Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Rise of the Guitar in Jazz from Swing to the 1960s

The First Generation of Jazz Guitarists: Charlie Christian, the First Electric Guitar Jazz Soloist

Charlie Christian was born in 1916 in Bonham, Texas, but he grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Both his parents were musicians. After his father lost his vision to disease, Christian and his brothers performed as a buskers to support his family. At first Charlie entertained by dancing; later he learned to play the guitar. He was encouraged at school in his music, but his instructor insisted he learn trumpet instead of the tenor saxophone. Charlie soon quit the school band to pursue his other passion, baseball, at which he excelled.

By the time Christian was twenty, he was performing throughout the Midwest, traveling as far as Minnesota and North Dakota. By 1936, he had acquired his first electric guitar and had begun to establish himself as a one of the most prominent musicians in the region. Important musicians passing through Oklahoma City would stop to hear him including Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. In 1939, pianist Mary Lou Williams heard Christian and told John Hammond, Sr., the Columbia record executive who scouted talent for the "race" records division, about him. Hammond, in turn, alerted Benny Goodman to this new talent.

Benny Goodman played a significant role in the career of guitarist Charlie Christian, who in return helped to assure the timeless quality of Goodman band recordings. Together they were the first to admit the electric guitar into jazz, establish the electric guitar as a viable and powerful instrument and musical force, and set the precedent for every electric guitar solo to follow in every genre of American popular music. Christian was the first to place the electric guitar on a par with the primary solo melodic instruments in jazz, and Goodman was the first bandleader to accept the guitar as an equal.

From the description above, the story would seem to be a happy, history-making collaboration of two geniuses. The fact is that Goodman was not in the least interested in the fancy, new electric guitar, which he regarded as a curiosity, and he initially didn't much like the flashy-dressing Christian.

Goodman was first made aware of Charlie Christian by John Hammond, who had heard Christian playing in Oklahoma City in 1939. Goodman chose to ignore the advice. Hammond was persistent, however, and, during a break at a Beverly Hills concert, Hammond moved Christian into the band. Upon returning from break, Goodman, who was very strict with his musicians, was incensed to find Christian onstage. To destroy Christian and stop Hammond from hounding him, Goodman called for an obscure tune, thinking that if Christian didn't know the song, he surely wouldn't be able to play along. Christian responded with a brilliant forty-five minute long improvisation. The moment was historic; as the Carnegie Hall concert had brought jazz into the American mainstream, Christian's solo brought the electric guitar into American music.

Christian's musical abilities converted Goodman on the spot, and Goodman immediately absorbed Christian into his musical organization. Henceforth Christian composed many of the "head" arrangements (the accompaniment to the basic song), took solos in many of the songs in performances and on recordings, and was an inspiration to the musicians with whom he worked. Christians playing was forward-looking in its offbeat accents and altered chords. The job gave Christian a steady income and a public platform, and he used the years spent with Goodman (1939-1941) to refine the instrument, its popularity, and his playing, often by sitting in on jam sessions on off-nights at Minton's jazz club in Harlem. Christian died in 1942 of tuberculosis.

In the many of the recordings from the period, notice the vibes (essentially an electric xylophone), another instrument new to jazz, and the arrangement and feel of the music. The unison playing of the melody to open and close the piece (called the "head") anticipates hard bop practices. There is no compromise to the decidedly "hot" quality of the music. Goodman's brand of Swing, at least in the peak years, always stayed closer to jazz than to commercial music (Sweet) and did not make the same commercial concessions for popularity as those made by Glenn Miller. In that respect, this music is a suitable platform for later bebop. Many recordings made between 1939 and 1941, both using the sextet, feature Lionel Hampton and Charlie Christian and their new instruments.

Charlie Christian live at Mintons, 1941, "Swing to Bop"

The Second Generation of Jazz Guitarists: Johnny Smith

Like many of his contemporaries, Johnny Smith’s story is one of struggle from poverty, self-instruction, and incredible natural talent. Unlike his peers, Smith’s talents were extensive and not limited just to the guitar--he was equally at home on the trumpet.

Smith was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1922, the son of a foundry worker with modest five-string banjo skills. Home jams with friends were Smith’s earliest experiences with live music, and the only opportunity he had within the home to try his hand on his father’s friends’ guitars.

When the Great Depression closed the foundries, his family migrated first to New Orleans, then to Chattanooga, and finally to Portland, Maine. Smith still did not own a guitar but managed to gain access through a deal he made with the local pawn shop owners—he would keep the guitars in tune in exchange for being allowed to hang around and play. By the age of 13, he had progressed in his self-guided study to the point where he had adult students coming to him for lessons. Smith got his first guitar when one of these students bought a new guitar and gave him the old one.

Within a short time Smith was playing six nights a week in a band called “Uncle Lem and the Mountain Boys.” This was a hillbilly band, complete with costumes, which traveled across Maine doing pop songs, folk songs, polkas at social events ranging from square dances to fairs. He earned $4 per night—big money for the Depression.

Around this time Smith discovered jazz, and his efforts changed to copying the big band music he heard on the radio and on records. By age 18, he felt he was ready to take on the jazz world, and he left the Uncle Lem to form the Airport boys, a jazz trio consisting of two guitars and a stand up bass. Smith arranged the music for the group, emulating the styles of his heroes Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and Les Paul.

By 1942, his plans to storm the jazz scene abruptly change when the war required that every eighteen year old male deliver himself to the selective service office. Smith had always been interested in aviation (hence “Airport Boys’). So he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force, with the intent of storming instead the enemy.

His less than perfect vision in one eye changed his life path in a very different direction. Instead of flying, he was assigned to the band. Since the military bands of the time had no guitar, the band leader handled him a cornet and an instruction book and told him to get busy or face the prospect of mechanics school.

Remarkably, Smith was able to progress to the point in two weeks that the band kept him. In short order Smith advanced to first chair cornet in the 364th Air Corps Band. In 1943, he was reassigned to the 8th Air Corps and ordered to assemble a jazz band. Finally he had a chance to use his guitar. Glenn Miller heard one of the performances and was so impressed that he tried to “requisition” Smith for his own band. Miller’s aircraft was lost over the English Channel a short time later, so Smith stayed where he was.

After the war, Smith secured work as a staff musician at the NBC radio affiliate in Portland. At night he played guitar in the local nightclubs and trumpet in a vaudeville theater pit orchestra. His reputation as a musician already began to extend far beyond Portland. Eugene Ormandy invited Smith to be the guitarist for the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. At the same time, his station manager sent some demo tapes to NBC headquarters, and the manager in New York was so impressed that he offered Smith a position as staff musician and arranger.

