Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Most Important Jazz Guitar Recording of All Time

I purchased my copy of the "Penguin Guide to Jazz" in 1996. It was the 1994 edition. At the time I was compiling a CD collection of jazz recordings and I used this book to find out what the most classic jazz albums were. The book is defined as follows by Wiki:
The Penguin Guide to Jazz is a reference work containing an encyclopedic directory of jazz recordings on CD which are currently available in Europe or the United States. The first nine editions were compiled by Richard Cook and Brian Morton, two well known chroniclers of jazz resident in the United Kingdom.
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings is now firmly established as the world's leading guide to recorded jazz and the 10th edition appeared in 2010. Reviewing over 11,000 CDs, some 200 of them have been selected as the "Core Collection", "a basic library of jazz records which readers on a budget or those who wish for only a small holding of jazz CDs might consider as their first-priority purchases". So basically, these albums are considered the most essential jazz recordings.

I could not find the 2010 list but click here for the complete core collection list of the 2008 edition.

Of course, interesting for us jazz guitarists is which jazz guitar recordings are seen as essential enough to appear in the core collection. Well, the answer is a bit disappointing: not that many. Few jazz guitar recordings are seen as important enough to make it to this list. I only found 6 recordings by guitarists:
  • Wes Montgomery: "The incredible Jazz Guitar of"
  • John Scofield: "Quiet"
  • Joe Pass: "Virtuoso" (1973)
  • Grant Green: "The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clarke"
  • Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden: "Beyond the Missouri Sky"
  • Kenny Burrell: "Ellington Forever"
Depending on the edition, the core selection varies a bit over the years but Wes and Joe always seem to make it to it. Surprisingly, Django was not on the 2008 list. My two favourites of this list are "Incredible Jazz Guitar" and "Virtuoso." But there is no doubt in my mind that Wes' "Incredible Jazz Guitar" is the most essential one of the essential jazz guitar ones in the core collection. So here it is for you to listen to. The most important jazz guitar album of all time? There's certainly a number of arguments to be made for this album. But it remains a debatable issue.

Let's play some Joe Cohn

Let's play some Joe Cohn. Here's a transcription with Tabs that was done by Paul Mitchell Brown. The track is from the 2004 valbum "Cool" by the Jay Leonhart Trio. The album was recorded in the drummerless trio format that I dig so much. Joe Cohn is fantastic throughout.

Here's Joe's solo on "Nobody Else but Me". Thanks Paul!

And here's a full playlist for the album on Spotify:

Two Funky People

In an earlier post I mentioned this album as a personal favourite. Time to pay some more attention to this great jazz guitar recording and share a playlist of it. In 1997 "Two Funky People" was actually Joe Cohn's (son of tenor saxophonist Al Cohn) debut album. He chose to record it with fellow jazz guitar great Doug Raney. Like on the previous two guitar date I wrote about (Windflower with Herb Ellis and Rermo Palmier), Doug gets as much space as Joe. The result is a very enjoyable beboppish jazz guitar recording.

Joe Cohn - Guitar
Doug Raney - Guitar
Dennis Irwin - Bass
Barry Ries - Drums

Here's what David Adler wrote about the album:
Guitarist Joe Cohn is the prodigiously talented son of famed tenor saxophonist Al Cohn. Some may find it odd that on his debut recording fellow guitarist Doug Raney appears alongside him on many of the tracks. The two-guitar format is somewhat reminiscent of Joe Pass's recordings with rhythm guitarist John Pisano, although here Raney is quite prominent throughout as a solo voice. Telling the two guitarists apart will in fact require a good deal of concentration on the part of most listeners. In general, Cohn is the faster and more rhythmically adventurous of the two; his tone is brighter and more dry than Raney's. One would have hoped for more of a Joe Cohn showcase rather than a date on which another guitarist, a second "funky person," practically shares top billing. That said, both Cohn and Raney are fantastic straight-ahead players and they make beautiful music together, aided byDennis Irwin on bass and Barry Ries on drums. Four of the tracks are seldom-played gems by Al Cohn, including the title track. Another, "Motion," is by Doug Raney's famous father, Jimmy Raney. (Perhaps it is the famous dads connection that brought these two together.) Other tracks include the classics "But Not for Me," "Solar," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Ask Me Now," and "Serenata." Thad Jones's mid-tempo burner "Quite Sip" is Cohn's one trio feature, and a great one.
Listen to the album on Spotify (11 tunes):

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Some useful channels with jazz backings on the Tube

In the old days I used to play along with Band In a Box a lot. Later on I switched to the iRealbook on my iPad. These days, whenever I need a backing track, I just type in what I need in Youtube and I am very likely to find it there. Here's a few useful channels for backing tracks that sound ok. The tracks were made with Band In a Box 2014. There's a lot more backings on the Tube but somehow I keep on returning to these two. I hate midi sounds but BiaB has used samples of real instruments for a few years (Real Tracks). The guys that created these two channels use these.


