord progressions you would find in jazz blues songs would incorporate elements of functional harmony (ii-V-I cadences, cycle of fifths harmonic movement) that musicians would encounter in the show tunes they would jam on. And interestingly enough, composers like Gershwin and Porter would be influenced melodically by the blues.

As I said earlier, one of the things I like about this video is that examples are provided of each progression with a brief except of a classic jazz tune. This means that you can search out said performance and with repeated listenings, train your ear to hear these different variations. Trust me, this is an invaluable skill to have at any jazz jam session.

The12 Essential Blues Chord Progressions Jazz players need to Know Tutorial –

Also note that the video acknowledges that it is not a complete list (as if such a thing was possible) and doesn’t even touch on the minor blues and it’s variations. So don’t bitch about what it doesn’t cover and appreciate that it covers a complex subject in a clear concise manner and the knowledge it offers.

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Posted in Blues, Improvisation, Jazz, Music Theory

“Might Be Your Man” . . . : “One Way Out” – A Comparative Study In Blues

My cable provider has a section of channels called Music Choice which are basically a bunch of audio music channels with each channel dedicated to a specific music genre/style. I sometimes put it on as background while I am working. The other day I had my t.v. on to their blues channel when I heard a version of the song “One Way Out” that I wasn’t familiar with. I couldn’t get to the t.v. in time to see who was doing it so I began a little online research. The version that I (and most other people) know was performed by The Allman Brothers Band. That version was performed at the Fillmore East’s final show on June 27, 1971 and released on 1972’s “Eat A Peach”. That record credited the song to bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II but there are multiple versions of the song. Comparing the different versions offers a interesting view into the malleability of blues songs.

The first version appears to have been recorded by Elmore James sometime late 1960 of early 1961 but wasn’t released until 1965 in a full band arrangement with horn section. In the interim, Sonny Boy Williamson II recorded and released a version of the song in September 1961 and subsequently re-recorded a different arrangement of One Way Out in September 1964, this time with Buddy Guy on guitar. The second version is faster and features a more prominent guitar riff as well as the having the band drop out when Sonny Boy sings “Might be your man . . I don’t know”. These elements will show up in the Allman Brothers version. Side note: I now know where John Mayall’s “Room To Move” got it’s groove from.

Elmore James – One Way Out

 

Sonny Boy Williamson II – One Way Out

 

Sonny Boy Williamson II – One Way Out (Version Two)

 

Here’s a interesting little digression: One Way Out played by blues guitar great Mike Bloomfield, along with with Al Kooper, at the Fillmore East sometime in 1968. This version sounds like a thrown together jam arrangement with it’s straight eighth note rock bass line defining the groove. What makes it killer is Bloomfield’s spectacular guitar playing.

MIKE BLOOMFIELD – One Way Out (live at the Fillmore East 1968)

 

I have written previously of the Allman Brothers attention to song arrangement being one the things that made them the best blues band ever (IMHO) (see https://roymusicusa.com/2014/06/24/okay-the-allman-brothers-band/) and their version of One Way Out is a great example. Guitarist Dickey Betts starts with a variation of the Sonny Boy Williamson riff (second version). He is then joined by the rest of the band with Duane Allman’s slide guitar riff on top of Dickey’s part. It’s interesting to note while Dickey’s guitar riff changes with the tune’s chord progression, Duane’s part does not, providing shifting harmony to the main riff as the tune progresses.  Also note the change in the rhythm section from the tight riff under the vocal verses to the more open ended feel during the guitar solos. After Betts’ guitar solo, Duane Allman and Betts trade guitar licks over just the drums before the full band re-enters going into Duane Allman’s slide solo. The “Eat A Peach version of One Way Out is infamous for having a flub where bassist Berry Oakley comes in a beat early after the guitar trade, but the band quickly recovers. Greg Allman comes back with the last vocal verse (with the band returning to the backing riff) before the band drops out for Gregg’s acappella vocal tag and the band’s big ending on a traditional blues turnaround. The audio version in the video below is not the one featured on “Eat A Peach”. Rather, it’s one of Duane Allman’s last performances, from State University of New York at Stony Brook, September 19, 1971. I wanted to highlight this version for two reasons: 1 –  Berry Oakley does not fuck up and come in a beat early and 2 – Dickey Betts is just killing it here.  From his playing the opening riff to his solo to his trading riffs with Duane in the transition, he is playing like a man possessed.