The job at NBC in New York put Smith at the top of the professional music world. A staff musician was expected to play any style of music practically at sight and hence carried terrific pressures, but the pay offset the stress. Smith played as many as thirty five radio and later television show per week for NBC including Highways in Melody, The Arthur Godfrey Ford Road Show, Star Time with Benny Goodman and Frances Langsford, The Patrice Munsel Show, The Dave Garroway Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and NBC Fireside Theater. Smith also carried outside engagements including appearances with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Symphony under Ormandy, and the NBC Symphony under Toscanini, as well as numerous gigs in New York’s world-class nightclubs.

Smith’s primary interest remained jazz and, after recording with Goodman in 1951, he formed his own jazz combo. The combo was in high demand, often playing engagements at Birdland that lasted as long as twenty-two weeks. Here Smith and his group shared the stage with jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Erroll Garner and Charles Mingus. He recalls that Parker would often come into the club on the nights that he played, sit at a table closest to him, and just listen. The original lineup of the Johnny Smithy Quintet included Stan Getz, another NBC musician, and sometimes Zoot Sims on saxophone. The affiliation with Smith launched Getz’ career.

The quintet’s 1952 recording for Roost Records of “Moonlight in Vermont” became one of the best-selling single in the jazz genre of all times, and established Smith once and for all at the top of the jazz world. It also made his trademark style of playing—smooth chord-arpeggio solos with incredibly fast runs interspersed—instantly recognizable to the general public. The opening chords of Smith’s solo on “Vermont” demonstrate how he weaves his lines around arpeggio shapes.

Johnny Smith, "Moonlight in Vermont" (with Stan Getz)

Another innovation in treating solos and chords is heard in "Lover Man." Near the end of the piece, it sounds as if there are two guitars--one holding the melody note and the second playing chords. It is in fact only Smith, and the effect is created by holding a finger on the high, sustained melody note while playing chords on the lower strings with his remaining left hand fingers!

The lure of jazz ultimately required Smith to rethink his employment, and he renegotiated a contract as freelancer at NBC so that he could play engagements with his quintet, and tour as featured artist, first with Stan Kenton’s band and then with Count Basie. In 1955, Smith composed a jazz ditty that would later and inadvertently become one of the best known of all surf anthems of the 1960s, “Walk, Don’t Run.” Those of you who play jazz standards will recognize the song as a reworking of "(I Leave You) As Softy as a Summer's Morning."

Johnny Smith, "Walk, Don't Run"

Ventures, "Walk, Don't Run"

In 1958 Smith's second wife died, and he became the sole guardian of their four-year old daughter. Faced with the choice of a music career or his daughter’s well being, he chose to quit the business and care for his child. Within weeks he moved into a modest house in Colorado Springs and away from his frantic life as one of the century’s top jazz guitarists. Throughout the 1960s, he intermittently returned to New York to record and play engagements at the Birdland, effectively keeping his jazz career alive. After the decade, he decided that he was actually happier staying home and retired from the road.

Mundell Lowe and Johnny Smith, "Seven Come Eleven"

Barney Kessel

Barney Kessel was born October 17, 1923 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He first encountered the guitar in the window of a music store that he passed on his paper route, and from first glance fell permanently in love. His skills, which were self-taught and based upon the guitar work he heard on the radio in contemporary Texas Swing, were substantial at an early age.

Kessel’s professional career began as a teenager. By 1937, he quit school at age fourteen to play in dance bands in Oklahoma, most notably Ellis Ezell’s. Here he stood out not only on the basis of his young age and remarkable talent, but because he was the only white member of all-black bands. The experience also brought into his musical awareness the developments in Kansas City jazz, the run-you-over attack and the type of melodic lines that were later so instrumental to the formulation of bebop. The aggressive tempi of Kansas City jazz also affected the jump bands at the end of the 1940s and the rock ‘n’ roll styles of the 1950s.

He soon abandoned in his playing the emphasis on vibrato found in the pedal steel/guitar Texas Swing (later country western) he heard growing up. In place, he started to develop a style marketed by clear and aggressive lines similar in structure to the lines hear in the playing of Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and others who showed the way to the Bop style brought to full fruition by Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie.

Charlie Christian, another native of Oklahoma, was also among Kessel’s musical models. Christian had not only already made the giant step of reconciling idiomatic horn lines to the guitar, but also was the first to have established, as part of Bennie Goodman’s band, the electric guitar a viable front line (solo) instrument. The two met in a jam during one of Christian’s visits home, and Kessel had, as the result of the session, the revelation that he had unconsciously absorbed from records into his own playing every tenet of Christian's style.

The experience gave the Kessel two critical gains: he resolved to find his own voice by developing his own style and he made a new friend in Christian. To the end of realizing himself, he followed Christian’s advice and moved in 1942 to Los Angeles to find a different kind of work and exposure to different kinds of music. Soon after arriving, he found employment with Chico Marx’s band, at the time led by Ben Pollack, and he recorded his first tracks within a year for this band.

By 1944, Kessel left the Marx band to join that of Charlie Barnet, and that summer he was featured on the bands commercial hit recording “Skyliner.” Barnet was a bandleader friendly to the guitar, and later he would have another young star in his organization, Joe Pass. In the same year Kessel was cast in a short feature, “Jammin’ the Blues,” produced by Norman Grantz and nominated for an academy award. Hence Kessel participated in a musical video decades ahead of when music videos became a common commercial tool. As the only white member in the all-black band, Kessel had to sit in the shadows so that his face could not be seen.

By the fall of 1944, Kessel added to his employment a seat in Artie Shaw’s orchestra. Between joining and 1946, Kessel record for Shaw no fewer than 70 tracks, and several of the gentler swing tracks are reminiscent of the playing of his friend and mentor, Charlie Christian, who had died in 1942 of tuberculosis.

In 1946, Kessel had also joined Benny Goodman’s band, taking the seat once filled and indeed innovated by Christian, and this period was split among the bands of Barnet, Shaw, and Goodman. Kessel’s musical activities, then, placed in squarely in the Swing genre, made him well-known in musical circles, and even gave him the chance to accompany some of the great jazz legends, including Billie Holiday.

The melodic structures idiomatic to the guitar that Christian and he had absorbed from Texas Swing and the clarity of line, aggressive attack, and killer tempi absorbed from Kansas City jazz predisposed both Christian and Kessel to be able to make the leap into bebop. Christian experimented in private jams with Kansas City jazzmen but remained stylistically true to Goodman’s brand of hot Swing in public performances. Kessel played the Swing tunes required of him in his various band jobs and built his reputation on Swing. Even so, the Bebop possibilities are inherent in the playing of both men, even in the Swing recordings.

