Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Grolsch strap lock system

I bet many of you don't know it yet. But it's real easy and effective. And dirt cheap. I have to thank the Grolsch Beer company for providing the most cost effective strap lock system currently available on the market.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vintage Gibson Amp: the GA 75 Recording

It's not often hat I get the chance to play a vintage amp. However I was lucky to be able to play a 1965 one that does the jazz trick quite well. The Gibson GA 75 Recording with a 15" JBL speaker is a pretty rare bird. According to internet sources, only 74 were shipped in total from 1963-1967. It's a pretty simple amp. 25 Watts, no tremolo, no reverb, 2 channels, 6 tubes, 3 diodes.

The 15" JBL D-130 speaker makes it pretty good for jazz and bebop playing. Lots of bass response! If you turn down the treble control you really get those classic mellow jazz tones.

It's a bit heavy for my taste (heck, I usually play an 8 kilo amp) but it sure was fun playing it! Thanks for making this possible Toon!

I did some hasty takes on a few tunes (some clams!) so this is probably not my best playing but still ... You will get an idea of the sound. Totally vintage bop!


Vintage Ibanez: the FG 100

A Facebook friend of mine was selling an Ibanez FG 100 guitar and asked me to do a video on it for a potential buyer. I remember playing one years and years ago but I somehow had forgotten about it. Well, after picking it up I was immediately pleasantly surprised. It was a nice blonde and felt great right away. Plugged in, it sounded just fine. Way better than I could remember. So I bought it myself.

The body is laminated maple, the neck three piece maple and the pups are Ibanez Super 58. The guitar is comfortable to play because of its slighly smaller body but the sound is classic jazz guitar. I actually like this guitar's sound better than the 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith I owned and that was a really beautiful instrument. A used FG 100 has an execellent price/quality ratio, for, you usually see them for under a grand on the internet.

This is the guitar that George Benson used on his 1986 European Tour. There is a DVD with him on this particular model. One of the most spectacular George Benson clips on the tube features the FG 100. Listen and marvel:

My FG 100 is a 1983 model. Ibanez produced it from 1982-1987. Anyway, here I am playing this blonde beauty ... I am taking it easy on a jazz ballad after all the Benson pyrotechnics!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dutch Jazz Guitarist Vincent Koning

I bet many of you guys don't know Dutch guitarist Vincent Koning yet. Well, here you go. Vincent graduated from the Royal Conservatory in the Hague in 1997 and from the Hilversum Conservatory a year later. Inspired by Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery and Tal Farlow, he gradually found his own place in traditional jazz.

Vincent has played and recorded extensively in the Netherlands and abroad. I like his work in the drummerless trio "The Ghost, The King and I" with Rob van Bavel on piano and Frans van Geest on bass a lot. Check it out:

It's All Right with Me

You Dig

Cool trio stuff huh ...

Amazing ... Dan Axelrod playing Tal Farlow

I came across this vid by chance. Surely I must have heard of the name Dan Axelrod earlier, for it sounded kind of familiar and somehow I associated the name with jazz guitar. But I do not think I had ever heard him play. I was really surprised when I listened to the vid that was recorded in 1973. It was like listening to the 1950s Tal Farlow trio with Vinnie Burke and Eddie Costa. Dan must have been a huge Tal Farlow fan, for, he sounds remarkably like him. I had not expected to ever hear a guy play like Tal! And yet, here's this dude copying Tal when he was just 20 back in 1973. Amazing. Apparently, Dan personally knew Tal very well too.

About the video Dan wrote "The musicians playing are myself, pianist Ed Paolantonio and Dave and it's music in the style of the Tal Farlow trio with Eddie Costa and Vinnie Burke. That fact will be obvious to many. I was 20 years old at the time. Pianist Ed Paolantonio has great vitality here and Dave's line was always steady and strong Good memories ... As a footnote, shortly after this tape was made, I began using Vinnie Burke as a bassist. He lived in Orange, New Jersey and when I picked him up (he didn't own a car) he asked what kind of music will we be playing. I put this tape in my 8 track and said "stuff like this, Vinnie". He immediately replied "Where's ya find that old record of Tal and me?". When I replied "No Vinnie, that's MY group" he immediately realized he'd been hired to recreate a dream"

I'll Remember April

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jimmy Raney's solo on "Just Friends"

Here's another great solo to study. This one is by Jimmy Raney. It's the one in Aebersold volume 20. It is played by a French guy both in the original tempo and slowed down. You can find the music (standard notation and TABS) below the video. Ignore the silly music in the beginning of the vid. Solo starts at 1.05.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pat Martino's Classic Solo on "Just Friends"

Here's a classic jazz guitar solo for you to study. If you haven't already. For, there are many vids on the tube with guys playing it. It is available on the internet elsewhere but I did not come across this one with the fingerings added. So this one has TABS.

