Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ted Greene

The first time I learned about Ted Greene was when I visited the music department of a library. It must have been in the late 70s or early 80s. I came across a guitar book that blew me away. The title was " Chord Chemistry" and on the cover there was this long haired bearded guy with spectacles holding an electric guitar. I was puzzled. A book by a jazz guitarist that looked like a Woodstock hippy? The book was very intimidating. I was a young rock guitar kid and  had never seen so many chords at one time. Most of the chord names and shapes I did not know. It all looked like all this was from another planet. The names of the chords sure did. WTF was this? It was to take many, many years before I returned to the book.

Ted Greene is one of those forgotten jazz heroes that has acquired a cult status among jazz guitar fans. Though a a heart attack claimed his life on July 23, 2005, he continues to teach through his books, videos, and lesson guides. Many of these are posted on his official website. You can download tons of his material there. Highly recommended. The man was a genius. On Youtube you will find lots of live videos and transcriptions too.

Ted began playing the guitar at the age of 11 and was an accomplished player while still in high school. He played with local R&B and Blues Rock groups. He briefly studied accounting at California State Northridge, but dropped out to devote his life to music.

While he is often regarded as a jazz musician these days, he actually played many musical styles. Among local players, he was mostly known as a music educator, which included private teaching, seminars at the Guitar Institute of Technology, columns for Guitar Player magazine and his series of instructional books on guitar harmony, chord melody and single-note soloing. He wrote four books on the subject of jazz guitar performance and theory: Chord Chemistry, Modern Chord Progressions: Jazz and Classical Voicings for Guitar, and the two-volume Jazz Guitar: Single Note Soloing.

He would also make occasional live appearances at clubs in the San Fernando Valley, usually playing a Fender Telecaster. Ted had a very nice collection of vintage guitars, among which many vintage Telecasters.Ted typically worked as a vocal accompanist, which he preferred because he found group settings restrictive. While he was a sought-after session player, he derived much of his income from tutoring. 

His playing style included techniques such as harp-like harmonic arpeggios, combined with gentle, tasteful neck vibrato, creating a "shimmer" to his sound. Other notable techniques included playing songs with a "walking bass" line with simultaneous melodies. Greene often used counterpoint to improvise. Below is an example of these techniques. The track is "Danny Boy" (1977).

He used a large variety of chord voicings, often creating the effect of two simultaneous players. He recorded one album, Solo Guitar, in 1977, and although respected by guitarists, he was not well known to the public. The recording, originally released in 1977 on PMP Records, contains no "over dubbing" (recording on multiple tracks). Here's another example: "Send in the Clowns." (1977). Notice the ending "classical style."

Personally, I don't think solo jazz guitar playing can be prettier than this. Just gorgeous.  Surely, a master at work. There is an entire playlist on Youtube of the 1977 album "Solo Guitar" the above tracks are from. Click here to listen to the entire album. So pretty ...


  1. Nice article, thank you for sharing about Ted to your readers. all the best
    Tim Lerch

  2. Hi DB, at this moment i'm listening to "Solo Guitar" from Ted Greene, thanks to Spotify, and i love it!
    Thnx for the article. Grt, Frank