Bop stylistic traits were inherent in Kessel's playing throughout his career and across most of the different styles in which he played. These traits were manifest in his long lines, modeled upon those of Hawkins and other Bop pioneers, with their unusual pause points and characteristics that seemed more idiomatic to the sax and horn than the guitar. Although generally regarded as a bridge between Swing and Bop, he astounded the music world in 1947 by actually playing Bop on four songs with the Charlie Parker All Stars. The Charlie Parker All Stars were actually headed by Lionel Hampton, a colleague from Kessel's days with the Benny Goodman Band. The L.A. Times jazz critic, Nat Hentoff, assessed Kessel as "a guy who could sit in and play with everybody. He had what jazz players call 'big ears,' meaning he had a great capacity to listen and to respond musically to what he was hearing." From 1948 to 1951, Kessel’s music represented yet another complete stylistic change in direction, and he devoted these years to studio work backing crooners and commercial jazz singers such as Mel Torme, among others.

In 1953, Kessel joined what would become one of the music important groups as far as jazz guitar was concerned, the Oscar Peterson Trio. The trio also included bassist Ray Brown, a frequent sideman to Charlie Parker and later to guitarists Joe Pass and Herb Ellis. The Oscar Peterson Trio served a variety of functions, standing alone as a trio but also serving as back-up, often augmented by other musicians, for notables such as Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Lester Young, and others. During this time Kessel also began to record with small bands (combos) that he put together for each of the sessions. Kessel's indebtedness to Django Rheinhardt is also evident in some of his recordings. Here the use of guitar and violin is conscious homage to the Stephan Grappelli-Django Reinhardt duo.Kessel, Ellis, and Pass were also friends, and Kessel and Ellis undertook duet projects similar to those found on the now famous Ellis-Pass recordings such as 7 come 11.

Kessel wore many professional hats. To remain financially afloat, he had parallel careers as arranger and studio musician. He is the first to have produced an album in which only guitar and bass were used to accompany a singer. He arranged and played in 1955 and 1956 on Julie is Her Name, a record featuring Julie London. The record became a huge commercial success and one of the tracks, “Cry Me a River,” is found on this record in its definitive form. Kessel’s studio work was not limited to jazz, and he is heard on commercials and television and movie soundtracks, as well as records outside the jazz genre backing singers such as Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, The Monkees, Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sam Cooke, Low Rawls, and hundreds of singles for Phil Specter.

Kessel died in 1992 in San Diego of a brain tumor.

Julie London with Barney Kessel, "Cry Me a River"

Barney Kessel plays "Gypsy in My Soul"

Herb Ellis

Herb Ellis was born in 1921 and grew up in on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. He is rumored to have heard his first electric guitar played on a radio program by George Barnes. Unlike all of the other significant guitarists of this period, Ellis had the benefit of a formal training. He majored in music at North Texas State University. Although he had already become proficient on the guitar before matriculating, he focused on string bass since the music department did not have a guitar program.

Ellis shortly ran out of funds, dropping out of school in 1941 to tour with the University of Kansas jazz band. By 1943 he had joined Glen Gray’s Casa Loma Orchestra, and in this role received some small recognition in jazz magazines.

Soon thereafter, Ellis got his first big break, joining the Tommy Dorsey band, where he remained until 1947. It was this with this band that Ellis made his first recordings. Another break followed in 1953, when he replaced Barney Kessel in the Oscar Peterson Trio. The remained until 1958, longer than any other guitarist. It is in the trio that Ellis would meet bassist Ray Brown, someone who would turn out to be a long term friend and musical collaborator. As in Kessel’s career, Ellis’ position in the trio was somewhat controversial since he was white.

Oscar Peterson’s trio had, by this time, become a significant part of the house band for Norman Granz’s Verve Records, and the work afforded Ellis the chance to play and record with some of the most important musicians of the time including Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. From 1958 to 1960, Ellis toured with Fitzgerald.

His earliest musical influence was Jimmy Giuffre. His musical direction was cemented forever by hearing Charlie Christian. Ellis recounted in an interview with Leonard Feather Christian’s impact: "... the first time I heard Charlie Christian I thought he really wasn't so much, because I felt I could play faster than that. Then after a few more times it really hit me, and I realized that speed wasn't everything. I got quite emotional -- put my guitar away and said I'd never play again. But the next day I got it out and started to try to play like Charlie." Christian’s influence is everywhere evident in Ellis’ playing to this day, but also so are the blues and Texas Swing he heard growing up.

Ellis is still very much alive.

Herb Ellis Medley

Joe Pass

Joe Pass was born Joseph Passalacqua in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1929. He was raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, however, where his Sicilian-born father was able to find work in the Steel Mills. Pass was inspired to play the guitar not by any member of his non-musical family, but by Gene Autry’s performances as the singing cowboy. By age nine his father recognized the boy’s abilities and encouraged him to play a wide range of music, including music by ear.

By age fourteen, Pass began playing with dance bands including one led by Charlie Barnet. From dance bands he jumped to traveling with small combos, and the business ultimately led him to move from Pennsylvania to New York City. Here he quickly developed a heroin addiction, losing most of the 1950s to drugs.

After two and a half years in Synanon, the drug rehabilitation center in California, he began to rebuild his career, recording in 1962 his first album, The Sounds of Synanon. In 1963, he received an important career boost in the form of Downbeat Magazine’s presentation to him of its “New Star Award.”

Throughout the 1960s Pass toured with blind jazz pianist and composer George Shearing, but the majority of his jobs came in the television and studio recording industry. He appeared as part of the band for The Steve Allen Show, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and The Merv Griffin Show. In the recording studio, he served as sideman to Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Della Reese, and Johnny Mathis, among others.

During the 1960s, Pass performed frequently at Donte’s nightclub in L.A. with his friend Herb Ellis, and the collaboration led to two legendary recordings in 1970. These recordings also featured Ray Brown on bass and Jake Hanna on drums.

In the early 1970s, Pass signed with Norman Granz’s new label, Pablo Records, and under this umbrella Pass would continue with several other legendary collaborations. Pass recorded four albums with Ella Fitzgerald. As a part of the Pablo “stable,” he also performed with Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, Zoot Sims, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and, of course, Herb Ellis. Pass continued to record with some of the top jazz artists through the 1980s.