I love this solo. Classic Pat Martino. Amazingly he recorded it when he was just 22 years old. This is the one and only solo Jesse van Ruller ever transcribed and was obsessed with for a while when he was a jazz guitar student.You can read about that here 

I really need to get this one under my fingers myself. Anyway, here's the notation with tabs. It was transcribed by Jeremy Zucker a few years ago. Have fun.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Size does matter

Playing two Fender Twin Reverbs stereo in 1985. Those days are over!
I hate schlepping big amps. Traded in my Fender Twin Reverb for a Polytone Amp 16 years ago. I have been using my Polytone Mini Brute IV ever since. So the one with the 15" speaker and spring reverb. Lots of headroom, lots of bass response, lots of power. You can play any jazz gig on any stage with it. I like its classic mellow jazz guitar sound a lot. Vey sturdy and reliable. It has never let me down. 110 watts at 15 kilos. Sized 47 x 43 x 27 cm. The one to go for when headroom is required. The Polytone is a pretty small amp, but not extremely small. At least IMHO. I'm sure a rock guitarist would disagree with me here ...

But the Mambo 10 I just purchased is a lot smaller even and almost half the weight of the Polytone. You can see that in the picture. This is the one I will be using for rehearsals, jazz jams and low(er) volume gigs when headroom is less an issue and portability is. Which is often the case with me. For, I simply do not like schlepping amps around. I told you that earlier. The Mambo 10 is extremely portable but loud enough to handle most jazz situations without sounding boxy. 180 watts at just 8 kilos. Size only 30 x 30  x 25 cm. The size/weight/sound ratio is unequalled. Is it a compromise? Yes. Usually, bigger amps sound better than smaller amps. So any really small amp is a compromise. But the Mambo is tiny and still sounds good and pretty mature. And the truth is I just will not carry big amps around anymore, no matter how good they sound. Amp size DOES matter to me. A lot.

So I think my jazz amp story kind of ends here. At least for the coming years. Good enough is good enough.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jazz Guitar Night at the Crow 2013

I have been organizing "jazz guitar" nights at cafe Kraaij and Balder (the Crow) for years. Usually local jazz guitarist (and my former teacher) Herbie Guldenaar joins me with a rhythm section consisting of bass and drums. In the past other guitarists from my internet network have joined us on several occasions too.

This year's issue took place on october 25 last. Contrary to our normal routine with only one or even no rehearsals at all, we decided to do 4 rehearsals so that we could transcend the "jam session level" a bit and add a few less heard standards like Pat Martino's "Lean Years", Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring", "This I Dig", "Grooveyard"  and even an original ballad by Herbie Guldenaar. This idea proved a lot more satisfactory. What just a few rehearsals can do ...

A nice feature of the jazz concerts jams at the Crow is that they are filmed so that people can follow the live stream via the internet. The quality of the image and sound is so so, but it kind of adds a nice flavor to the shows.

I pulled off a few tracks off the live stream later so that you have an idea om what we did that night. We had a great time, that's for sure. We had local jazzers Wim Louwers on drums and Peter Krijnen on bass. There's 3 complete tunes and one compilation video. Both image and video are lofi.

                                                                   Autumn Leaves with a touch of J.S. Bach.





My new Mambo 10 amp


I have been on a quest for the best possible sounding and yet smallest amp for quite some time now. Last tuesday, I received my new Mambo 10 amp. I had been trying out a demo model for several months at home and on stage so I knew exactly what to expect. A great sounding, very small, light-weight amp with enough power (180 watts) to handle just about any jazz gig. The only difference with the demo model is that it now has an MP3 input and headphone output. You can read a review about this amp here. No need to go over the details again now.

That same night I took it to a rehearsal for the yearly jazz guitar night at the Crow and recorded a few clips with it. It sounded great. You can see and hear it in action here:

And here's another clip "I fall in Love too Easily."

I paid about 725 euro for it so it is very competitive in that field too. Quest over!