Windflower Herb Ellis and Remo Palmier

Windflower is an album that Herb Ellis recorded in 1977 together with Remo Pamier. Actually Herb was the leader on this date but Remo gets as much space as he does.

This is my favourite Herb Ellis album and kind of special to me. I remember getting it from the music library in the early 1980s, taping it on cassette, and playing it over and over again in my car stereo on my way to college. I was not playing jazz at the time (and would not be doing so for over a decade) and was still in rock bands, but I loved the sound of jazz guitar already and this album was one of a few that kindled my interest in the genre.

Listening back to it today, I still think "Windflower" is a fantastic album. Herb is really playing at his strongest on this album and the interplay with Remo - a very fine player -  is superb. 

I somehow never found it available for listening on the internet - it's not on Spotify or Youtube except for a single track that I added below- but today I discovered the whole album it on Grooveshark. And the good news is you can listen to it without the annoying ads that you find on Spotify. Click here to listen to the entire album on Grooveshark. Click "play all" and enjoy some gorgeous jazz guitar sounds. To me, it's a bit like going home. 

Here's "Stardust" from the album: 

And here's a review of the album by Scott Yanow: 

"This album is most significant for being the first jazz recording in a few decades by guitarist Remo Palmier (who was also known early on as Palmieri). Fellow guitarist Herb Ellis was the leader but he gives his guest just as much solo space as he takes and, with the tasteful accompaniment of bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ron Traxler, the two old friends challenge each other on a variety of appealing chord changes including "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," "Close Your Eyes," "Walkin'" and Jobim's "Triste." The success of this boppish set led to Palmieri getting his own Concord album the following year."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ibanez FG 100 versus GB 10

I came across the video below that compares the sound of the Ibanez FG 100 to the sound of an Ibanez GB 10. The guy uses the same settings and the same amp, you can actually see him switch guitars. I think this video easily demonstrates why the FG 100 is so underestimated as a guitar. Both guitars sound fine but .... if you read all the replies you will see that most prefer the FG 100 sound wise, including the owner doing the test. You will find many vintage Ibanez lovers and especially guys selling these lawsuit Ibanez guitars raving about the 70s lawsuit Ibanez L5, the Ibanez ES 175 and the Ibanez Byrdland from that period or even the GB 10 but the vintage FG 100 from the early and mid 80s? Most people do not even know it. My guess is, the real winner may well be the one mostly ignored ... Much cheaper too. For now. Under the test video I added a clip of Bruce Forman playing an FG 100. In an earlier post about the FG 100 I added a spectacular clip of George Benson playing one. Missed it? Click here. You do want to see it. Easily the hottest jazz guitar clip on the Tube :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Joe Pass Simplicity 1967

Joe Pass recorded this gorgeous album in 1967. Though a bit on the "easy" listening side, it is a total gem. The album was beautifully recorded and Joe's guitar sound is top notch, on a par with the earlier 1960s albums "For Django" (click link for full album) and "Joy Spring." This album is not so well known as these classic titles but if you haven't heard "Simplicity" yet, you are in for a treat. The personell is:

Joe Pass – guitar
Hagood Hardy – vibes
Julian Lee – piano, organ
Bob Whitlock – bass
Colin Bailey – drums
Listen to the 11 tunes here:

Jim Hall Trio "Jazz Guitar" 1957

I have always had a soft spot for drummerless trio recordings. I have written about Tal Farlow and Billie Bean in this format earlier. I happened to come across this Pacific Jazz album on Youtube and liked it immediately. It features Jim Hall's' debut as a leader in 1957. Jim is accompanied by Red Mtichell on bass and Carl Perkins on piano. It is very much a bebop date. A lovely album with that great 1950s vintage sound. I could not help smiling when I read one of the comments under the video: "How could such a talented jazz mofo look so much like my kid's dentist?"

Track list for the album:

01. STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY (Sampson-Webb-Goodman)
02. THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE (Ellington-Mercer)
04. THANKS FOR THE MEMORY (Robin-Rainger)
05. TANGERINE (Schertzinger-Mercer)
06. STELLA BY STARLIGHT (Washington-Young)
07. 9:20 SPECIAL (E.Warren)
08. DEEP IN A DREAM (Van Heusen-Burke)
10. SEVEN COME ELEVEN (Goodman-Christian)
11. TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT (Bock-Holofcener-Weiss)

Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue

How hip can a tune be? Of course you know this one. It's one of the coolest and bluesiest jazz guitar recordings around. Great for bridging the gap between blues and jazz lovers, which Kenny so superbly does so often, especially on his classic 1963 album "Midnight Blue." Besides, this album is generally seen as a classic example of the "Blue Note" sound and the perfect "late night, neon light flashing outside of the window, cigarette smoke swirling up into nothing" record." The whole album is great and essential listening for guitarists but I will focus on how to play the title track here.

Let's first have a look at the sheet music. It's a jazz blues in the key of F. Many blue notes in the melody.
The head is not that hard to play. Here's an instructional video that tells you how to do it step by step. The exact chord names are not always stated but of course they are all derived from the vanilla changes as given in the sheet music. 

Can you play it? Now practise with this backing track. The chords used in this backing track are slightly different from the ones in the B section of the sheet music, but these work fine too:

If you want to play the entire Burrell solo here's a very helpful video with standard notation and tabs. Check it out. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pim Jacobs with Hank Mobley and Wes Montgomery

I came across this remarkable clip on Youtube. It was posted by bass player Ruud Jacobs, who was part of this classic session that was recorded for Dutch National Radio in the 1960s. Besides Ruud on bass, it features Hank Mobley on tenor, Pim Jacobs (Ruud's brother) on piano, Han Bennink on drums and Wim Overgaauw on guitar. Vintage Dutch jazz!

By the way, I take it most of you guys already know of the classic Pim Jacobs Trio recordings with Wes Montgomery in 1965. Same group basically but without Wim on guitar of course. Pretty amazing stuff.

LAG T 200 JCE electro acoustic

For a new project I needed an electro acoustic steel string guitar. My budget was limited, 700 bucks at most. I shopped around on the internet and went to a local store to try some budget electro acoustics but was very underwhelmed by the offering. I considered getting a Yamaha Silent Guitar but there was no local store around that actually carried them so I called up a Yamaha dealer in Weert and he told me that I should come over to check out this new brand that offered great value for money: LAG guitars. I had never heard of the brand. I found some demos on Youtube that sounded promising and visited their website for more info. I liked what I found so I went to Kollee Music in Weert and played an electro acoustic with cutaway (LAG T 100 ACE) that really sounded and felt great. Way better than guitars I had played that were twice the price of the LAG. Wow. It was only 399 euros. I left, seriously considering a purchase. When I revisited the LAG website again, I found out there was a Jumbo electro acoustic with a cutaway too. It looked even better than the T100 I had played at the store. So a week later I returned to Kollee Music and, by coincidence, they had received the Jumbo T200 JCE model that I had seen on the website. I picked it up and knew at once this was the one. Big, fat, deep acoustic sounds and well constructed with unexpected attention to detail. The guitar looked much more expensive than it really was (469 euro) and was vey light and responsive acoustically with a good sound balance and no dead spots on the neck. Solid cedar top, mahogany neck, back and sides. I guess the back and sides are laminate. I bought it without much further thought. I am no expert in the field of acoustics but I know a good guitar when I play one ... And, in addition, it was easily the best looking acoustic I had seen so far. It actually looks like a jazz guitar!

Here's a few clips I recorded. Though it's an electro acoustic, I miked its acoustic sound and added some reverb. I still have to record some chordal stuff. That's more what it was made for I guess. Later ...

Body and Soul


LAG T200 JCE specs:
Indonesian rosewood head with maple logo
Solid red cedar top
Mahogany back and sides with rosewood and maple binding
Mahogany neck
Indonesian rosewood fingerboard
Width at nut 1.69" (43mm)
20 medium silver nickel frets
Die-cast machine heads with "tulip" buttons
2-way truss rod
Graphite nut
Tramontane "occitane" cross rosette
Electronic StudioLâg Plus preamp & Nanoflex piezo pickup
Indonesian rosewood bridge
French Satin finish
Elixir strings
Price: 469 euro