Saturday, November 3, 2012

How did I end up playing jazz? 

late 70s

Like so many of my peers, I wasn't born a jazz guitarist. I got my first steel string guitar when I was about 12 years old. My first electric a few years later. Growing up in the 70s I was listening to the pop, blues and rock music of the day, like most of my friends. I figured out most of the licks I heard on records by ear and I started playing blues and rock myself in my bedroom.

In the mid seventies I was guitarist in the backing band of a youth church choir. From 1977 onwards I was in various rock and pop bands. In the eighties that continued until I quit pop music in 1985.

Probably somewhere in the mid seventies I heard Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis playing jazz on a guitar and I liked that immediately. But the sounds were so different from what I was used to and it seemed so hard to play to me that the thought of playing that myself simply never entered my mind. Apart from some occasional exposure on tv, jazz was still far away.

In the early eigthies I started taping a few vinyl jazz guitar records from the music library and I used to play the albums over and over again in the cassette player of my car. Two albums by Herb Ellis and Remo Palmier come to mind. Here's "Side Track" from the 1977 album "Remo Palmier."

Herb Ellis and Remo Palmier "Windflower"
Remo Palmier "Remo Palmier"

I just loved the mellow sounds and the easy jazz swing. Still dig these albums nowadays. They changed my perspective on the guitar completely. I borrowed some jazz guitar books and Aebersold playalongs and I went off on my own for a few years. Nothing spectacular happened though for over 10 years. I took some lessons at the local music school, learned some classical guitar and a little jazz, embraced fingerpicking but I did not play out much. Musically I was a jack of all trades, dabbling in many styles. In the early 90s I built up a jazz cd collection with lots of jazz guitar in it and decided it was time for a more focused approach on my now firmly established jazz preference.

My first jazz guitar lesson was with Herbie Guldenaar. It must have been in 1995 or so. I had just purchased my first archtop guitar. Herbie was the only guitarist in the area that I knew of that played jazz.

Herbie Guldenaar
His playing blew me away and I took a dozen or so lessons with him over a longer period of time. He was the one that introduced me to jazz theory, scales, arps and playing chord melodies. Just what I needed to get off my lazy ass. He got me seriously studying the instrument. Since those days we have played many times together. He's a good friend.

In the mid nineties I contacted other jazz musicians and started jamming with them. I went to a few summer jazz workshops and met more people. Started playing in a jazz quintet and later organized jazz sessions at a local bar that I dubbed "the Crow." With some friends I organized jam sessions and concerts there under the name "jazz at the Crow."

And then there was the event of the internet. I discovered an internet jazz guitar newgroup RMMGJ and started discussing jazz guitar, posting clips of myself and the jams at the Crow and finding out about other players. It was a very inspirational time. Lots of heated discussions too.

But nothing lasts forever. After about 10 years of intense jazz life I left the local jazz scene following some disappointing experiences. Also, I came to the conclusion that the typical commercial jazz gig was not for me. It usually meant serving as musical wallpaper while others are talking or eating and I can do without that. I am not in it for the money. But at the Crow I had jammed with many Dutch jazz greats (Jesse van Ruller, Anton Goudsmit, Yuri Honing, Tony Overwater, Ferdinand Povel, Eric Vloeimans, Hans Dulfer, Ton Engels, Harry Emmery, Hans Mantel etc.) and had learned a lot. The Jazz Guitar Night at the Crow had become a yearly tradition.

With jazz greats Harry Emmery and Ton Engels at the Crow
These days I mostly play at home and record my vids and discuss jazz on Facebook. Still, the occasional gig is likely to see me on some stage again. And of course the virtual stages of Facebook, Fandalism and Youtube have me playing night and day anyway.

The fun continues.


1 comment:

  1. In 2010 I first came across you on YT. I watched every video you had many times over. I followed up by buying several of the books and Aebersold's you used and researched many of the jazz standards you played. I have been tirelessly learning scales,arps and changes ever since. I have a long way to go but at least Im on the path. I can honestly say that this shit is every bit as hard as I thought it would be. But also very rewarding. Thanks for the inspiration:)