For details on this amp visit his website at:  If you want to try out the amp yourself mail Jon at:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Billy Bean in "The Trio"

Amazingly, Billy Bean sounds a lot like Pat Martino. That's not because Billy studied Pat a lot. On the contrary.  In the 1950s Billy was already playing like that. Pat listened to him! One of Billy's best albums is the drummerless trio album that he recorded in 1961 with Hal Gaylor and Walter Norris, simply called "The Trio." This is one of the greatest drummerless trio recordings ever made, on a par with Tal Farlow's 1950s trio recordings with Eddie Costa and Vinnie Burke. Essential Bean listening. Fantastic boppin'. Here's "Grooveyard" from that album. The second one is from a different album "The Trio Rediscovered." Anyway, both albums are superb.

Obscure Jazz Guitar Great Ronnie Singer

Ever heard of Ronnie Singer? I hadn't. This amazing jazz guitarist apparently committed suicide at the tender age of 24. Not much music remains. The only stuff that remain of Ronnie are old live bootlegs recorded by Jimmy Gourley in New York from the 1950’s. A few clips clips are on Youtube. Outstanding bebop playing. Can't believe I never heard of him before ....  Sad story though. It reads: "Sadly Ronnie was a big heroin addict and he and his wife committed suicide by asphixia in a gas oven when he was only 24 years old."

And: "Ronnie Singer (ca. 1929 - ca. 1953) was a Chicagoan bebop guitarist. He played with great jazz players like saxophonists Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, trumpeter Red Rodney, guitarist Jimmy Gourley, pianist Lou Levy, drummer Al Levitt, etc. He moved to New York in the late forties / early fifties to play with clarinetist and band leader Artie Shaw.... A copy of the tapes (music below) belonged to the late great bebop guitarist Jimmy Gourley (from Saint Louis, Missouri), contemporary and friend of Ronnie Singer, who considered him as his greatest influence, ahead of Jimmy Raney and Charlie Christian."

More music here:

Source: Jamie Holroyd 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some new Dutch jazz guitar vid stuff on the Tube

Howdy dudes. It's been a while. I have taken some time off to go on holiday and pursue other interests. Haven't touched my guitar in weeks. Anyway, on my return form the Alps I found some very interesting Dutch jazz guitar videos on the Tube. Finally some new stuff by the big Dutch 3.

Let's start off with Martijn van Iterson with the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw. Here's "Blue in Green" ... The sound quality is so so but a great rendition of this tune nonetheless.

And here's some classic Wim Overgaauw for you. This was recorded years ago in 1994 when Wim turned 65. The concert was recorded live in Laren at Nick Vollebregt's Jazzcafe. A number of Wim's students participated.

Wim playing "Here's that Rainy Day":

Here's "Alone Together":

And here's "These Foolish Things".

At this particular concert a number of Wim's students played too. I suspect the following track is Jesse van Ruller. Correct me if I am wrong. If it is him, he hadn't even graduated at the time. This must be one of his first recordings. He is probably not playing his Levin guitar yet. But the greatness is all there yet.

This is a fun tune with a few of his students participating:

The party isn't over yet. I discovered a full Jesse van Ruller album on Youtube. It happens to be my favourite young JvR album. I shouldn't be posting this but I trust you guys all buy his albums anyway :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Mambo Amp

Since a few weeks I have had the pleasure of playing a demo Mambo 10 Jazz Amp. Mambo Amps are the brain child of Jon Shaw. He was so kind to send one to me for a test drive. Jon has a degree in electronic engineering and designed this very portable yet powerful, high quality amp. They are hand built in the UK.

It was soon clear to me that this is a very special amp. The specs are impressive:

• cabinet size 30cm high by 30cm wide by 25cm deep (approx)
• weight 8 kg
• the loudspeaker is 10inch, 250W rms rated, 97 dB / Watt @ 1 metre sensitivity
• the power amplifier is rated at 180 W rms (continuous sine wave)

Wow. 180 watts at just 8 kilos?

The one I played was wedge shaped so that the speaker is pointing at you when you place it on the ground. A simple but effective concept and I wonder why not more amps are being built like this. This way you don't have to buy a stand that does that trick for you. And the amp looks gorgeous. Most amps are pretty ugly to look at but this one is ... cute somehow.

Mambo amps are specially designed for Jazz Guitar. Some of the benefits are stated as follows:

• very compact and portable with a warm deep tone
• powerful and loud with wide range tone controls
• built in harmonic enhancement and digital reverb
• effects loop for connecting external effects; echo, overdrive, chorus etc.
• direct output (balanced XLR)

Apart from the treble, mid and bass controls on the top panel, the rear panel features two additional switches that enable you to modify the amp's sound. There is a 2 position switch to choose the amp sound: clean or harmonic enhanced and there is a 3 position switch to choose the overall amp tone... deep, normal and bright. I liked the amp best with the 2 position switch at "clean" and the 3 position switch at "deep." The deep setting boosts lows and cuts highs by a few dB. The normal setting is fairly flat (-3dB bandwidth 50 Hz to 10 kHz) and the bright setting boosts the highs and cuts the lows considerably. When using the clean setting, the guitar volume has very little effect on harmonic content and there is more headroom.