In 1974, Pablo released an album called The Trio featuring the Oscar Peterson Trio but with Pass now in the guitar chair. It won the Grammy that year for “Best Performance by a Group.” Finally, Pass worked with Bill Thrasher on a series of music instruction books called the Joe Pass Guitar Style, and these books have since become the mainstay for student guitarists.

Because Pass’s father encouraged him “not to leave spaces” between the notes of the melody, he developed playing skill unlike any of his contemporaries. Pass was exceptional as both a lead guitarist in ensembles and as a stand-alone soloist. Hence his style not only included straight melody, but also sophisticated harmonic interpolations, polyphonic linear fills, two-voice textures, and rapid changes in the speed of the figuration within leads. He often superimposed his solo style of playing onto ensemble textures. Pass plucked with both his right-hand fingers and a flat pick. Pass cited as his primary influences the music of gypsy guitarist Django Reinhart and saxophonist Charlie Parker.

Pass died in 1994 from liver cancer in Los Angeles but is buried in the family plot in New Brunswick, NJ.

Joe Pass plays "All the Things You Are"

Tal Farlow

Talmadge Farlow was born in Greensboro, N.C. in 1921. His household was a musical one. His father played the guitar, banjo, ukulele, violin, and clarinet. His mother played the piano. When Farlow was eight, his father showed him a few chords on a mandolin tuned like the top four strings of the guitar (but an octave higher). Farlow’s father liked to tinker with electronics, and the boy also became interested.

Apart from these few chords, Farlow received no formal musical training. He did not begin to play the guitar seriously until he was twenty-one, when he first heard Art Tatum on the radio. Tatum’s jazz music fascinated Farlow, who grew up hearing and playing the country or hillbilly music favored locally. His exposure to the music of Benny Goodman and especially Charlie Christian and the electric guitar he played galvanized Farlow’s childhood hobbies into focus. Farlow was fascinated with the possibility of playing sophisticated harmonies and melodic horn lines and with the sound of the new electric guitar. He collected every Christian record and learned every solo from them, note for note. The radio also gave him access to the music of saxophonist Lester Young. Young was influential in the evolution of Kansas City, Mo., jazz, with its relentless, high-energy attack and its new, extended lines, both elements that would be mainstays of bebop. At this time Farlow’s other childhood interest, electronics, came into play, and he built his own guitar pick-up from a pair of old radio headphones and ran it through a $20 Sears and Roebuck amplifier.

Farlow had been trained to paint signs, and so he became the early part of his professional life, painting signs during the day and playing with various dance bands in the Greensboro area at night. As often as not, he was recruited to play not only for his ability to play advanced chords and lead solos, but also for his ability to play bass lines. This skill developed in response to professional necessity, but it would help to shape the solos of the mature musician.

Many of the musicians who passed through the Air Corps basic training facility in Greensboro heard Farlow at the USO dances and many, including guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and pianist Jimmy Lyons encouraged him to move north and pursue a jazz career. A 1944 tour with singer/vibrophonist/pianist Dardanelle Breckenridge’s group brought Farlow to Baltimore, Philadelphia and, finally, New York. A six month gig at the Copa Lounge gave Farlow the opportunity to hear great jazz first hand including that of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Oscar Pettiford, and Bud Powell, among others.

Farlow returned to Greensboro and his sign-painting business in 1945 but, by 1947, was back in New York again, painting signs to feed himself while he waited the activation of his union card. During this time he got his first big break, replacing Mundell Lowe in vibist Red Norvo’s trio, which included Charles Mingus on the bass. His relationship with Norvo lasted from 1949 until 1953, and made Farlow famous in the jazz world. Farlow’s large hands and his ability to play lightning fast lines earned him the nickname “Octopus.” After Norvo, Farlow spent six months with Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five band before forming his own band.

Norvo had been absolutely critical in Farlow’s musical development. Every mindful to draw the best results from the trio by creating the greatest variety of context and interest from the songs, he pushed Farlow to greater exploration but also to greater speeds in his linear playing. Like so many of the musicians who grew up under the influence of Charlie Christian, Farlow had favored a more relaxed approach to attack and speed. He struggled first with the new demands but rose to the challenge, in the process developing new plucking techniques that included using the upstroke as well as the down stroke. When Barney Kessel heard Farlow’s speed, he recalls that it forced him, and nearly every other guitarist, to rethink his right-hand technique. Farlow recorded 21 tracks with Norvo and several more with Shaw, but it was the recordings with his own band that established Farlow on the national scene. These recordings, for Blue Note and Verve, made between 1954 and 1959, which also represent the treasure trove of his legacy.

In 1958, Farlow retired to Sea Bright, New Jersey, and from performing. Tired of the music business and the jazz world, he simply returned to the peaceful life as sign painter. Although not performing, his star would hit its zenith in recordings in 1962, when the Gibson Guitar Corporation enlisted his expertise in designing the guitar named for him. He would make only one appearance to record in the years between 1960 and 1975. From 1976 to 1984 he recorded somewhat regularly for the Concord label, and then largely disappeared back to New Jersey.

Farlow was known as much for his reluctance to perform as for his superlative abilities on the guitar. He is closest stylistically to the quintessential bop guitarist, a tall order on an instrument not well-suited to play horn-like lines at horn tempi. His technique was unorthodox as were the unusual voicing and inventive structures of his solos, which invariably utilized the full range of the instrument, and his chromatic chords. The sum of his music style bespeaks the sum of his experiences and the size of his hands, beginning with the “thumb-over” left hand technique that stayed as a vestige of his early days playing the mandolin, to the full use of range that reflected the necessity to learn to play bass lines in the early dance band days.

Farlow died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in 1998 at age 77.

Tal Farlow plays "Autumn Leaves"

Wes Montgomery

John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery was born in 1923 in Indianapolis, Indiana. His family was a musical one. His two brothers were both jazz performers, Monk on string and electric bass, and Buddy on vibraphone and piano. Montgomery started to learn the guitar at age nineteen and, like so many of his contemporaries, taught himself by learning by ear every note of every solo of Charlie Christian from records. The undertaking led him to his first musical job with no less than Lionel Hampton, who hired Montgomery because he knew and could play all the Christian solos and because he had the remarkable capacity to learn almost instantly complex solos and chord structures by ear. Montgomery never learned to read music well. Hampton, of course, was a Goodman alumnus and recorded with Christian. Like Christian, Goodman had helped Hampton to introduce and establish the vibraphone which, like the electric guitar, was new and not accepted in the jazz world.

