Lately, I have been concentrating on learning to play the Chapman Stick Guitar (see the Chapman Stick Guitar tab for more info). While it is in many ways different from your standard guitar, it also shares many traits. Because I am using a Dual Guitar tuning on the Stick, I find that I am able to apply a lot of my guitar vocabulary to the Stick Guitar. This, in turn, has led me to re-examine my approach to playing the blues. I will discuss that in a future post but for now I would like to talk about some lesser known blues solos that I think are worth checking out. Some I have been listening to for years while others I only recently been made aware of (thank you Internet). I hope you’ll dig them.
Peter Green w/ John Mayall – “Stormy Monday”, live at the Manor House, London, May 5, 1967
Peter Green is not as well known in the United States as he is in England which is a shame because, as this clip demonstrates, he is totally awesome! This was the guy who replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s band and who in turn, was replaced with Mick Taylor – not too shabby. He also wrote “Black Magic Woman” which most people think of as a Santana tune. I can definitely hear some Peter Green influence in Carlos Santana’s playing, particularly early Santana recordings. So many things to like about this solo: the tone, the phrasing, the way it builds over successive choruses. More guitarists (hell, more people) should know about him. Oh yeah, he went on to form Fleetwood Mac.
Michael Bloomfield & Barry Goldberg – “Blues For Barry and Michael” from the album “Two Jews Blues”
Bloomfield’s lines are full of nuances that reward repeated listening, from the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) bends to the way they lines seem to curlicues around a given note. Ten minutes of slow blues heaven. Also, gotta love the album title (at least I do).
Boz Scaggs & Duane Allman – “Loan Me A Dime” from the album “Boz Scaggs”
While not as obscure as the previous two clips, Duane Allman’s fantastic playing on this song is nowhere near as well known as his playing with ABB or Derek & The Dominoes but it should be. The intro solo is played at a whisper, setting the mood for Boz’s vocal entrance. You can really hear Duane’s B.B. King influence here. The midpoint solo enters dramatically with Duane playing tersely against a background of a lone steady bass and band hits for the first half of the chorus. The full band enters for the second half with Duane sounding like a someone pleading for some sort of redemption. The man is testifying. The outro solo is another revelation, with the band groove kicking into a successively higher gears and Duane playing with and against the horns. Duane’s solo on Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude” got more attention but I consider this to be the highpoint of his studio work at Muscle Shoals.
Larry Coryell – “Treats Style” from the album “Lady Coryell”
We’re looking at a more jazzy take on the blues now. Larry Coryell was one of the first guitarists to really combine a jazz guitar vocabulary with rock guitar. This is from his first solo record, recorded in 1969, when the very concept of Jazz-Rock was a novelty and well before the nascent genre became codified into Fusion. This is a trio with Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on acoustic bass (the tune itself is by Jimmy Garrison). This is the legendary rhythm section from the John Coltrane Quartet. I could just imagine a 25 year old Larry Coryell being in the studio with these guys and thinking “I AM NOT WORTHY!!”.
Coryell’s solo starts with Kenny Burrell like jazz-blues lines but played with more bite and more overdrive than Burrell would ever be caught playing. Coryell was playing one of those big box Gibson jazz guitars but he was pushing the amps to their limit, resulting in a cool overdrive guitar tone. After several choruses, he’s throwing in bends and other guitar mannerisms more reminiscent of Chicago Blues. By the end of the solo, Coryell is sounding like a cross between Kenny Burrell and Hubert Sumlin. Because of the relaxed tempo and uncluttered lines, this solo is a great source of ideas. Whip some of these lines out at your next Blues jam and you’ll be guaranteed to amaze your friends and bewilder your enemies.
Billie Holiday and Lester Young – “Fine and Mellow”
This clip is from a 1957 TV broadcast called “The Sound Of Jazz”. If nothing else, You Tube justifies it’s existence by making this clip available for people to check out. Billie Holiday’s singing is exquisite. After her initial vocals, Ben Webster plays the first tenor sax solo, followed by Lester Young’s. There are other solos from a legendary who’s who of jazz figures (I particularly like Vic Dickenson’s solo on trombone) but it’s Lester Young’s single chorus (starting at the 2:00 mark of the clip) that just kills you. It’s so simple, so melodic and so incredibly full of feeling. I swear you can hear a lifetime of regrets in those 12 bars. This is a solo that, while not sounding especially “bluesy”, encapsulates what it’s like to feel “blue”.
Let me know if there are any lesser known blues solos out there that we should check out.