I liked the sound best with the treble control rolled off a bit. Very woody and mellow. This is how my ES 175 sounded through it:

And when I plugged in my Tal Farlow it sounded like this:

The harmonic enhancement setting adds a spectrum of harmonics like in valve amps. The idea behind this switch is that the louder you play, the more dynamics are added. This is supposed to make the sound richer and sweeter. It´s very subtle. Anyway, I did not hear much difference at low volume levels.

So does this amp live up to its expectations? O yes. It is easy to get mellow and woody tones from it and it is extremely portable. As a matter of fact, from all the smaller amps the sound/size ratio is the best. No other amp this size sounded so good. Heck, I have played bigger ones that did not sound this good!

I took it to the Crow for a stage test and found out that louder volume settings are no problem for this little amp. You do have to tweak the sound though when the volume goes up. Otherwise it tends to get a bit trebly and boxy. But when you do that and experiment a bit, good sounds are to be had. Still, if you abolutely require lots of headroom, you probably will be more comfortable with a bigger amp or a bigger speaker cabinet. Like all small amps, the Mambo IS a compromise between size and sound. And at this, it does a really impressive job!

To conclude, this is the best sounding small amp I have played so far. It is way smaller than my Polytone (15" speaker) and considerably smaller than the Henriksen Jazz Amp 112 ER (12" speaker) that I tested earlier.  And ... it has the best reverb so far. Way better than the Henriksen and the Polytone. Here's a clip with the three amps side by side. Bear in mind that all of the amps sound better with some tweaking but I decided to record all 3 of them with all eq flat to give you an idea.

Mambo amps are being shipped worldwide. A standard 10" Mambo Amp like the one I tested costs GB£575 (approx €670, US$860). Local import taxes and shipping rates apply of course. Just email Jon for a quote. And do give him my regards!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1964 Gibson Tal Farlow

In an earlier entry I wrote about my visit to Charlee Guitars. I played some great vintage Gibson guitars there. I still had this short video clip on my hard drive that showcases the 1964 Gibson Tal Farlow that I played at the time. I finally edited it and uploaded it. What a fantastic guitar! Unfortunately the price was pretty fantastic too!

Doug Raney

For years I have been listening to Doug Raney. It has been a consistent pleasure. For a few months now I have been listening to only him in my car audio. I simply put all the albums I have of his on a USB stick and plugged it in my car system that starts up when I drive off. I like all his work, which is mostly standard oriented. Great chops, gorgeous sound, fine tunes and a Raneyesque feel that I dig so much of his father too. Very lyrical and a true contemporary jazz guitar classic. His CDs with his father and Joe Cohn belong to the best duo jazz guitar records I have heard. A personal favourite. You will find a nice cross section of his albums on Youtube. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Henriksen Jazz Amp 112 ER

I have been on a quest for a small and leightweight jazz amp for some time now. I have owned a Polytone for many years and have tried out several other amps by Ibanez, AER, ZT Amps and Roland (see other posts in my Blog). None of them struck me as better than what I have been playing for years, a Polytone Mini Brute IV.

I have been reading rave reviews of the Henriksen Jazz Amps on the internet for several years now but never had a chance to play one myself. The stores in my area do not carry them and probably would not know about it anyway. In fact, the only store in the Netherland that is importing them is Casa Benelly, which is in The Hague. I am most grateful to them for allowing me to test drive it for a few weeks and to finally enable me to write a review on it. I'd like to thank Toon Evers from Casa Benelly and Aug Oddens from Casa Benelly Import for their help.

The first thing that struck me when I unpacked it was that it was slightly bigger than I thought it would be. It is not THAT small and THAT light. I had asked for the Jazz Amp 112, which carries a 12” speaker so, as I realized quickly, it cannot be anything like the AER Alpha for example. But my old and trusted Polytone Mini Brute IV is even slightly bigger and heavier, due to its 15” speaker. The Henricksen Jazz Amp 112 ER (Extended Range) weighs 35 lbs and its size is 14" x 15 " x 13". That makes it reasonably portable but hardly the lightest and smallest amp around of course.