Montgomery toured with Hampton’s orchestra from 1948 to 1950. He is heard on many of the orchestra’s recordings made in this two-year span. After leaving Hampton’s organization, he returned home and did not record any significant music until 1957, when he participated in a jam session that included his brothers and which introduced a new figure to the trumpet world, Freddie Hubbard. He continued to record with Hubbard and his brothers through 1959.

Back in Indianapolis, Montgomery struggled to support his family of eight. He worked in a factory during the day and played in local clubs until late, effectively living for years on two or three hours of sleep a night. Cannonball Adderly heard Montgomery in one of these clubs. He was so impressed that he arranged the meeting between Riverside Records executives and Montgomery.

Montgomery signed with Riverside Records in 1959, and remained until the company went bankrupt in 1963. The recordings made during this four-year span are regarded as Montgomery’s best and most influential. Nearly all the settings are for small ensemble, usually a trio, quartet, or quintet and most often with piano, bass, and drums as the other instruments. The playlist invariably alternated between driving upbeat numbers and soft ballads, and the playlist included many of his compositions. The personnel often included his brothers, Melvin Rhyne, an Indianapolis organist, and various other musicians such as Adderly and the Wynton Kelly Trio, Miles Davis’ previous back-up band. John Coltrane asked Montgomery to join his group after a jam session but Montgomery chose to remain the leader of his own groups.

Montgomery signed with Verve Records in 1964. The contract resulted in a stylistic shift that many regard as a decline in Montgomery’s creative talents and importance. Many of the records used an orchestra and ratcheted down the edge that made Montgomery important in the first place.

Montgomery’s work from Bumpin’ (1965) paved the wave for the formulation of a new style of music, “smooth jazz.” Although Montgomery continued to play hard driving jazz in public appearances, including his European dates, and his entries in Verve’s catalog included a few pure jazz albums, Bumpin’ represented a huge step away from jazz and toward commercial music.

“Smooth jazz” was a sub-genre, then, of jazz which drew upon other contemporary styles to make the music more accessible. The majority of tracks featured a much stronger melody than jazz but not than commercial music. The tempi of jazz were slowed to an easy, laid-back pace. The backgrounds tended to become more predictable, more formulaic, almost like canned music, and the edge of these backgrounds was blunted by the use of strings or other orchestral instruments. The favored instruments in this style were first the soprano or tenor sax, with the guitar coming in second places. Montgomery’s increasingly mellow and commercial music opened the door to musicians such as George Benson and Kenny G, and the ensuing style called adult contemporary.

Montgomery’s work, especially in three albums produced by Creed Taylor for A&M Records beginning in 1967 showed an abandoning of jazz in favor of a purely commercial style. The songs on these records were drawn not so much from his compositions or the jazz repertory, but from the commercial radio genre. The result was a “hip” but diluted jazz guitar rendering by Montgomery, against an orchestral background, of hit songs by various pop artists such as Dionne Warwick (“Say a Little Prayer for You”), Simon and Garfunkel (“Scarborough Fair”), the Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby”) and the Mamas and the Poppas (“California Dreamin’ ”). His part was little more than recitation of the melody, with little or no improvisation at all. These commercial recordings did earn him considerable wealth and recognition and, perhaps more important, lead a newly interested public to his earlier, purer recordings.

The recordings were a huge commercial success, but Montgomery would not live to reap the rewards. He died in June 1968 of a massive heart attack, doubtless the fruit of years of functioning without sleep and his two-pack per day Lucky Strike habit. The various periods of his music left a lasting mark, influencing such musicians as Pat Martino, George Benson, and Pat Metheny, as well as a host of truly mediocre musicians.

His playing style was an unusual one in that he did not pluck with his fingers and he never learned to use a pick. Instead he plucked with his thumb, with the fingers of his hand splayed on the guitar face for support and balance. Since he worked late hours and often practiced between the end of the gig and the beginning of his early morning shift at the factory, he played with his thumb instead of a pick in order not to wake his wife. The use of the thumb gave a bassier, mellower tone than that of his contemporaries. Hs thumb was double jointed and he could bend it back to touch his wrist, and little carnival trick he loved to use to make people uncomfortable. Even so, Montgomery did not like the brittle treble sound typical of acoustic guitars or of electric guitars played with a pick. He usually adjusted the settings on his guitar so that the treble pot was closed completely, that is, so that the bass was favored in amplification. It is a sound much emulated by today’s players. Note right hand in pictures below.

Critics have noted that his approach to soloing was multi-tiered. He followed the combo tradition of playing the head (melody of the composition) in single notes for the first and last stanzas, grounding he piece. The usual improvisational treatment of the first stanza or two was to use single-line melodies. In the subsequent stanza or two, Montgomery usually played his improvised in parallel octaves, a device first used by Christian but developed to its apogee by Montgomery. Both the single-note and octave passages heavily utilized sequences. The stanza in octaves would usually culminate in chromatic chords.

Montgomery’s work did not go unnoticed by the music industry. He was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Bumpin' in 1965; received a Grammy as Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by Large Group or Soloist with Large Group in 1966 for “Goin' Out of My Head”; nominated for Grammy Awards for "Eleanor Rigby" and “Down Here on the Ground” in 1968; and nominated for Grammy Award for “Willow, Weep for Me” in 1969. His album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, earned him Down Beat magazine's "New Star" award in 1960. In addition, he won the Down Beat Critic's Poll award for best Jazz guitarist in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1967.

Wes Plays "Jingles" duing 1965 tour of Belgium

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Principle Tool Behind American Popular Music from Mid-Century: the Electric Guitar

The evolution of the electric guitar is a story of advances that occur as needed to meet the latest specific need. The banjo of New Orleans Jazz was loud enough to be heard in small ensembles, but it was not capable of playing the sophisticated chord structures that emerged as jazz moved from simple I-IV-V harmonic progressions to include other chords in the key, chords borrowed from other keys and, most importantly, chords expanded by the addition of 7ths, 9ths, and 13ths. The number indicates that a note has been added to the chord and that the added note is the indicated number of scale notes higher than the root of the chord. A C7 chord, then, is a C chord with a note seven scale steps higher (here, B flat) added to it.

The guitar could play these advanced chords, and soon the banjo was supplanted by it. The great shortcoming of the guitar, however, was that it was not loud enough to be clearly heard in orchestral settings. The "wump, wump, wump" that is clearly audible in Swing recordings is the guitar playing the chords. The sound of the guitar is akin to someone sawing wood, but that is the greatest level of loudness that pre-electric guitars could muster.