The Allman Brothers Band  – One Way Out – SUNY-Stonybrook, 1971-09-19

 

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“So you want to be a rock and roll star?” . . . : Steve Van Zandt on the ‘Five Crafts’ of Rock and Roll

I was reading a recent interview in Guitar Player magazine with guitarist Steve Van Zandt, long time member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, co-leader of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and of course, consigliere to Tony Soprano, Silvio Dante (if you don’t know what that means, go here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Dante). He was promoting his latest solo record, Soulfire [Wicked Cool/Big Machine/Ume] when he was asked about the impact of music technology on the creative process and if the relative ease in which one can make a recording on their computer is detrimental. Van Zandt definitely thought it did (not surprisingly given his pedigree in music that was born in a pre-digital world). He then went on to list what he considers the five crafts of rock and roll. I felt that it was a pretty good road map to achieve mastery at being a musician. I think this advise is timeless. So here are Steve Van Zandt’s five crafts of rock and roll:

1) “Everybody has to learn their instrument—or their voice if they’re a singer”.

2) “You need to start analyzing your favorite songs. This is part of the arrangement process, but it starts off as an analysis. What are the instruments doing? What are the chord changes? What’s the melody against those chord changes? What is the bass doing? Why is the drum fill there?”.

3) “Performing live. You learn to interact with an audience, and with your band members, and you need to learn what effect the music has on the audience”.

4) “Writing. Because you have analyzed and arranged those songs, you’re now able to have higher standards. So you’re going to write your songs at a higher standard than you would if you had skipped that phase. If you’re not analyzing your favorite songs and figuring out what goes into them, then you’re not going to be able to evaluate your own writing”.

5) “Recording. That is a whole other craft to learn. Yeah, you can learn some of that at home, and it probably would be helpful to do that. But it’s different in a studio situation with a real engineer and a real producer, and, you know, a band. Again, you get that input from other people, and that usually makes the tracks better”.

To read the full article go the the link below:

http://www.guitarplayer.com/artists/1013/steven-van-zandt-on-the-five-crafts-of-rock-and-roll/63691

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Hey Ho Let’s Go . . . . :The Ramones Meet The Adams Family

Sometimes you just need to see something so dumb that it makes you smile.

You’re welcome.

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“We Got The Beat . . . : Perfecting Rhythm

With the vast majority of guitar instructional material you see on the the internet (and in pre You Tube material as well) the emphasis has been on two of the three elements of music, melody and harmony. The third element, rhythm, usally is given the short shift of attention. Even when the the subject is rhythm guitar, I more often see things chord voicings covered than the actual rhythmic concepts. Maybe it’s easier to just say “if this chord then play that scale” or to show ten ways to play a E minor chord than it is to discuss more abstract concepts of rhythm and groove. While I have noticed in more recent instructional material giving more space to improving one’s rhythm chops, I find it often pays to look beyond guitar-centric material to really zero in on the subject.

Below are a series of videos from a playlist called Perfecting Rhythm, put together by Saher Galt. The video series starts with teaching you to internalize small common rhythmic figues and moves on to topics like syncopation, polyrhythms and building complex rhythms from simpler ones. A subject as vast and complex as rhythm is not going to mastered by the act of simply watching a bunch of you tube videos. Like any real skill, it requires practice and I think that watching and working with these videos would be a big help to anyone who wants to improve that area of their playing.