According to its makers, the idea behind the Henriksen Jazz Amp is that it will reproduce your guitar’s sound faithfully. The presumption is that the amp should only make the sound louder but not alter it. Therefore the conventional tone circuitry has been eliminated completely and instead a 5 band graphic EQ was added, not to color the tone but simply to adjust the amp to the environment the guitar is played in. You can increase or decrease any of the 5 bands by 10DB. It is claimed the EQ does not affect frequencies outside its band so that the amp remains “un-toned.” Well, I did not really measure this of course so how true this is I will leave up to more technical reviewers.

The ER in this model stands for “Extended Range.” The 5 band EQ goes from 100 to 10Khz, due to the fact that it carries a Tweeter (that you can switch on and off by the way). This makes it the most versatile amp in the Henriksen range of models. You can even play a string bass or flattop through it, switching the Tweeter on or off according to the required sound range.

It’s a simple amp. It has a 5 band EQ, an input, a line out, a, Tweeter and reverb (with on/off switch) and an extension speaker jack. The fewer knobs, the better in my book. The reverb is so so by the way but good enough for me.

Now to the crucial question. What does it sound like? First of all, I liked the sound best when the amp was placed on the ground. You get a much better bass response then. With all EQ flat the sound from this amp is … well, classic. You get deep lows and a warm and mellow sound easily. At home getting a fantastic tone  is absolutely just a matter of plugging in. Probably the best jazz sounds I have gotten so far from my guitars. I never seriously used any EQ by the way, nor did I switch on the Tweeter. I do not like tweaking sounds. In the next video I am playing "Love for Sale" through it using the line-out:

I took it to the Crow for a jam session and there I did have to tweak the sound a bit to cut through. But the amp had no problem whatsoever with the higher volume. It shouldn’t because it is said to deliver 120 watts. Still, you will need to experiment a bit with the EQ settings to adjust to the room and to retain the amp's mellowness. Because I did not have time to properly experiment in different live situations, I kind of preferred the sounds I heard at home but I am sure louder gigs are no problem for this amp and if you take the time to experiment with the EQ it WILL work on any stage. I am not sure the Henriksen beats my Polytone in louder settings though. 

By the way, the line-out is very practical when there is a sound system around. It works great and delivers a tone, actually more or less like the speaker does. Warm and mellow. Listen:

So do I like this amp? Heck, yes! Especially for those that seek a classic and mellow jazz guitar tone from a smaller combo amp that can handle most stages, this might be a really attractive and affordable alternative. In my quest until now, the Henriksen Jazz Amp 112 ER definitely takes the top position sound wise in lower volume settings. It just sounds sweet and lovely. In the following clip I recorded my Gibson Tal Farlow through the amp with my camcorder standing a few meters from the speaker. The vid shows 3 improvisations on the progressions of "Body and Soul", a "Minor blues" and "Tangerine." It's a bit lofi but I think the vid gives a good idea what it sounds like.

You can compare the Henriksen with my Polytone in this clip of "Pent Up House", which was recorded in the same way. I find the sounds not totally different but you have to bear in mind that my Polytone has a 15" speaker whereas the Henriksen carries a 12" one!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Interview with Joe Giglio

I have known NYC based jazz guitarist Joe Giglio for years. A great guitarist and ... a really nice and funny guy to boot. I first got to know about him via newsgroups but,  more recently, I have followed him as a Facebook friend. Joe has several CDs out and writes a monthly column for Just Jazz Guitar Magazine. But let's first hear him bop out on a live take of "Donna Lee."

Do you make a living playing and teaching jazz guitar?

Yes I do. Over the years the balance between gigging & teaching has shifted a few times. In the early 1990s it was 50-50; now it is 85% teaching & 15% gigging.

Do you prefer one to the other?

I truly love them both. My ideal balance would be 10 engaging students, & 3 appropriate-paying gigs. I wouldn’t mind if one of those gigs was a little more varied than the typical jazz gig, as I like playing rootsy music of many types.

How long have you been playing guitar and at what age did you first get into guitar playing?

It has been 40+ years of playing, beginning at age 10. Prior to that I played the Tennis Racquet, the Piano, the French Horn, & the Tennis Racquet.

Was it jazz right from the start?

Not really. It was: Elvis, Ricky Nelson, The Beach Boys/Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, & then: ‘Ascension’ by John Coltrane-‘Forrest Flower’ by Charles Lloyd. ‘Message From Birdland’ by Maynard Ferguson, ‘Cello Debut at The Renaissance’ by Red Mitchell-feat. Jom Hall, John Handy Quintet Live at Monterey. Then it was ‘Jazz-Rock’ (still my favorite) wit the likes of Miles Davis, Gary Burton, Tony Williams Lifetime, The Blues Project, etc…

Did you have any formal education in jazz?