As a result, the guitar strummed chords in Swing orchestras and that's all it did. The use of the guitar as a melodic instrument was confined to groups that consisted entirely of other strings, as you can hear on the recordings of blues musicians such as Tampa Red. These groups often did not feature drums but did include a singer (or two), a bass, and usually two guitars.

Two advances emerged in response to these shortcomings. First, the conventional guitar, with its flat face and round sound hole was modified in body configuration to have the face and back of the violin--a carved arch shape. This experiment in applying violin technology to the guitar was the work of Lloyd Loar, an employee of the Gibson String Instrument Company from 1919 to 1924, and his initial experiments were actually intended to improve the sound of the mandolin. The re-configuration reduced sustain, a feature undesirable in fast-moving jazz to avoid the over-ring of unwanted notes, and bolstered the higher registers of the instrument.

The second advance was the electromagnet--a coil of thin wire wrapped around a metal rod--and its application as a microphone or, in modern terminology, pick-up, built into the face of the new archtop. There are varied histories regarding who was first to do this, and the claims of the invention of the electric guitar range from the Dobro Company to the guitar immortal and multi-track recording pioneer, Les Paul. The first viable commercial electric guitar, however, appear in 1936 as Gibson's archtop ES150 (ES=Electric Spanish).

The electric archtop guitar saw wide use in Swing and in other genres. The expanded capabilities permitted the guitar to step forward as a solo instrument, as you have read in the section on Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman. The "sound" of the electric archtop guitar tends to remain somewhat true to the sound of the acoustic guitar, though the sound is often described as "sweeter." Probably the most important of all jazz archtop guitars, as it appeared first in the 1950s and does to this day, since it is still in production, appears above. It is known as the Gibson ES 175, and it is the guitar that you can hear on the recordings of a significant number of jazz guitarists through the 1950s and 1960s. Guitarists include Joe Pass and Herb Ellis, both of whom used single pick-up versions.

The Advent of “Thinline” Archtops

The early electric archtop guitar was well able to hold its own against the loud but acoustic instruments of the Swing band and even the small jazz combo of the 1950s and 1960s. As noted, its sound was essentially that of an amplified acoustic guitar. The problem presented, however, with the larger venues of the rock 'n' roll scene of the late 1950s is that the depth of the body of electric archtop guitar was the same as that of the acoustic guitar (3 3/4 inches), and this depth prevented the instrument from being played loud enough to be heard in venues larger than the supper club or the Blues or Jazz club. Turned to full loudness, the guitar simply produced "feedback" screech. Feedback occurs when the microphone or pick-up reads not only the sound intended to be amplified but also itself.

Early rock 'n' rollers stuffed towels into the bodies to reduce the volume of vibrating air inside, and within a short time, Gibson began to offer an archtop variant with a thinner body cavity called the "thinline." The guitar depth was reduced by at least two inches and the interior volume further decreased byt the insertion of a wood block that holds the pick-ups (the squares under the strings). It retained much of the original electric archtop's sweetness, but eliminated feedback at high levels of volume. The thinline guitar was immediately embraced by electric Bluesmen (i.e. B.B. King uses one, who plays "Lucille," probably the most famous ES 335 in history) and rock 'n' roll players (Chuck Berry). Most jazzmen continued with the deeper-bodied archtops since they did not need to play as loudly and wished to retain as much of the original tone as possible. Thinlines, however, are seen often enough today in the hands of working jazz guitarists who need practical solutions in live playing. Above is an example of the industry standard of thinline electric archtops, a Gibson ES 335.

The Solid-body Guitar: Leo Fender’s Innovation

As concert venues grew even larger, the industry responded with two more electric guitar variants. One is the fully solid guitars manufactured and successfully marked first by Leo Fender and the second is the Gibson Les Paul, a design that sought to incorporate the capabilities of the fully solid-body guitar yet retain some of the sweetness of the early archtop. Both instruments are variants of the aforementioned solid-body design.

The advantage of the solid-body guitar, of course, is that loudness is limited by the power of the amplifier that drives the sound or by the point at which the player damages his hearing. Loss of hearing was a significant danger in the late 1960s, especially the venues grew to stadium size, loudness came to be regarded as part of the sensual experience of the hippie era, and many players performed drunk or stoned. Quite a few of the "old-timers" still playing today have suffered hearing loss. Another critical aspect of the instrument is that, although a variant, it is actually a radical departure from the basic physics of the electrified acoustic guitar.

The solid body guitar possesses completely different timbral characteristics than the hollowbody electric guitar, for better or worse. It's sound can be more brittle, but this timbre has become a part of the sound of historic rock 'n' roll and rock and is associated with many historically important players from the Ventures to Eric Clapton, at least in certain artistic periods. Finally, it is comparatively light in weight, a prerequisite to the dance routines that are included in some modern performances.

The first is an instrument that completely eliminated the resonating chamber inside the body. Les Paul claims its invention and there is evidence that he tried to convince Gibson to consider the guitar long before it actually went into production by the Fender Guitar Company. Gibson engineers were made familiar, then, with the solid body concept from Les Paul's crude prototype, which they rather unaffectionately called the “'plank guitar,” since it consisted of a plank of wood with a neck and pick-ups mounted on the plank. It was not until Leo Fender began producing plank guitars with tremendous commercial success in the early 1950s that Gibson fully understood that they had been a little too complacent with their successes and a bit too hasty in laughing Paul out of their office.

Leo Fender's initial commercial offerings, like many of the early electric Gibson guitars, have proven themselves to be timeless. His two principle instruments are the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, both names that reflect the "space age." The Stratocaster is associated first and foremost with both Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who routinely played one with his teeth and who burned one at Woodstock. In the image above, the Stratocaster is at the left, the Telecaster, at the right.

A Sweeter Sound: Les Paul

Once past the numbing shock of their decision to dismiss Les Paul as a crank, Gibson guitar made a truly intelligent decision: they decided to eat crow and woo Paul back. The result was a guitar design in which the sweet tone of the archtop guitar could be combined with all the practical advantages of Fender's solid body guitars, including capability of producing the characteristic brittle tone.

Paul would not work with Gibson to produce a viable solid body guitar unless he had full control over the design. Paul took his original 'plank' concept but made the plank about an inch and three quarters deep, about twice the depth of Fender's guitars. The original plank, invented when he was a teenager as part of his exploration into radio electronics, was a section of a railroad tie! He then hollowed out the area immediately surrounding the pick-ups but not the area further out toward the sides. The result was a guitar that could capture some of the sweetness of the hollow body guitar, all the brittleness of Fender's solid body guitars, and damage the hearing of anyone who stood too near.