Play any RHYTHM easily – perfect your timing and sight reading!

 

Syncopation made easy! Interactive RHYTHM training.

 

Play any POLYRHYTHM easily with this trick! (Interactive rhythm video)

 

Four against three (4:3) POLYRHYTHM practice!

 

Decoding Rhythm: how to play rhythms that seem hard (but really aren’t)

 

Saher Galt also has a number of You Tube tutorial video series, covering things like singing tips, how to make music (including building a studio, recording, mixing and mastering) and perhaps most importantly, cat videos. Please check them out.

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Tequilla . . . : The Champs, Wes Mongomery and My Aching Head

This past weekend I met up with some old friends who I have known since college. This inevitably led to the consumption of alcohol.  I probably drank more alcohol this past weekend than I have for the past several year combined. I cannot claim innocence in this. Doing shots of tequila was a big ritual for us back in the day and for reasons that escape me now, I felt it was necessary to relive that ritual once again. At this point I am reminded of the adage about those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it but I was well aware of the history and I knew that doing tequila shot(s) would result in me feeling like five pound of crap in a three pound bag for the next several days. Did it stop me? Of course not. Tequila: helping you make bad decisions since 1666.

This somehow leads me to the song Tequila (I suspect that the logic that lead me to this point has been in some way influenced by my post hangover malaise). The song’s genesis occurred at a recording session by Dave Burgess and the Daniel Flores Trio on December 23, 1957 in Hollywood for Challenge Records. The song, essentially a jam based on a Cuban mambo beat, was written by Flores (who played the trademark “dirty sax” solo as well as being the voice that booms “Tequila”) when they needed something for the B side of the single they were working on. “Tequila” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Chart in March of 1958, just over two months after it was recorded, and won a Grammy Award in 1959 (the first Grammy for a rock ‘n roll song, ever) with the Flores Trio becoming  “The Champs” after the song was released.

The Champs “Tequila”

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Wes Mongomery is acknowledge to be one of the most important and influential guitarists ever. While noted for his unique playing technique of using his thumb instead of a guitar pick (which produced a warm, round sound that was instantly recognizable) and his innovative use of playing octaves and chord melodies on the guitar, it was the amazing fluidity of his ideas coupled with the deep soulfulness of his playing that makes his music so memorable. Musicians who have claimed Wes as a musical influence include George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Howe, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny and countless others.

Wes Montgomery came onto the scene in the late 1950s as a highly regarded exponent of hard bop with small group, straight ahead sessions for the Riverside label through 1963 (check out 1960’s The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery or 1962’s Full House). In 1964 Montgomery moved to Verve Records for two years. At Verve, Wes recorded straight jazz records like 1965’s Smokin’ at the Half Note and a pair of albums that he made with jazz organist Jimmy Smith, Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo and Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (both in 1966). But it was while he was at Verve that Wes began making records that where he was featured with an orchestra. The trend to over produced, pop oriented material continued when he moved to A&M records in 1967. There, under the direction of producer Creed Taylor, he made records that were commercially successful but dismissed by jazz purists.

This brings us to the clip below. It’s an audio only (sorry!) of Wes’s appearance at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival where he was joined by his brothers Monk on bass and Buddy on piano with Grady Tate on drums. Here, they are closing out their set with a rendition of “Tequila,” the Champs tune which Wes did as the title track for Montgomery’s 1966 Verve album. I cannot find the article but I recall reading one by a well regarded jazz critic who, writing about the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival, recalled how he had low expectations for Wes Montgomery’s performance given the records he was making at the time. He then went on to say how he was totally blown away by the set. Based on the audio evidence below, being blown away was a perfectly reasonable response. Great latin jazz groove with Wes’ unparalleled octaves work on full display. Brilliant stuff.

Wes Montgomery – Tequila (Newport Jazz Festival – 1967)

Tequila – dig the song, beware the drink.

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