Yes. I have a Masters Degree from Purchase College in Jazz Performance. I also studied intensively with pianist Sal Mosca which was much more stringent than music school, I must say.

Do you recall a particular practice routine when you were a jazz guitar student?

I had several. There was the famous OCD Routine, whereby I would get up at 8am & practice everything I could think of until Noon, Then at 1pm I would practice everything I could think of until 6pm, then I would practice extra technique exercises (scales, picking, arpeggios, etc), while watching TV from 8-10pm. Needed meds BADLY!

A more sane routine was 45 minutes of scales/arps/picking exercises, with varying metronome settings, including some polyrhythm stuff; 45 minutes of reading anything/everything; two hours of tunes-learning them & improvising; then later if I had time I would learn solos by singing them & down the road a bit, I would learn them on the guitar &/or notate them

Which jazz guitarists had an influence on your playing?

All of them: good & bad. Mostly though it was: Jim Hall/Wes Montgomery/Larry Coryell/Joe Pass/Grant Green/Pat Martino.

When and where did you start gigging?

I was 12 years old-The Davenport Beach & Tennis Club-we played songs by Cream, The Seeds, The Beatles, The Stones, B.B. King – BADLY!

When did you start singing and how does the combination work?

I started singing I am told, at age 3, & never stopped. I love singing as much as guitar playing & that is a whole whopping lot! I enjoy the combination of playing & singing very much – it is truly my winning combination!

And when did you start composing?

I began composing at age 12 – in a juvenile way I am sure. By age 16 I was writing some memorable songs, 2 of which I still play. Once I started playing Jazz my composing became mostly instrumental.

I know you live in Manhattan. What is it like living and playing in the jazz capital of the world? The competition must be fierce …

It is amazing & horrible. Amazing in that I can play with some of the world’s best musicians – horrible in that there are very few gigs. NYC is so expensive at this point that a trip to the grocery market is like going to Tiffany. Regarding the competition, for me it is like this: I don’t compete in the traditional sense-fortunately I have matured out of that. The fact is though, that with NYC being mistakenly thought of as a Music Mecca, everyone comes here to make it, & those people are willing to play for free, or actually will ‘pay to play’. They also are willing to teach for peanuts. Most are supported by parents back home, & live in apartments with many roommates. That is the competition. It is not musical, it is simply a matter of a body count.

Could you highlight some milestones in your jazz career?

This is one-Thank You Dick! :) Playing with the worlds best Jazz Guitarists/Bassists for 8+ years every week at 107WEST, was certainly a big highlight. Playing formal concerts with Bucky Pizzarelli, my 1st gig with Joe Puma, my 1st ever Jazz gig at ‘Vesuvio’ in NewPaltz- NY, playing with trumpet legend Joe Wilder, are some…

What recordings that you made do you like especially?

‘Sound Scape’ – duo with Saxophonist Jimmy Halperin; & ‘Rainbow Shards’ – duo with Guitarist Joe Diorio, are two that I really like.

Love for Sal (with Jimmy Halperin)
The Days of Wine and Roses  (With Joe Diorio)

You have played with so many big names. Any anecdotes or stories you would like to share?

Trombonists leave disgusting pools of spit on the bandstand…

Your Top 5 jazz guitar albums are … ?

‘Intercontinental’ – Joe Pass; ‘Live’ – Pat Martino; ‘The Wes Montgomery Trio’ – Wes Montgomery; ‘Where Would I Be’ – Jim Hall; ‘The Bridge’ – Sonny Rollins (w/Jim Hall).

What gear are you currently using (amps, guitars)?

I mostly play a ‘Forshage Ergo’, which is a headless semi-hollow electric; a 1970 Gibson ES-330-Longneck (heavily modified); a G&L ASAT-Blues Boy. Amp-wise I alternate between a Polytone ‘Mega Brute’ & a ZT ‘Lunch Box’. I also employ Korg ‘Pandora’ & Zoom multi-effects units.

What is your approach to teaching jazz guitar?

I make sure that a student is a good ‘guitarist’ first, then we learn about melody, harmony, phrasing, comping, singing-transcribing.

What educational “path” would you recommend to an aspiring bop guitarist?

Don’t go to music college unless you are wealthy or have a full scholarship. It is impossible to pay back those massive student loans working as a musician.