After some wrangling and several versions, the president of Gibson, Ted McCarthy, flew a version to the guitar to Delaware Water Gap, where Paul was recording. After spending an entire night playing the design, Paul approved the version which now bears his name and which is probably the most popular guitar produced in history. Many significant guitarists are identified with the Les Paul guitar, including Jimmy Page and, no surprise here, Les Paul! During the 1950s and early 1960s, Delaware Water Gap, which is in Pennsylvania, just across the line from New Jersey along Route 80, had the most important music recording studio on the East Coast. The location for a studio was chosen because it was close to New York but just outside the noise of the normal flight paths of commercial airliners!

The primary shortcoming of the Les Paul guitar is weight, which is considerable and quite uncomfortable to play standing. If you watch closely at concert footage, you will notice that Les Paul players use very wide straps to prevent cutting into the soft tissue at the top of the shoulder.

The Modern Production Landscape and the Phenomenon of Collectibles

Modern players tend to have fierce loyalties contingent upon the style of music in which they have invested, and every type of electric guitar described is still in both production and wide use, depending upon the musical style. The guitars pictured all feature variants of wood-grain finishes, with the ES 175 given in the article above in one of the oldest an most desirable color schemes, "natural." Guitars today come in every imaginable color.

Moreover, the original designs were so good and produced such distinctive and attractive sounds that two phenomena have resulted. First, the older instruments, called the vintage market, have become highly desirable and very expensive. Manufacturers have also realized that some of the cost-cutting measures of guitar production in the late twentieth century have not been beneficial to the quality and sound of their guitars, and all the major companies now produce guitars to "spec," that is, to the original specifications and also "spec" guitars with modern features. These instruments are invariably among the most expensive offerings. Some models have stayed close to the mark in high quality throughout the life of their runs, such as the Gibson L5; others, such as Fender's Stratocaster and Telecaster, suffered long periods in which the quality was inferior. Over the last couple years, Fender has made giant strides in restoring the quality in the top of the line models.

In addition, the slight variations within a model, that is differences in small features (i.e. gold hardware versus silver hardware) have begun to figure into the value of vintage instruments, so that a guitar with a natural blonde finish is worth more at resale than one with a tobacco sunburst: a tobacco sunburst is worth more than a red guitar, but a red guitar is worth more than any of the other possible colors unless the color was featured on a rare model.

With an eye to the future, the guitar companies have also begun to produce "special editions," really the basic guitar with some little, non-standard feature, as a means to bloat both the price new, used and, later, vintage. Of all the electric guitars ever made, Fender guitars produced before the sale of the company in 1964 to CBS and all Gibson guitars ever made are among the most desirable. Gibson is regarded as the Cadillac of guitar makers (yes, Cadillac--there is no cultural room for the metaphor of the Mercedes here), have the greatest prestige, and are the most expensive.

The ES 175 was named in the 1950s for its price of $175; the current catalog lists the same guitar at nearly $6000. The new Super 400 carries a price tag as high as $20,000! Rare ES 175 models from the 1950s and 1960s sell for as much as $15,000, though the price for an older regular production model is much less, usually $2500-$6000. Even at the low end, older instruments go for considerably more than their prices when new. Collecting has driven prices, even in a rough economy up so that vintage Gibson guitars are now investments.

Similar collector situations exist among other brands, with pre-CBS Fenders, pre-Fender Gretsch and Guild guitars, and pre-Gibson Epiphones commanding the high prices. Notice here that acquisition of Epiphone by Gibson has meant a deterioration of Epiphone quality and the acquisition of Guild by Fender has led to the complete collapse of the manufacture of electric Guild guitars. Fender's involvement does not always spell trouble, however. The Gretsch family has recently regained control of company that carries their name, and Fender distributes these instruments.

New, higher end Gretsch guitars, while no longer produced in the USA but in Japan, have not sacrificed quality and are beginning to build a reputation in the current market. The new Gretschs sound somewhat like the older ones or at least like Gretsch guitars, in general, and they can be purchased for considerably less than comparable new Gibsons. While it is true that Gretsch guitars are not exactly regarded as jazz guitars and that they are their own animal apart from other guitars by other manufacturers, the solid-face Synchromatic and Country Club models perform surprisingly well in jazz settings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Avalon and Other Improvisations

It seems fair to share some of my playing, so here are some links to videos of my improvisation.

The first tune is "Avalon," a tune made famous by Al Jolson and included more recently on Herb Ellis and Duke Robillard's
Conversations in Swing. The song was a top seller in 1920, and a virtual but inadvertent advertisement for the resort town on Catalina Island. Jolson was quick to understand that any song he touched would sell, and so he cut in on both composer credits and worse, composer royalties. The melody actually has its origin in Puccini;s aria "E Lucevan Le Stelle" from Tosca. The similarity was so strong that Puccini's publisher successfully sued Jolson's publisher in 1921 for $25,000 and all subsequent royalties. This version, like all the music that I will post, uses rhythm tracks that I made for use in dinner and cocktail gigs. As such, the audience is not really listening, at least from the start to the finish of a song, so the tracks are long!

The second is the song mentioned in the Barney Kessel lecture, "Cry Me a River." Kessel's arrangement and back-up to Julie London's incredible singing are the quintessential version, but some of the power of the original actually resides in the song.

The third is "Blues for Ophie," a progression I made up in a guitar lesson and then named after one of my cats. I had to name it something!

Here is a version of Dietz-Schwartz' "Alone Together." I first heard the song on Pat Martino's "Footprints" in the early 1970s and then stumbled across it anew while paging through the Fake Book. It was written in 1932 for the Broadway musical Flying Colors by Max Gordon and Howard Dietz, who also produced and directed the whow. The sheet music ranked as the top seller of the era.

No session is complete with a bossa nova, and one of the deservedly best-known is Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa." Dorham was a bebop trumpeter who played in the bands of Billy Esckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Mercer Ellington, and Charlie Parker. Although Dorham recorded with some of the most important musicians of his era and "Blue Bossa" is as well known as the bossa standards "Girl from Ipanema" and "Black Orpheus," this musician an his contributions have slipped virtually into obscurity.

"Black Orpheus" was composed by Luis Bonfa. Its name comes from a film retelling the Greek myth of Euridice and Orpheus from the black Brazilian point of view in a modern setting. The song has a second title, "A Day in the Life of a Fool."

Another ballad, "I'll Be Seeing You," by writen by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal for the 1938 Broadway show Right This Way. Because it describes the longing for someone far away, it lived beyond its intended use in the musical and became immensely popular during World War II among lovers forced to separate.

"Out of Nowhere"
was the collaborative effort of lyricist Edward Heyman ("Body and Soul," "When I Fall in Love") and musician and Johnny Green. Heyman and Green also co-authored "Body and Soul."

Green's earliest efforts were his most successful, and his best known hits, many of which have become standards, include
"Out of Nowhere" (1931, included as a media file), "Rain, Rain, Go Away" (1932), "I Cover the Waterfront," "You're Mine, You," and "I Wanna Be Loved" (all 1933), and "Easy Come, Easy Go" (1934).
All of these compositions were not aimed at the Swing market, which did not yet exist per se, but at the Sweet market for popular hits and dance band music.

Green entered Harvard at age 15, and shortly thereafter was essentially forced by his father into a career he did not want, that of a stockbroker. In his musical career, he worked early on as an arranger of dance band music for Guy Lombardo and later for Jean Goldkette. This author's great-aunt made Lombardo's tuxedo shirts, which included the underpants so that the shirt would not pull out when he lifted his arms to conduct!

"Out of Nowhere"
decidedly shows the impact of the French Impressionist composers in its chromatic shift at the end of the first phrase and its shift back to the original tonic at the beginning of the second. The shift to ii7-V7 in a key one-step lower than the original anticipates the harmonic progressions of Charlie Parker and the bop generation by twenty years.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Georgia and Other Improvisations

"Georgia on My Mind" is one of a myriad of jazz-oriented popular songs composed by Hoagy Carmichael, and takes its place alongside "Stardust" and "Heart and Soul." The song comes to us in Ray Charles' definitive version.

The authors of this pair of songs were Ellington associates. The first, "Perdido" was composed by Juan Tizol, and is the piece that put Herb Ellis on the map. Structurally, it is very much a swing tune, with little happening on the harmonic level in section A and then rapid modulatory cycling in section B. The second piece is one of Billy Strayhorn's best known, "Take the A Train." The impetus for the creation of the song was the instructions given to him when he got to New York on how to find his way. The A train runs south-north from the village through Manhattan, through both black and Spanish Harlem, and on into the Bronx.

"Chicken Feathers" is a composition by Steve Kuhn, the pianist in John Coltrane's first band, and was released in 1972. Harmonically, it allows greater "lateral" freedom in section A in that the second and third chords are related to each other and rough equivalents. The second chord of the second line permits the introduction of the major form of the IV chord. The bridge, like its swing predecessors, begins with strong cycling through secondary dominants. Overall the harmonies are more abstract, as one would expect from a composer active in bop and the styles to follow.

"Moten's Swing" is a testament to and tune by Kansas City, MO, based bandleader Benny Moten. Moten was instrumental in the shift from orchestrated rag in the style of James Europe to the more Swing-oriented music of Fletcher Henderson and later Benny Goodman. Although the two-step informs background of the head, a pioneering element that anticipates Swing music comes through clearly in the head melody--the riff.\

Composed in the 1950s, "Lullaby of Birdland" is one of British jazz pianist George Shearing's better known songs. Shearing's music combines elements from the Swing and Bop styles with influences from classical music and popular song. Shearing's actual playing technique, which involved thick pianist chord textures reminiscent of classical piano music, also often contained doublings of the melody at the lower octave, paralleling the practice of guitarists of playing in octaves.

"How High the Moon" was originally composed by Morgan Lewis for use on Broadway, but Les Paul and Mary Ford made it one of their biggest hits and one of the first to use the multi-track recording he invented. For improvisers, it is a valuable because it cycles successively downward in symmetrical models. This is a great tune for learning the neck and in shifting from the major materials and to the next key via the Dorian mode.

"Autumn Leaves" is, of course, one Johnny Mercer's most often used tunes for improvisation, though "Moon River," a collaboration with Henry Mancini, is his best known song. Despite Overplay, "Autumn Leaves" it is still a great song to spend time with! It shares with "Lullaby of Birdland" a tonal ambiguity in that it vacillates back and forth between minor and relative major (or vice versa in the case of "Lullaby").

George Gershwin wrote "But Not for Me" in 1930, with lyrics by brother Ira, for the Broadway show Girl Crazy .
It was sung first by Ginger Rogers. "Meditacion" is a bossa nova by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Though it is not as well known as other pieces, notably "Girl From Ipanema," it contains the same time of progressive harmonies.

"I Hear a Rhapsody" became a jazz standard with renditions by Tal Farlow, George Shearing, the Duke Ellington Orchestra and, most notably, John Coltrane, but it actually was a cross-over from the popular music charts. It was composed, words and music, by George Fragos, Jack Baker, and Dick Gasparre in 1941, and it became a number one single in its first recording by Tommy Dorsey. Versions by Charlie Barnet and Dinah Shore were also released the same year. Frank Sinatra covered it in 1952, the same year Fritz Lang used it in his film noir, Clash by Night, a love triangle starring Barbara Stanwyck. The song in the film featured Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins on alto and tenor saxes, respectively.

"Girl from Ipanema" was the bossa nova by Antonio Carlos Jobim that simply overtook and them overwhelmed the American public in the early 1960s. The saxophone solo on the original was played by Stan Getz, though the lead is basically a repeat of the melody.

"Deep Purple" was originally composed as a piano solo by Peter DeRose in 1933, and was picked up and arranged for big band by Paul Whiteman. The sales of sheet music were so overwhelming that Mitchell Parish add ed lyrics in 1938. It has been covered since, with hits versions as late as 1963, when it was Nono Tempo and April Stevens won a Grammy for it. A perennial favorite that needs no introduction is Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing."

"Softly as a Morning Sunrise"
featured lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and lyrics by Sigmund Romberg. If was composed for the musical New Moon (1928), which flopped immediately after its debut. "Softly" and the title song "New Moon," slated for the original production but never included, were reworked and became hit songs.

"Kessel Bop" isn't the real name of this tune. I heard it on an old Barney Kessel recording and just absorbed by ear without learning it's name or composer. It has an internal line descending chromatic line A-G#-G-F#-F-E in the first section that causes a key change in each measure.

Miles Davis' "Four" starts on pretty standard progression (I-V/IV-IV-iv) that conceals an internal chromatic descending line. Then, true to bop influences, modulates briefly in the middle up one half-step. It is not the kind of change you can fake through, and not paying attention can be a train wreck!

I just don't seem to be able to stop pickin', and that includes standards like "All of Me."