I suggest finding a great teacher, a low-stress-non-music-part-time job. Practicing a whole lot, jamming-sitting in, at every opportunity, attending as many live jazz performances as possible. Eat well, exercise, visit art museum & libraries, read good books, stay away from FaceBook for the most part, don’t text while driving, biking, hiking or walking, get 8+ hours of sleep, don’t get married & have children…

What music are you listening to today (guitarists or non-guitarists)?

Andy Bey, Bill Frisell, Art Tatum, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Joe Venuti & Zoot Sims, Lenny Breau, Bessie Smith (Playlist #1 on my iphone)

What is your favourite jazz guitar place on the internet?

On YouTube I often happily visit: ‘MrBebopguitar (a.k.a. Dutchbopper or Jazzerman)’.

Your favorite YouTube jazz guitar vid?

Every Ted Greene video…

Who are your favourite European jazz guitar players?

Dan Johnson, Dan Martin, Trefor Owen, & Andy Hulme from the UK. Bireli Lagrene, Dick Onstenk, Fabio Pianigiani from Siena, Eddie Palermo from Rome, Jonny Johansson from Sweden & The Bronx…

Any future plans we should know about?

I plan to keep on keepin’ on…!

Thanks Joe!

Thank You Dick!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gear Talk

Regularly I get questions about strings, picks, amps and guitars etc. So it's time to do a Blog entry on what I have been using over the last years so I can refer to this page when confronted with yet another question on what strings or amp I use ....  Gear wise, the last years have been pretty consistent. I am not one to change frequently.

Let's start off with the guitars. A number of you will know them already, especially my Facebook friends. Here's the trio that I have been using since the mid 2000s.

Tal Farlow, ES 175, ES 350t
So guitar wise, I tend to prefer laminate Gibson guitars. Yeah, to my ears these guitars reproduce pretty much the classic bebop sounds that I hear on my favourite jazz guitar recordings by Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney, Rene Thomas etc. You can hear and see these guitars in many of my vids and I have written on the Tal Farlow and the ES 175 earlier here and here. No need to elaborate on them now.

The amp I have been using since 1997 is a Polytone Mini Brute IV with a 15" speaker. It is a pretty classic sounding jazz amp with great headroom and bass reflex because of its 15" speaker. I would love to get the same sound from a smaller and lighter amp though. So lately I have been trying out some other models like the AER Alpha and the ZT Club but I must admit I haven't met anything significantly better yet. Still have to try out some though. To be continued.

Here's a short chord melody that I recorded the other day playing through the Polytone :

My string story is pretty boring. In the mid 90s I equipped my first archtop with d' Addario Chromes, liked what I heard and never changed. D'Addario Chromes have been a good sounding, reliable and durable choice ever since. A set will last for at least a year. I don't have sweaty hands and I do not gig a lot. The only reason I have for changing a set is that I will get intonation problems after a year (or two). The Tal Farlow and ES 175 carry 0.12 sets and the ES 350t (a thinline model) is equipped with a 0.11 set. I see no reason whatsoever to even try out other brands.

The pick story is a Dunlop one. I tend to prefer the Dunlop Jazz I pick. It is the thinnest one in the jazz series with 1.10 mm gauge. You have them in red and black. The Jazz II is thicker (1.18 mm) and the Jazz III (1.38 mm) is the stiffest one. I know the Jazz III is the most popular one in the series but I seem to prefer the I because it is just a bit more flexible. What I like about these picks is the even and mellow tone you get. I have used Dunlop Stubbies in various gauges too but I don't really like the sound of these (though they play great). The Jazz series is available in XL sizes too but I find the bigger size not very comfortable. I kind of like the Jazz I best when the tip is worn a bit so that it looks more rounded. I sometimes use a file to "age" them artificially.

When recording vids I often use a POD 2.0. You can find an entry on it here. Recording is a whole different ball game.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Blast from the Past

Over the years I have owned, sold and traded in a number of jazz guitars. Some were cheap, others not so cheap. I always bought them used. Never bought a new one. Guitars came and went. I no longer own any of the guitars listed below but it's kind of fun to look back on what I used to own for a while ... The order in which I present these guitars is not strictly chronological. The playing in the vids is pretty old so not always representative of where I am now (hopefully). All of these models (except the Gibson ES 335 of course) are out of production nowadays. A guitar blast from the past!

early 1990s Aria Pro II Fa 70

I remember buying my first used archtop in the early 1990s. I don't have a picture of it anymore but, after some research, I think it must have been an Aria Pro II FA 70. I found this pic on the internet and it is the exact guitar I once owned, even in the same finish. It had an ugly pointy headstock but was a nice enough guitar. I played it for a couple of years and took my first jazz guitar lessons on it.

Action ES 175 copy

A few years later I came across an ES 175 copy with the brand name "Action" on the headstock. It was cheap so I bought it and replaced the neck pup with a Gibson humbucker. I had the headstock oversprayed because I did not want to be seen with a guitar under the obscure "Action" brand name :)

My first "quality" jazz instrument was a 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith (model 2461 BS). I bought it for my 40th birthday back in 1998. It was a very beautiful and well built guitar. I  was never comfortable with the tinny sound of the floating pups though. Like the 70s Ibanez L5 guitar (model 2471 NT) , the Ibanez Johnny Smith has a laminate top. You still see guys selling these "golden age" Ibanez clones as "better than the original" but you have to take that with a grain of salt. I mean, we are talking about laminate copies of carved Gibson guitars so do not expect them to sound like the original. Still, the JS was a remarkable instrument with a pretty big acoustic tone. I traded it on on a Gibson ES 175 in the mid 2000s. Later I noticed it was sold in that same store at a price that was higher than that of the 175 I had traded it in on and at over twice (!) my trade in value. It seems these 1970s lawsuit Ibanez archtops have mythical qualities to some but I think they may be overrated just a bit ...

1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith (2461 BS)

I think I got this Cort ES 335 in the late 90s. Anyway, it was my first thinline archtop. Not sure when I  sold it again ... It was ok I guess but I don't think it made that strong an impression on me.

Cort ES 335

The early 80s Yamaha AE 2000 that I purchased in the late 90s was my first high end guitar with a carved top. It was Yamaha's top of the line jazz archtop from 1978 onwards until well in the 1990s and pretty expensive. Excellent guitar, modelled after the Gibson L5. I liked it so much that I bought another one a few years later. In the first pic you can see the first one. I had to replace the pickguard on that one. The second pic shows the AE 2000 that I bought a few years later. Joe Beck, Martin Taylor and Bireli Lagrene all played the AE 2000 for a while. Later in the 1980s, Yamaha started producing this model as laminates under different model names. My AE 2000s were outstanding guitars, both of them, but in the end I preferred the classic sound of Gibson laminate guitars and I sold them or traded them in.

early 80s Yamaha AE 2000

late 1980s Yamaha AE 2000

Here's Bireli playing a similar Yamaha:

And here's a sound sample of me playing it. At the time I must have been studying Joe Pass for there are quite a few Pass licks in it.

The next pic is of a Samick L5 style (model HJ 650) that I bought just because it was inexpensive. A really nice El Cheapo jazzbox. I liked the tobacco brown finish a lot and the sound was more than decent. Great value for money.

Samick HJ 650

Here's a lengthy "Stolen Moments"that I recorded long ago on the Samick Hj 650. Noodling alert! The things you find on your hard drive ...

I remember trading an acoustic guitar for this 1970s Aria Pro II PE 180 guitar. It proved to be a very enjoyable instrument. It had a big fat chunky neck but a very decent sound. And it looked like a million bucks! I think Robert Conti endorsed one of these equipped with a Charlie Christian pup for a while somewhere in his career.

Late 1970s Aria Pro II PE 180

Here's an old clip of me playing this guitar years ago. The tune is "I cover the Waterfront." Recorded with a cheap webcam because that's how I recorded back then. Not sure I should have sold this one though ...

And here's Robert Conti playing his in 1986:

Next guitar. I think I purchased this Gibson ES 335 somewhere in the mid 2000s. It was a 1987 model. Very comfortable to play and sounding good for bebop. It did not own it for a very long time but did use it for a few gigs and a number of videos. Later on I traded it in on a Gibson ES 350t that sounded a big "bigger" to my ears. But it was a nice guitar.

1987 Gibson ES 335

Here's a clip of the ES 335 "Triste":

In 1998 I purchased my first vintage Gibson archtop. It was a 1951 ES 125. I always enjoyed that one and I recorded many vids with it. I think it had the best sound of all the guitars that had owned until that time. Well, most of you guys will know this model anyway. I think this guitar paved the way to me finally settling down to the classic Gibson sounds of the ES 175, the ES 350 and the Tal Farlow in the mid 2000s. I probably would have kept it but at some time I simply did not want to own more than 3 guitars anymore.

1951 Gibson ES 125

And, to conclude, here's a take on "Tangerine" with the 125: