Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dutchbopper unplugged

Over a year ago I started to play in an acoustic trio so I got an inexpensive steel string, a LAG T 200 JCE. I wrote about it earlier here. The trio went nowhere so after a few months the guitar ended up in its case. However, every once in a while I pick it up and play some jazz on it. I'm not a Manouche player at all - nor do I aspire to be one - but it's cool to see how an acoustic tone works great in a bebop or swing style too. You get that gypsy vibe pretty quickly too. Love the percussive attack of the steel string. This morning I let the camera run for a while when I was going through a few standards over gypsy backings and I selected a few clips to post here. I recorded the guitar with a consenser mike and added a big fat reverb. Dutchbopper unplugged!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The New Mambo 10 amp

By Jack Zucker

I just received the new model Mambo 10 wedge amplifier. In case you're not familiar with this amplifier, this is an extremely light weight, class D guitar amplifier expressly designed for jazz and fusion guitar and made in the UK.

Recently, Mambo redesigned the preamp so that it's switchable between a Fender tonestack (modeled after a BF Showman) and the standard bandaxall tonestack (ala Polytone). This gives you the best of both worlds. It allows you to get sounds like vintage Joe Pass (Joy Spring album) in bandaxall mode and bright smooth jazz sounds like George Benson in Fender mode. Additionally, I have found that the Fender mode makes this amp sound suitable for pop music and fusion tones (using a pedal). For jazz, a hollowbody guitar and a cable is all you need. It sounds great with my semihollow guitar as well as my full hollowbody archtop. For fusion, I plug my guitar into a Wilson effects lotus-drive and get a very sweet fusion tone ala Robben Ford.

With the current exchange rate, the £715 price exchanges to $1075 USD. Shipping was under $50. It's well worth it IMO. I have tried just about every jazz guitar amp on the market. With the Fender tone stack update, this amp is now the most versatile SS jazz amp on the market.

It's got an abundance of headroom. I have used it in jazz trio situations, quintets, 2 guitar quartets, fusion and pop stuff and it sounds great in every situation. It's small enough that I can easily carry it with one hand to a gig and I don't have to carry a separate reverb pedal.

The amp is very light weight and the tone is clear and full and warm. It doesn't sound like a tube amp but for an SS amp, I'm not sure how you can get anything better than this.

The Mambo 10 comes in a head form factor as well. There is an 8" version for those of you who ride the subway to gigs but the 10" version is so small and light I'd recommend it over the 8" unless you really, really need the smaller size.


  • 180 W rms 
  • balanced XLR direct output (DI)
  • effects loop
  • great sounding 24 bit digital reverb, with depth and delay-time controls
  • hand-made Scandinavian birch ply cabinet
  • line level input (mini jack) for MP3 / CD
  • sounds even better through an open back external cab
  • weight only 15 lbs


  • Small cab needs a little bit of distance between it and the player to sound optimal
  • Doesn't sound like a tube amp (neither does any other non-modeling SS amp, IMO)

I'll be doing some clips with it on Youtube coming up. Tune into my Youtube channel for updates.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions. I'm not affiliated with Mambo amps so I apologize in advance if my replies are not as speedy as you like.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Shredding Cherokee

I came across some bebop transcriptions on Silvano Romano's Youtube page. Interestingly he has chosen to transcribe a few demanding bop solos on fast tempi by some real chops monsters. There's two solos by Andreas Oberg on "Cherokee" (one from his debut album I wrote about earlier here on the changes of "Cherokee" in a tune he called "My kind of Bebop), a chord solo by the incredible Eddy Palermo, an older one by Joe Pass ("Limehouse Blues from "For Django") and one by Jimmy Rosenberg. The videos all offer standard notation and tabs but the PDFs can be obtained too from his website. Anyway, if you would like to study some genuine bebop shredding on "Cherokee", the Oberg solos are great. You should watch the vids in best quality for the notation to be readable.

If one solo on "Cherokee" is not enough, here's another one by Oberg on that bop warhorse from some live take.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Interview with Jack Zucker

Though we have never met in person, it feels like I have known Jack for ages. And indeed, it must have been at least 15 years ago since I first noticed his posts on a jazz guitar forum. While I was still pretty much a jazz rookie and studying my ass off at the time, Jack was already playing great. His chops have always been impressive and what I dig especially about his playing is his strong time feel and modern concept.

Over the years Jack has always kept a strong internet presence. He has produced over 250 gear and musical videos and video lessons, published his own jazz guitar method and has been around on many fora to discuss all things jazz guitar. In doing so, his opinions have always been strong and he was never afraid to state them.

Over the last years we have discussed guitars privately many a time and we often have a good laugh about certain proceedings on the internet fora ... Jack's been a good jazz guitar friend for years and therefore an inteview is long overdue! Here we go.

At what age did you pick up the guitar?

I started playing guitar at age 14. I had played bass for several years but when the guys in the rock band I played for left their guitars at my house, and because I was inspired by Jimi Hendrix’ Little Wing, I started playing guitar. Little Wing was the first tune I ever learned off a record.

When did you become interested in jazz?

My dad was a jazz musician but he wasn’t pushy about it. He always gave me space and let me “come around” on my own. At some point, I decided to learn some jazz just to help my technique. I thought it would give my rock guitar a unique approach. I found a copy of Barney Kessel’s “To Swing or not to Swing” and began transcribing “Begin the blues” which was an ode to Charlie Christian. Later I began transcribing Charlie with Benny Goodman.

After learning that, I started investigating who had listened to Charlie Christian and I came to Wes Montgomery and then started listening to his peers such as Kenny Burrell and Joe Pass and later discovered George Benson and then Pat Martino.

Could you tell us something about your jazz guitar journey. With whom did you study? What books did you use?

After starting to copy the players listed above, my dad thought I should study formally so I started studying with local DC players Charlie Cliff Jr, Ken Verano, Bill Biesecker, Fred Chapin, Rick Whitehead and Joe Namath and then I went to theorist Larry Wooldridge. I also reached out and studied with Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts, Joe Pass, Dennis Sandole, Pat Martino, saxophonist Andrew White and pianist Marc Copeland.

I learned to read but almost none of my jazz playing came from books. I went through the Berklee books but despite all my studies, 99% of what I learned was from transcribing. I’m a firm believer that in jazz, you learn by copying. All the lessons in the world won’t help you but if you are motivated to learn from the masters, they are the only lessons and books you will ever need!

When did you start gigging? With whom? 

I started gigging in DC with almost everybody and did gigs and opened with such notables as Chick Corea, Andrew White, Danny Gatton, Marc Copeland, Tommy Cecil, Paul Bollenback, Walt Namuth, etc. I worked at Blues Alley, The One Step Down, and pretty much all the local DC jazz haunts.

Do you still study regularly? What are you working on currently?

I still study and practice for hours every day. I do not study with anyone currently but I’m open to learning from anyone. I’m regularly transcribing and listening and stealing from guitarists such as Jesse Van Ruller, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Michael Pavone, etc.

Do you play other styles besides jazz?

I do play some rock and blues but I only got into it seriously in order to help my more modern fusion playing. I enjoy the mixing of jazz and rock idioms such as Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale, Tim Miller, Scott Henderson, etc.

Are you in a band right now?

I freelance and regularly jam with local players but there is not a huge amount of work in the Cleveland area so I’m currently not playing with a single band but I play with several local collections of musicians doing everything from straight ahead jazz to fusion.

Who are your favourite jazz players?

I love guitarist Fareed Haque, bassist Tony Grey, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and anyone pushing the envelope. I particularly enjoy guys coming from an indian or middle eastern discipline who push jazz in directions that are unexpected.

Sheets of Sound
You are the author of “Sheets of Sound’, a book based on your own philosophy of “playing the music that you hear.” Could you tell us something more about that concept?

Sheets of Sound for Guitar was written as a tribute to my two sons Andrew and Jeremy. About 12 years ago, Jeremy moved in with me (after a divorce) because he had decided to become a jazz guitarist and wanted to study seriously with me. Around that time, I suffered a serious spinal injury that left my right arm permanently weakened and required spinal surgery, an insertion of a metal plate in my neck and the fusing of 3 discs in my vertebrae. After the surgery, I was not sure if I would be able to play again so I decided to create a book representing 30+ years of practicing exercises and inspirations for Jeremy to use in his studies. One year and 300 pages later, the book was born. Due to a slow recovery, I could not play the exercises in the book, hence no accompanying audio CD was ever released but it does contain tablature. I ended up writing a smaller volume II a year later which is about 1/5 the size but a bit more digestible.

The principle of the book has been misrepresented over the years. Some folks think that it is a technique book and that it represents sweep picking. It’s true that many of the lines lend themselves to sweep picking but the book is more about continually pushing yourself with new ideas and learning to apply them in ways that each player can personalize into their own style.

Truthfully, when I wrote the book, I just took the 20-30 manuscript books that I had filled with ideas over the course of my playing career and formalized them into a book. Everyone should have manuscript books full of ideas they are interested in incorporating into their playing.

When I first wrote the book, I pitched it to Rich Severson at Guitar College who thought that it was interesting but that I would be lucky to sell a handful of them to my friends and relatives. To date, I have sold more than 10,000 copies. I have testimonials in the book from folks such as Dweezil Zappa, Brett Garsed, Sheryl Bailey, Matt Garrison, Vic Juris, Guthrie Govan, Rodney Jones, Dave Liebman and others .

Not bad for a book that has never been formally marketed!

On the internet, you write passionately about amps, guitars and equipment and have a lot of videos on Youtube with gear demos. 

Yes, I have done many demos of gear on youtube. At one time, manufacturers were regularly sending me guitars, amps and pedals to demo and additionally, I have also published many video lessons so I now have over 250 videos on Youtube. 

Over the years you have owned so many guitars.What is you are looking for in a guitar sound wise? 

There are several sounds that I really love. Joe Pass' sound on Joy Spring, Pat Martino's sound on "Just Friends" during his early years, Wes Montgomery's sound on "D Natural Blues" (early years) and Pat Metheny's on "Question & Answer."

After many years experimenting with shiny, new guitars and failing, I have finally given into the vintage bug. Most of my guitars are 30-60 years old. My favorites, in order are:

1963 Gibson Barney Kessel 

1 1963 Gibson Barney Kessel (Spruce top)
2 1989 Gibson 175 (mahogany back and sides)
3 1965 Gibson Barney Kessel (maple top)
4 Heritage Eagle Classic (single pickup)
5 Seventy Seven Albatross

We both seem to have a passion for classic Gibson sounds. I too think Joe Pass’ sound on Joy Spring is the best jazz guitar sound ever ...

Yes, that sound is the ultimate jazz guitar sound in my opinion. It’s just perfect. Although, as a close second I do love the early Pat Martino guitar sounds. They were bright and lyrical but with a hint of Wes Montgomery but with a bit more articulation.

What’s your take on carved versus laminate guitars? 

I think the laminate guitars sound warmer and more like the human voice. That is the appeal to me of laminate guitars. There is a warmth to them that is unmatched by the solid top guitar.

How do vintage guitars compare to modern guitars?

There is a fetish for shiny new guitars among many amateur players. They definitely look great in pictures but I don’t think there is any comparison. The older instruments just sound much better. I recently spent a year looking for a vintage ‘60s Gibson 175 and went through a ½ dozen of them. Every single one sounded so much better than a new Gibson. Unfortunately, while they all sounded great, most of them needed some major repairs. I think the moral of the story is that it requires a lot of effort to find a perfect, older guitar. You are not going to just walk into a store and find one unless you are very lucky. This is why people prefer those shiny new guitars. Most of the new guitars sound the same and are reasonably consistent but they don’t have the same feel or tone as the older ones. I have heard many philosophies about why this is and I think the one that makes the most sense is that the woods they used back in the ‘50s and ‘60s was better quality and had been dried naturally and over a longer period of time. Modern tone-woods (another internet-hyped term) are from younger trees, kiln dried and not as high in quality. Many of the woods used in the ‘60s Gibson guitars just can’t be found anymore. This is why Gibson has resorted to using plywood fingerboards, Indian rosewood instead of Brazilian, synthetic ebony, etc. I just don’t think the woods being used today are the same.

The many boutique luthiers out there are making some gorgeous instruments but many I’ve played just don’t sound like a vintage Gibson. A lot of them are designed as acoustic guitars with a pickup added as an afterthought.

Gibson just got it right and if you want a Gibson sound, only a Gibson guitar will achieve that. But, admittedly, with a new instrument you may find that even a Gibson doesn’t sound like a Gibson should!

Do you prefer full hollow bodies or semi hollow bodies?

I prefer a full hollowbody but I do like semi-hollow guitars for loud playing or for when playing more modern music where other styles and/or overdrive is involved. Having said that, my ’63 Barney Kessel gets an incredible overdriven tone…

What’s your all time favourite guitar?

Barney Kessel Custom
My ’63 Barney Kessel Custom is the best guitar I’ve ever owned. Secretly, I lust after the Barney Kessel Custom with the 5pc maple neck and ebony fingerboard. That one is similar to my ’63 but has a bit more openness to the tone and a bit brighter attack. I’ll probably never get one because they are almost always very overpriced and I’m very happy with my current lineup.

You have been around on the internet for many years. What’s your take on fora about jazz guitars and gear?

The web is full of boutique luthiers and their followers who worship from the tap-tuned, carved top well. It has become a fetish to lust after a tap-tuned, hand-carved guitar. The forums are abuzz with not only the virtues of carved top guitars but even claims that carving them with a shaver yields a better tone than carving them with a CNC machine. Frankly, the vast majority of discussions about these and related topics on the forums seem to be from the perspective of folks who spend more time posing their guitars on the couch for pictures then playing them. Along with that is the notion that the instrument is the art. I think that luthierie *IS* an art but to me, the real art is the musician, whereas I see the guitar as ultimately a tool.

Unfortunately, I think the internet forums encourage the same type of armchair-quarterbacking that you see in the golf and other sports forums. This is why I have chosen to drop off the various forums. Many friends of mine who are great players have told me the same stories.

I don’t harbor any ill will or bitterness to those sites. At one time, I maintained my memberships due to wanting to be able to participate in the classified sections of those sites but these days, there are other sites that are better for buying and selling.

Any interesting future plans we should know about?

Looking forward to a recording project in 2016 as well as a new book with audio accompaniment. I’d love to make the book something that is interactive via iBook or Kindle.

Jack, I am glad you are finally in my Blog. Thanks so much for this interview! 

You are very welcome, Dick. You and I have been friends for well over a decade and I have tremendous respect for you as a friend, a musician and a true purveyor of the art of jazz guitar. I love the fact that you stick to your guns and continually pursue the purity of the art without regard to fads or trends. It's an honor to be featured on your blog .

Thursday, November 12, 2015

At the Guitar Tech

Ad working on my 350
I rarely have work done on my guitars. My car receives maintenance at least once a year but my guitars ... only when something is wrong. I might have to reconsider that.

Fortunately hardly ever something is wrong with my guitars but that was not the case for my ES 350. I was never really that happy with its intonation since I bought it 7 years ago. I had the impression that the bridge was placed wrong and I could never move it manually so some fool had probably glued it on the top and not even in the right place. To boot, the tuners that were on it were getting weak. Lately I had stopped using it regularly due to intonation and tuning problems. The guitar always sounds great and - it being a thinline - is very comfortable to play so great for gigs. Somehow I did not know who I could trust to solve the problem - I was not that aware of really good local guitar techs - so I left it in the case more and more. Bad coping strategy. When I heard a friend had taken his guitar to Ad de Peffer in Waalwijk, I looked up his webpage and things looked great. 25 years of experience as a guitar tech! I orderered a set of new tuners (exact replicas of the Gibson Deluxe tuners that were on it) and made an appointment for a complete overhaul of the 350.

In the workshop behind his house Ad told me about his philosophy.He stated that the basis of his work on guitars is to have the guitar to first show what it really sounds by removing tensions from the wood, starting with the neck. He completely releases the truss rod for a while and looks for unnatural tensions in the body woods due to shrinkage. He then tries to correct those if he can. Only then does he start on other repairs or maintenance work on fretboards, nuts, bridges and what have you.

Guitar talk
Ad is very busy fixing many guitars from people all over the country so I had to wait for a week to get it back. Still, he kept me updated regularly via Facebook. Indeed, some fool had the bridged glued on the top but he loosened it without any damage being done. So now the real healing could begin.

When I picked the 350 up a week later I was pleasantly surprised instantly but when I got home and really took the time to feel and hear the guitar for a while I was pretty amazed. It felt so much better and the intonation was flawless. The frets were like new, all fretwear gone and freshly crowned. The fretboard was very smooth. New tuners that actually work were on it. Heck I swear it even sounds better, more lively. Like I have a new guitar!

The morale? Even a guitar needs some maintenance after a number of years. Well the 350 is ready for the next decade, that's for sure.

For Ad's website, click here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

At Elferink Guitars

I have been following Dutch luthier Frans Elferink on the internet for a number of years now. His guitars are showcased in Youtube videos by happy owners more and more and his name is mentioned regularly on internet fora. Of course, Jesse van Ruller playing his signature Elferink “Jesse van Ruller”  model helped spread his reputation considerably a number of years ago. But, being a laminate Gibson man myself, I had never paid him a visit.

Jesse playing his Elferink "Jesse van Ruller" model

I wanted to check out a 1972 Gibson ES 335 that he had for sale so I went there yesterday, in the company of my lovely wife as photographer. High time for an interview! After a pretty long drive we arrived at his workshop in an industrial area of Noordwijkerhout. On the ground floor we first got a tour of the workshop and then Frans took us to the first floor where I got to see and play his guitars.

He turned out to be a really, really nice guy with lots of great guitar stories to tell. There was this story about him fixing Jesse's old Levin guitar after he had run over it with his own car. He showed me some pics of that remarkable restoration.

I did not buy the 335 but I did get a good impression of his work and guitar building concept and got to play some fine instruments.

Frans produces 12-15 Elferink archtops every year. About one in five is a custom order guitar based on the personal specs of the client but he mostly builds his own models like the “Modern”, the “Tonemaster”, the “Excalibur” and the “Jesse van Ruller.” You can check out the range here. I got to play a custom order Elferink “Byrdland” that sounded great.

Checking out an Elferink Byrdland
Building guitars comprises about two thirds of his income but it’s not the only source. He also sells vintage archtops (10%), does repairs (10%) and organises workshops “archtop building” (15%).
He has been in the guitar building business part time since 1993 but only full time for two years.  At his current location he has been residing for 6 years. Until now he has built about 170 guitars, most of them archtops but also a few steel strings and even some solid bodies on custom order. He is usually building up to 6 guitars at a given time.

Highly Quilted Maple back on a Tonemaster.
His real passion is building archtops made of all solid woods. For the tops he uses Sitka or European Spruce and for the backs, sides and necks he uses maple. He prefers combining European spruce tops with European maple and Sitka Spruce with “Big Leaf” maple. Though he uses routed in pick-ups on some models (eg. The “Jesse van Ruller” model), about 75% of his archtops carry floating pick-ups. He is not fond of using laminate woods. He has been experimenting with them but laminating woods yourself as a luthier for only smaller series is way more time consuming than applying solid woods and requires special equipment. So it’s not really that feasible for him.

Elferink Excalibur

Elferink Moderne
Not surprisingly, Frans prefers jazz guitars with a genuine acoustic character. What he is aiming at are clarity and punch. He wants his guitars to have an explosive attack. He is not that interested in sustain. “Maple is not about sustain anyway, it eats up lots of energy.” What he is going for is a clear, short and vibrant tone with a powerful projection. After playing a few of his guitars I knew exactly what he meant. I played an Excalibur, a Tonemaster and a Moderne and they all had a very lively, vibrant acoustic tone with lots and lots of punch. His guitars are amplified acoustic instruments rather than the laminate electric archtops I have been playing all my life.

Gibson L7 from his vintage offering
There are quite a few Elferink videos on Youtube. I like this one by Daan Kleijn in particular:

We talked about the business for a while too. It’s pretty hard to make a living as a luthier. He is doing ok now but he used to have a side job for many years. Frans stated that “brand awareness” and reputation are so important these days. You have to be present on the internet and in the social media and that’s why he is happy with guys playing his guitars on Youtube. I hope this post helps to create some more awareness about this fine Dutch luthier.

Check out his website for more information on Elferink guitars here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sal Salvador

Sal Salvador (1925 - 1999) was a bebop jazz guitarist and a prominent music educator . I came across a few recordings of him on Youtube (some rare) that are worth checking out.

Sal, who was also an instructor and the author of many jazz instruction books, was born in Monson, Mass in 1927. During the ealy 1940s he was drawn to jazz through the recordings of Harry James. He first played in the style of Dick McDonough, Karl Kress and George van Eps. At the age of 18, he first heard recordings of Charlie Christian and he decided to change over to the electric guitar and he started taking lessons. In 1949, Mundell Lowe, a good friend of his, recommended him for the position of staff guitarist at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

In  1950 he became a staff musician at the Columbia label and two years later went to work with the Stan Kenton Big Band, which proved to be his breakthrough job. He left the band 18 months later but Kenton enabled Sal to make an LP for Capitol records under his own name. Here's one of the tracks of that album (Kenton presents Jazz: Sal Salvador):

A year earlier. Sal had already recdorded  a quintet album for Blue Note with Frank Socolow (tenor saxophone), Johnny Williams (piano), Kenny O'Brien (bass) and Jimmy Campbell (drums). here's a track from that album (a playlist of which can be found on Youtube):

In 1957 Sal recorded "A Tribute to the Greats" with pianist Eddie Costa a.o. (who played with Tal Farlow in his drummerless trio):

In 1960 Sal started his own big band, the Colors in Sound Orchestra, which toured and recorded for five years. Here's a fine clip from the album: "The Beat for this Generation":

From 1970 until his death Sal Salvador taught jazz at the University of Bridgeport and Western Connecticut State University. He also taught privately in New York City and recorded occasionally.

This clip is from a 1978 sextet album called "Starfingers":

He re-formed his big band in the '80s, and was named to his position as head of the guitar department at the University of Bridgeport. In the 1990's he began recording again with a small group and he performed in several recent JVC Jazz Festival concerts, usually in duets with Mundell Lowe.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Mambo 12 Wedge Amp

Howdy guys. It's really been a while since I posted some stuff but I promise I will get going again this autumn. Hope you all had a great holiday. Well, summer is over and it's high time to get back to jazz guitar.

As you know I have been playing a Mambo 10 Wedge amp for over two years now and it's been a very satisfactory experience so far. I have used the amp at home, jam sessions and gigs and never really felt that it was too "small" or that it lacked headroom. I still think the Mambo 10 is by far the best "small"amp around. With 8 kilos it is extremely portable but, with 180 Watts rms, you have all the volume you need.

Are there better amps? Mmm ... not at 8 kilo. Definitely not. Sure, a small amp is a compromise sound wise but hey, I WILL NOT SCHLEPP BIG OR HEAVY AMPS. It's as simple as that. That said, the Mambo 10 has a lovely classic warm jazz sound and will work great for most, if not all combo settings if you can play without the type of headroom rock players are used to.
I was kind of excited when Jon Shaw of Mambo amps suggested I try out the Mambo 12 Wedge. Aha ... same amp with a bigger speaker so more headroom. Of course I was curious.

The first amp Jon sent me was not to my liking. It was equipped with an Eminence Legend 1218 speaker and it simply sounded not to my taste. Kind of boxy and mid rangey. I liked the sound of my 10 - which carries an Eminence Beta -  way better. So I returned it and Jon put an 18 Sound 12W500 speaker in it and sent it back to me. Jon told me this was now the same 12 as he had sold to Kurt Rosenwinkel, who was very pleased with it. And voila ... there it was again. The classic mellow Mambo sound was back! Jon explained to me that he preferred the 18 sound speaker too by far but that somehow many people want an  Eminence Legend speaker in their Mambo. Maybe that one sounds better for rock and blues. Dunno. I hated it.

Mambo 12 and Mambo 10
I have used the 12 for a few months now and indeed, it has a bit more headroom than the 10. It does not sound "better" though IMHO. I sometimes even prefer the sound of my 10. But, for louder gigs it may be a better choice due to the increased headroom. But that's about it. They are both great amps.

The 12 is a bit bigger and heavier than the 10 though. The 10 is 8.1 kilos at 31x31x25 cm and the 12 is 12.1 kilos at 36x36x30 cm. Both are 180 Watts rms. Of course there's also the Mambo 8 which is even smaller ....

There's a lot of technical details I could put here but I am not going to do that. You can read all about the Mambo amps when you click here. The bottom line is that the Mambo amp is a great sounding, loud and extremely portable jazz guitar amp that I will be using for many years to come. I would not know of a better alternative at this size and weight. I don't think it exists.

In the video below you can hear a few more clips I recorded and glued together. The tunes are "Sandu", "Four" and "Stolen Moments."(same take as first video). Watch in HD and run your tablet or laptop through a good set of speakers for a more faithful reproduction if you can. All eq on the amp was flat and the pots on my guitars were open.

Jon of Mambo amps (UK based) is a great guy to work with. He will be most happy to answer any questions. His amps are not available in stores but can be directly ordered from his website. Check out the price list. And DO send Jon my regards!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hank Garland

In the early 2000s I was hosting a music website with live recordings of jazz standards recorded during jam sessions at a cafe called the Crow. Youtube and Spotify did not exist yet and the internet was not saturated with free music. So those recordings went all over the world and lots of people commented on them. I remember being blown away when I saw a comment by Hank Garland in which he said he liked our version of "All the Things You Are" and that it reminded him of his own take. Hank Garland? THE Hank Garland? Yes, it was him all right. Man, was I proud. It must have been just a few years before he died.

Of course you guys know his classic jazz guitar album "Jazz Winds from a New Direction" (1961). And if you don't, you should. Here's a full playlist. Sadly, the album was released in the year of his near-fatal auto accident that was to derail his musical career.

Hank was an amazingly versatile guitarist that was equally at home in country, rockabilly and jazz. He was the number one studio guitarist in Nashville. His guitar work can be heard on countless country and rock hits. His Nashville session logbook at the time reads like a "Who's Who" of the stars of country music. He worked with Elvis from 1958 until his career was tragically cut short by the car accident in 1961 that left him unable to work as a professional guitarist. For over 40 years he lived a quiet life after that, away from music and the studios. He died in 2004. 

Here's a playlist from his album "Velvet Guitar." It was recorded a year earlier in 1960.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pat Martino Trio live in Rotterdam

For many years I have been a huge Pat Martino fan. I have written about him several times in my Blog. There's many jazz guitarists I really dig but there is not a single one I dig more than Pat. The man speaks to me like no other player does. Always a great sound, monster chops and his music always seems to strike home with me. Of course I have most of his music but  ... I had never seen him live in concert though. So when I heard he was playing in Rotterdam I quickly ordered my tickets. I was finally going to see my hero!

The Pat Martino Trio played in a theatre called "Lantaren Venster" in Rotterdam. Pat was accompanied by Pat Bianchi on the Hammond organ and Carmen Intorre Jr. on drums. It was the same trio that I had seen on a remarkable video registration of a concert in Poland in 2014. I have written about that concert earlier. Click here to view it. I went to see the same trio that was recorded a year ago in that great video.

The concert was absolutely fantastic. The set list was not very suprising - I kind of guessed right what tunes he was going to play. The band was very tight and expertly went through a set of standards closely associated with Pat. He actually played most of the tunes I would have liked him to play: Full House, Lean Years, Blue in Green, All Blues, Oleo, Round Midnight, Catch, Sunny and some other "Martinoisms." What could go wrong? That's what I and the audience wanted and that's what he gave us. I did notice some new  reharmonisations on tunes like All Blues and Oleo that I had never heard earlier on recordings of the same tunes. Very cool stuff.

Pat had a huge and really powerful sound. I noticed he was running his amp through a Marshall cabinet and he moved "a lot of air" indeed - as one of ny Facebook friends who so eloquently put it. He did not speak very much during the concert but he was charming enough when he did. It was great seeing the legend with my own eyes.

The audience clearly loved the concert and so did I. Finally I had seen The Man live! For an impression here's a few clippings I glued together. The tunes are: Full House, Lean Years, Round Midnight and Oleo. The sound is lofi but could be worse.

Pat Martino Trio at Lantaren Venster Rotterdam, May 13 2015.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Interview with Jesse van Ruller for Dutch TV

A Facebook friend sent me a link to a video of an interview that Jesse van Ruller had with Dutch television. For the complete video with the interview in Dutch click here. Of course, my US friends will not be able to understand the interview, so I translated the gist of it in English.

The interview starts off with the interviewer remarking that JVR has the image of being a serious and quiet guy. An image, that hardly fits in our world of flashy entertainers with big mouths. Jesse states that he indeed is not someone that likes to be the centre of attention. He does not regret he is not like that. He would not play the way he does if he were a different guy.

Then his musical development is addressed. Jesse‘s parent listened to lots of pop music. Though his parents did not actually play themselves, his father's favourite instrument was the guitar. So he picked up the nylon stringed guitar at 7 and started going to music school to get classical lessons. His sitter used to listen to Hendrix, Queen and SRV and that’s how he was introduced to the electric guitar. Especially the long guitar solos he liked a lot. When he was about 14 he switched to electric guitar and started playing in the music school pop band.

Later, in the high school canteen, he heard John Scofield for the first time (he mentions the album “Still Warm”) and was captured by the weird and sometimes even ugly sounds but he dug Sco’s music a lot because it was one big guitar solo. Still, he had no idea it was jazz. The intricacy of the lines fascinated him and he tried to play some of it at home. He was used to hearing only 5 notes out of 12 in guitar solos but here was a guy that used all of them! Such a  mystery .... But his classical teacher could not help him out so he switched from his classical teacher to one that taught him the basics of jazz harmony.

After high school he went to study jazz at the Hilversum Conservatory. He was more into flashy fusion at the time and had hardly listened to traditional jazz, the music that preceeded it. He did not know his future guitar teacher Wim Overgaauw either. He  went to a cafe where Wim was playing to check him out but he did not get it. He simply did not know what bebop was all about and had never heard of Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and the likes. He did not even like the classic archtop sound coming out of Wim's guitar, he admits. And what Wim was playing did not rock his boat either. But ... at the conservatory, all this soon changed and he went back in time and  he discovered all the jazz greats. His taste developed back in time, so he tells us. He started to realize where jazz actually came from and he really started to appreciate classic jazz.

Wim proved to be a good teacher for Jesse. Because Wim was self taught, the emphasis in his lessons was on discovery. The mystery remained intact. Though Wim certainly knew his theory (as a teacher he had to), the focus was not on books or exercises, but on playing together. The first standard they played was “All the Things You Are,” Jesse remembers. It went quite well.

Jesse had been obsessive about practising since he was about 13. This went on while he was studying with Wim at the Hilversum conservatory. He went back in time to bebop and then forward again to Miles. He perceives his development as an eternal quest. These days he is not so concerned with playing the right notes over the changes anymore but more with sculpting sounds, creating tension and holding the attention of his audience.

In 1995 he won the Thelonious Monk Jazz Guitar competition. He sent in a tape and to his surprise he was invited to the US to compete. He remembers he was relatively relaxed when he was playing for John Scofield, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny amd Pat Martino (the jury members) because he felt he had little to prove and nothing to lose. They had to play standards and he played “You’re my everything.” Apparently it went well because he won! Maybe the others made some mistakes :) After winning the Monk prize he got some US offers but he preferred to return to the Netherlands.

Jesse realizes he has great technique and for some that equals a lack of emotion. Of course this is not true, he adds. He thinks he has his own musical voice these days and, though his playing is rooted in the tradition, he is by no means a traditionalist. Nor is he a real exuberant entertainer, as some of his fellow jazz musicians in Amsterdam are …

Jesse emphasises the need for phrasing and telling a story and building a solo that communicates. But he is not one to be showy, he adds.

He really digs the drummerless trio he is currently in. The sounds of the instruments blend perfectly and it does not matter much if they play a country, pop or jazz tune because they create their own sound instantly.

As a student, Jesse used to listen to the jazz greats. To conclude, the interviewer asks Jesse how it feels that a whole generation of guitarists is listening to him now. Jesse tells him he is just passing on his stuff to a new generation. A bit like being a father, which he actually is now.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pat Martino "Young Guns"

I'm about a year late on this one but this album is so incredible that it should be heard by every jazz guitar lover. "Young Guns" features a compilation of live tracks recorded in 1968 and 1969 at a burning club date in Luisville Kentucky featuring Pat Martino in an organ trio with Gene Ludwig on Hammond and Randy Gelispie on drums. The recordings stem from Martino's private collection and were cleaned up and released as an album only last year. Pat was and Randy were in their early twenties and Gene was about thirty. Vintage Martinoisms rescued from obscurity ...

The sound of the album is acceptable at best, but we should be grateful in the first place that a tape recorder captured these musicians in their prime over 40 years ago. Vintage Pat Martino tearing it up in an obscure jazz club in the late 60s. It just does not get any better!

His solo on Mr. PC is flabbergasting. You want to play it? Transcription included. Mmmm .... maybe not :)

And here's two more tracks to enjoy. Click here to get the album.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to record a video

I have been recording videos since the mid 2000s, so for about 10 years. These days guitar vids are very common but I remember I was one of the first guys doing so at the time.

I get questions about my recording set-up so regularly that I think it is a good idea to explain how it works here. This how I do it. There are other ways too of course. First take a look at the picture below. You can see the entire sound chain there.

guitar, camcorder, mixer, POD, headphone amp, headphones, laptop

  • the guitar goes into a line 6 POD amp modeller. 
  • The playback track is played on the laptop and the stereo signal goes into the Behringer mixer
  • The stereo output signal of the POD goes into the Behringer mixer
  • The signals are combined in the mixer and go into the 4 channel Behringer stereo headphone amp, of which I use 2
  • From the stereo headphone amp one stereo signal goes to the headphone set so I can hear myself playing along with the backing track, a second stereo signal goes from this litlle amp into the external microphone stereo input of the video camcorder
Behringer mixer, Behringer headphone amp, POD line 6

The main components of the sound chain are:
  • POD line 6 amp modeller
  • Behringer Xenyx QH 1202 USB mixer
  • Behringer Micro Amp HA 400 (stereo headphone amp)
The Behringer mixer has a USB interface that I connect directly to my laptop. It also has a compressor, an effect prossecor and 4 mic preamps on board. 

Canon FS 100 camcorder 

You probably wonder why the signal does not go directly from the Behringer mixer into the camcorder's stereo input jack. Well, that's simple. The audio signal coming out from the Behringer is way too hot for the camcorder. To make a recording, I would have to adjust the playback levels to such a low volume that I would not be able to hear myself and the backing track through my headphones. On the left you can see that the mixed signal from the Behringer mixer (first pot left is guitar and backing track) is way higher than the signal that goes to the Camcorder (2nd pot left). which is almost completely closed. This way I can still hear myself playing and the music and still make sure the signal is not too hot for the camcorder. A normal output signal from the mixer directly would result in a lot of distortion. I do not use the other 2 channels). There are probably other ways to solve this problem but this one was cheap and it works well enough. The left cable is the power cable and the right one is the stereo input coming from the Beheringer mixer.
I do not always record the guitar through the POD. I can use a microphone too to pick up the sound from my amp or from an acoustic guitar. Or I just play a chord melody solo style, without a backing. Sometimes I forget about the whole studio thing and simply use the built in microphone of my Camcorder and record in my living room.

The advantage of my video studio is that it consists of pretty inexpensive hardware. The Behringer stuff is dirt cheap and works just fine. A good camcorder can be had for under 200 bucks. 

Of course you need software too to edit and process the videos after recording. I use Cyberlink Powerdirector for that but Windows Moviemaker works fine too. I am not going into video editing here.

One thing though. Before you start rolling out videos make sure you have done the work on the guitar. There are simply too many guys publishing videos that had better first work on their playing some more. And don´t fool yourself, you can have a thousand `you sound great` replies to your videos and still suck big time. Many people simply do not hear much difference between good and bad jazz playing and those that do usually remain silent. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lock-It Guitar Straps

Some accessories make playing guitar just a bit more comfortable. Here's something that I did not know I missed until ... it was there.

Like everybody else, I do not want my beloved guitars to slip out of their straps and follow the destructive law of gravity. Yikes! I have never been enthusiastic about the existing Schaller type strap lock systems on offer. You know, the ones that require you to change the screws and buttons and drill bigger holes in your guitar and then apply all kinds of fugly metallic add-ons that rattle. I hate making alterations to my guitars in the first place. Until now I just used the good old Grolsch strap lock system I wrote about earlier in my Blog.

However, that is no longer necessary. As Jennifer Batten put it:
It's finally been invented! - a sleek, stealthy strap-locking system that's built into the strap itself. Brilliant!"

The answer is so simple yet brilliant indeed. Just put a locking mechanism in the strap itself! Lock-It Straps did it. You can get one starting from about 20 bucks and mine works like a charm on the smaller and medium sized strap buttons that are on my guitars. On larger buttons it does not run that smoothly but they will fit too. This how it works:


I found this video below on Lock-It Guitar Straps Youtube. By the way, Planet Waves has an even cheaper locking strap with a slightly different mechanism but I do not know about their quality. Anyway, these straps are highly recommended!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Hal Leonard Jazz Play Along Top 5

I have written about the Hal Leonard Jazz play along series earlier here and in that entry I posted a video of me playing 7 bop heads unisono with sax. Recently, I have gotten a few questions about which Hal Leonard playalongs I would recommend. So let's go into that now.

What I really like about the Hal Leonards is the fact that they offer two versions of every tune. One with a horn playing the head and one with the backing only. I talked about that in my earlier entry. In addition, I like the simple fact that the tracks are relatively short (just a few choruses for impro  and even less on ballads) with nice and creative intros and endings so you actually have the idea that you are playing a tune and not blowing over an endless series of changes, Also I find the comping on the Hal Leonards quite musical and creative. On the whole the feel of the tunes is very nice. 

So what are my favourite Hal Leonards? Well, the list is pretty subjective of course but here is my personal top 5.  

No 1. Volume 5 10 Bebop Classics

No 2. Volume 26 Charlie Parker

No 3. Volume 3: The Blues

No 4. Volume 7 Essential Jazz Classics

No 5. Volume 8 Jobim
There are many more of course, depending on who your favourite artist or composer is. Just check out Hal Leonard's website. For every volume there is a track listing.

Here are a few vids I recorded using Hal Leonards. This one (All the Things You Are) is from Volume 75: "Paul Desmond." It was recorded lofi in my living room. The other ones sound better because they were recorded in my home studio. In the vids below, I only used the full play along take, so not the ones with the horn playing the heads. 

"There Will Be Another You" is from Volume 7 "Essential Jazz Classics."

"Bluesette" is from Volume 31 "Jazz in Three."

And this one (Four) is from Volume 2 "Miles Davis":

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A conversation with Dan Adler

Though I have never met him in person, I have known New York based guitarist Dan Adler for about 15 years. As a guitarist and internet friend, he has always been a great inspiration to me. If you don't know him, to get an idea why, just play the full album below he made a number of years with Joey D. 

See what I mean? Great sound, cool tunes, excellent bop chops and kick-ass phrasing ,,, what more do you need? High time for a talk with my old internet jazz friend. He was interviewed earlier by Jazz Guitar Life and for those that want to know more about this fine player, click here to read it. My interview kind of goes on where that one stopped ... Let's go!

Dick: Hi Dan, great to have a talk with you here. I always wanted to ask you this. Do you consider yourself to be a bebop guitarist?

Dan: Hi Dick, thanks for the opportunity to have a dialog with you about the music and the instrument we both love. As a mainstream jazz guitarist, I like to think that I draw from all past and present traditions. I think that bebop was to jazz what ‘Bach’ was to classical harmony: a logical foundation for melodic improvisation. Bebop is almost mathematical in its precision and its power to prescribe ‘good’ melodies over chord changes, and jazz students and educators have derived theoretical rules -- by extrapolating from the solos of the bebop masters -- that give any improviser a great starting vocabulary to develop their own style. But it’s up to each and every one of us to move beyond that and tell our own story. I think the hallmarks of a jazz improviser are: an identifiable style which represents the uniqueness of their personality, a strong sense of melody, a respect for tradition and the ability to move others emotionally. The latter point is very important to me, because nothing leaves me colder than a great musician who plays with no passion. Many players place an emphasis on mastering syntactic elements of music such as playing over complex harmonies and compound meters. While I can be floored by the technical achievements of such players, I find that I am not emotionally attracted to their music once the novelty wears off. On the other hand, many of the old bebop masters expressed themselves in a very personal and moving way with a relatively limited musical vocabulary, and I find that very satisfying to listen to over and over. Having said that, I find that players who are pure imitators also completely miss the point. It’s like the Woody Allen joke: “I failed my metaphysics exam because I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me”. You can’t copy someone else’s personality. You can use their ideas and vocabulary, but channel it through your own musical sensibility and life experiences.

Dan: How do you feel about developing a personal style versus learning from others?

Dick: I think that is vital for any ambitious player indeed. Of course you start out imitating others. And as a hobby player you can do pretty much whatever you want but not if you follow some kind of artistic path. For, how can you be an artist and not have a unique and distinct voice of your own? I have seen that aspect of your playing develop over the years tremendously by the way.

Dick: We both seem to have a preference for 1960s Joe Pass. What about Joe’s solo guitar playing … not your thing?

Dan: I love Joe Pass first and foremost because his playing stirs me emotionally. I feel it in my “kishkes” (guts) first, and in my brain second. In his early recordings, he was really reaching for the moon in terms of his creativity. I know you are also a big fan of the “Joy Spring” album, and what always amazes me about that album is how he took chorus after chorus of pure creative flow. None of what he played there sounds or feels to me like it’s worked out. He keeps reusing basic musical ideas and developing them into more and more complex melodies that flow and evolve and have a definite overall architecture. That to me is jazz improvisation at its best. Like many players, Joe evolved into a different player around the time he joined Pablo. I love his “Virtuoso” albums and many of his later recordings, but it almost sounds to me like a different person. Just like late Coltrane sounds to me like a different person than his early period, and of course Miles went through many musical incarnations. I’m not judging any of them or saying I wish they hadn’t evolved. Not at all. We all evolve. I’m just saying that, in the case of Joe Pass, I find that his early recordings move me more than his later ones. That said, whenever I do play solo guitar, I hear elements of Joe’s style in my playing, even though I’ve never copied any of it. I think it’s just the fact that I am too lazy to sit down and arrange a piece, so I just improvise it, as I believe Joe did.

Dan: How about you? Do you hear a direct musical link between the Joe Pass of “Synanon”, “For Django”, “Simplicity”, “Joy Spring” and “Catch Me” and his later solo recordings?

Dick: I must admit that I, like you, strongly prefer Joe’s early work to his solo guitar work. I hear a different Joe too after the 1970s somehow, also sound wise. To me he sounded best on the early 60s recordings. Of course I fully realise Joe’s importance, artistry and mastery as a solo player but I have always preferred him in a trio or small group setting (“Intercontinental” is such a great album …) Solo jazz guitar playing is not my thing to begin with. Nevertheless, one of my favourite Pass albums is a very late album: "Joe Pass in Hamburg"  (1990). Surely a different Joe than the one turning out chorus after chorus of amazing bop lines on “Joy Spring” but amazingly lyrical and beautiful.

Dick: In an earlier interview you indicated that Joe’s later playing relied more on clichés. How did that happen in your opinion? Is it not so that your creativity is supposed to grow as you get older?

Dan: It’s a fact of life that all jazz players evolve. Classical players too. Gould’s early and later “Goldberg Variations” are a great example. I think that the 60’s, after Joe kicked his addiction, were extraordinarily creative years for him. Even the early 70’s albums “Intercontinental” and the albums with Art Van Damme (on the MPS label) still had that fresh vitality, and the first “Virtuoso” albums are also some of my favorites. I think that in his later period, he played night after night of solo guitar concerts without a rhythm section, and a certain “sameness” started to creep in. When the spotlight is on you non-stop for 2 hours straight, I can imagine that a bag of tricks emerges that allows you to “tune out” part of the time. It’s just not possible to maintain that kind of focus and creativity under such demanding conditions.

Dick: What about Joe’s facility in playing fast single lines. I think his picking was so much better in the early 60s, when he used a pick?

Dan: Joe maintained great picking facility even in his later years. He used a small medium pick (cut in half) and his picking was a variation on Gypsy picking, always using a downstroke when changing strings. I think that as he spent more hours playing solo, his fingerstyle technique improved, as did his slurring, but he always had a pick between his teeth and pulled it out for uptempo solos. I think that many guitarists think there is an objective “secret” to picking, which you have to “discover” in order to get to the next level (for example, “Benson picking” or “Gambale picking”, etc). Personally, I think the process should be the other way around: adapting your technique to suit the way you want to hear things. I think the original bebop guitarists developed their picking styles based on trying to play like the horn players of the day. They knew what they wanted to sound like, and they figured out a technique that works for that. Today, the lines people play are more complex and less diatonic, and many guitarists have found that playing with an anchored wrist works better for that. I think the best way to approach it is by playing through lots of transcribed solos of musicians that you admire and adjusting your technique to make it work. 

Dan: I know you worked on some Clifford Brown and Bird solos. Did you find that you had to adjust your technique to execute those the way you wanted to hear them?

Dick: Yes, I had to adapt my picking quite a bit. Parker is hard to play on guitar and it is sometimes simply impossible to pick every note in certain measures because he is playing so fast. You need slurs and whatever type of picking works to get it done. I used to play along with Bird over and over again until I thought it was good enough. And I know it's far from perfect. Same for Clifford Brown. So far I haven’t been able to execute bars 17 to 23 of his classic solo on "Joy Spring" at the original speed. I dare every guitarist to have a go at them! Next to impossible. Compared to horn players, we still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of speed and dynamics :) 

Dick: How do you feel about Tal Farlow’s playing in the mid 50s if you compare it to Joe’s approach in the early 1960s?

Dan: Tal was always another one of my idols, but I found that there was not that much that I could learn from him. His style was so personal. Starting from his unique time feel, his impossible voicings, and those amazing melodic lines that cover the whole fingerboard in the space of one second. He has always been in a class of his own. I have always admired him and listened to him, but I don’t believe that I learned that much from him. It’s a little like Bird and Diz. Even though they were both amazing and innovative, you can learn so much more from Bird than from Diz because his conception is so clear and logical, while Diz was more individualistic. I have tried to balance learning from other players with learning to sound like myself. I think there is a lot of conscious effort involved. I often listen to recordings of myself and try to say to myself: this is me, this is copied, this is me, etc. that process helps me choose how I want to sound. When I watched the movie about Pat Martino relearning how to “sound like himself” after his brain surgery, I realized that sounding like yourself is an active endeavor of making choices, and not as mysterious as it is sometimes made to be.

Dan: Have you ever tried to consciously work on developing your own voice?

Dick: Way too little. I think I have always concentrated too much on just playing guitar instead of consciously developing my own voice. Still, most people seem to be able to identify my style immediately so no big worries there. But there is certainly room for improvement. There always is.

Dick: Do you feel your playing is still evolving in your 50s or are you happy trying to keep up your current level?

Dan: I do find that I am evolving. Being in NYC and going out to listen to a lot of live jazz is my main source of inspiration. In our multi-tasking world, a live performance is one of the few times when you are really focused for a long period of time, and really make an effort to get into the head of the improvisor that you are listening to. Sometimes after an inspiring gig by some great players, I will come home to practice and find that my playing has gone up a notch without my doing anything. I think that once you get beyond the grammar and syntax of music, improvisation becomes about the stories you are able to tell, and those are enriched by any cultural experience that raises your level of inspiration and emotional awareness. If you see a good actor who makes you identify with a character in a play, or a TED speaker communicating an idea effectively to an audience, at some level, that enriches the way you can convey a musical message to your listeners. 

Dan: How about you, do you find that your playing is influenced by other aspects in your life?

Dick: O yes.No doubt that my internet activities have always had a profound influence on my playing. I am an online kind of person and have been so for years. I started studying jazz very late in life. In the late 90s I was doing my first gigs aged 40 and the internet became a major part of my development. I remember hanging out at the RMMGJ newsgroup on a daily basis. That’s how we met in the first place, Dan. I was a rookie at the time and I was completely inspired by the cats posting on that newsgroup. Many of them played way better than I did and there was a lot of sharing and inspiration there. I took it all very seriously, even the flame wars. I could be such a hothead. These days I know better but my internet presence is still very much alive. Facebook, my Blog …. all this keeps me inspired for, unfortunately, the local jazz scene over here is eh … not that happening. No offense meant but it’s mainly an amateur thing. Very unlike New York, where you are from and where you can see the heavy cats every week.

Dick: What material are you studying these days?

Dan: I have shelves full of music books, which are mostly languishing. I did enjoy working through the Bergonzi books, and Dave Liebman’s “Scale Syllabus” at some point, as those gave me more of a modern approach to improvisation than the bebop vocabulary which is based around chord tones. On the physical side, I find that I constantly have to work at being more relaxed when I play. Kenny Werner covers that idea in his “Effortless Mastery”, which I think is an important book to read, although the application of the principles is pretty much up to the individual player. Beyond that, for me, practice is either just noodling, or sometimes playing through tunes, reading some heads or solos, and composing. I find that composing is a good way to get more of yourself into your playing. When you compose, if you do it by trying to sing some ideas, write them down, and then learn to play them, you will find that you are transcribing the “real you”. Sometimes that ends up being someone else’s ideas recycled through your subconscious, but sometimes you will surprise yourself with something that sounds original and you have no idea where it came from. It’s really quite humbling to feel that you are able to write a tune that you didn’t realize was “in you”. It’s almost a mystical experience to realize that things like musical talent, musical hearing and composing are processes that occur inside of you, and yet can totally take you by surprise. 

Dan: Have you done any composing? What are you working on musically?

Dick: I have little interest in composing. Like I said earlier, I consider myself to be a guitarist rather than an artist. Just trying to get better in playing guitar. See where I can still go. It’s a hobby but one that I take very seriously. I’ll bop till I drop. I am working on my comping right now. I am playing in a pianoless quartet and the way I comp is pretty determining there.

Dick: I know you like Dutch guitarists such as MVI and JVR. Do you actually hear some kind of “European” concept in their playing? Or are they just contemporary guitar styles like you hear from the great players in New York?

Dan: I believe that jazz is a universal language, and I don’t mean that just as a platitude. It’s a way for musicians from all over the world to get together, name a tune, count off, and instantly be creative together. There is no other system of communication that allows that kind of immediate bonding and collective creativity by people who come from very disparate cultures and backgrounds. It allows us all to celebrate our commonality and our uniqueness. Of course, the roots of jazz are in Blues and in the African American genius for transforming their suffering and isolation into an intellectual system of communication and collective creativity that transcends place and time. I have met so many musicians from all over the world through my jazz guitar playing, and in most cases it has lead to lasting friendships. Although I have never met JVR, I’m a big fan of his playing. I think he has a very distinctive sound, a very melodic concept and very powerful articulation that is instantly recognizable. I think “Live at Murphy’s Law” is up there with the best of the jazz guitar trio albums. A few years ago, I was hanging out at Jack Wilkins’ gig at “Bella Luna” (which unfortunately has been discontinued). I was by the bar talking to Jack, who was playing duo that night with the great Peter Bernstein, when I heard someone new sitting in with Peter. Within a few notes, and before I looked over, I said “That MUST be MVI”, and indeed it was! It’s really a badge of honor for a player to be so instantly identifiable. He is certainly one of my favorites today. There are also a lot of great jazz players in NYC from my country of origin, Israel, and it is interesting and inspiring to see how each generation transcend the previous one. New York is a real jazz melting pot. There are great players from France, Italy, Germany, Australia, India and everywhere else. Each one brings something unique from their own culture and music. They all come to NYC to cut their teeth on this great music, and often they go back and open music schools in their home countries and then the next generation of players come to NYC even more prepared. That’s how I got into jazz guitar. Avri Sharon was a jazz guitarist who came to New York, studied with Chuck Wayne and Jim Hall, and ended up being my teacher at a music conservatory in Tel Aviv when I was an impressionable teenager. If it were not for him I don’t know if I would have been bitten by the jazz guitar bug. 

Dan: Tell me about Wim Overgaauw and how he influenced the Dutch jazz guitar scene? Did you meet him?

Dick: I never got to meet him for he had died already in 1995 when I started studying jazz. I was already 37 when I took my first jazz lesson. But I had been listening to him for a few years. Wim Overgaauw was the nestor of Dutch jazz guitar. Not only was he a great player but an important educator as well. He shaped the first generation of truly great Dutch jazz guitarists, notably Jesse van Ruller and Martijn van Iterson of course. He put Dutch jazz guitar on the map. I have written about Wim in my Blogs several times and of course he appears in the interviews I did with Jesse and Martijn.

Dick: Do you have some kind of concept for building up solos?

Dan: I think the only concept I have is to be conscious of the fact that a solo should be a complete statement that you are trying to convey to the listener. You have to bring them down from the previous solo or head, capture their attention, and then try to keep them interested, so that they stay with you. You have to be emotionally involved in your solo, or they will sense it and lose interest and check their email. You can think of yourself as an actor or a speaker. You have to take them along on an emotional experience. I find that singing, audibly or silently, helps me shut out distractions and focus all of my mental and emotional energy into the solo. It also allows me to step out of my body and hear the music as a listener. That can sometimes be an eerie experience, but it is essential to learn to  detach from thinking of the mechanics like fingerings and chords, so that you can be aware of what the other players are doing and how it all fits together. I also think it’s very important to end your solo strongly and clearly, so that the audience have a cue to clap, and the next soloist is clear that you are done. I see many players deliver a great solo and then fizzle out at the end, and that confuses the audience and sometimes the other musicians as well. 

Dan: You specialize in communication in your day job. Do you find that this helps you connect to people through jazz?

Dick: Yes, I think so. Maybe not so much on stage but I am always writing about jazz and sharing stuff on line. My Blog is even a direct result from my work. Blogging is important for companies these days so I was lecturing on content strategies at my university and when my students had to start their own Blog to gain experience with creating content I started my own Jazz Guitar Blog too to know what it was like. 

Dick: You recorded a CD with Joey D. What was it like working with arguably the greatest contemporary Hammond player?

Dan: The experience of recording with Joey D. and Byron Landham was unforgettable. During the first take of the first song, my hands were literally shaking from nervousness (I won’t tell you which cut that was), but within a few minutes they put me at ease, and did everything they could to realize my musical vision. Joey is such a sweet person in addition to being a monster player, and he was a complete gentleman in terms of putting his ego aside and making sure I was happy with the results. It was very gratifying that the album got such great reviews and continues to be played occasionally on jazz radio stations.

Dan: Do you have any plans to record an album? I think it’s time (I’ve been telling you that for years!)

Dick: LOL. Yeah, I know. I get that question from others too sometimes. Well, I do not think a serious recording is going to happen soon. Earlier I stated that my ambitions are humble. One of my weak points is that I do not play that well under stress and the very thought of recording bop tunes in a studio scares the heck out of me. And I am not sure what I could possibly add to the jazz guitar scene in my country with guys like JVR and MVI kicking my ass. But a fun recording to share with friends, yeah, maybe one day … I am in a promising quartet right now so who knows ...

Dick: Your main instrument is a 60s ES 175. How do feel your ES 175 compares to the current offering by Gibson?

Dan: I also have a 1973 ES-175 which looks very similar but has a wider neck. My main one has a very thin neck which most players find uncomfortable. I used to buy a lot of guitars to experiment with new sounds and new inspiration, but every time I thought I was getting used to a new guitar, I would pull out my trusty old work-horse and it just felt infinitely better. So, I think I’m set. Unless something bad happens to it, I don’t see myself on the market for a new guitar. But, I’ve also learned to never say never (especially in print).

Dan: How about you? You seem to go back and forth between your 175, Tal and Ibanez. Why can’t you commit? :-)

Dick: Good question. I have always been jealous of players that bonded with ONE instrument only. Like Wes, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Martijn van Iterson and yourself! I like my guitars but I keep switching between them. Sometimes I prefer the 175, then the Tal and on stage I often use the 350 because it’s a thinline and is more practical in smaller spaces. The Ibanez is a great couch guitar somehow ... I don’t know really. It kind of depends on my mood too. Sometimes I think I should sell all my gear and go for the ONE AND ONLY vintage guitar that is waiting for me out there. But maybe I am just not into guitar monogamy.

Dick: I know you studied Joe Pass’ “Guitar Style”  a lot. Do you feel that is still the definitive method for bebop guitar playing? What about Joe’s later material?

Dan: I have called it the “Bible” of jazz guitar. I think that’s true. The examples are priceless. It’s not very structured, but it covers a lot of bases in a very practical way. It doesn’t really go into functional harmony, which is essential to jazz, but any intelligent person can learn that in the space of a few weeks or months. It’s not that complicated. The other thing that “Guitar Style” is missing is an organized approach to arpeggios. My playing lacked grounding until I mastered arpeggios. You somehow have to reach the point where you look at the guitar, and for any series of chords, you instantly know where each chord tone is on the fretboard in every position. The method I used was Peter Sprague’s method of mapping out all the arpeggios in each position for each type of chord, but you can use any other method that gets you to the same level of mastery. Roni Ben-Hur has a great book that maps out the Barry Harris method for guitar. Then, you have to connect the arpeggios with hearing the chords, so you become aware of what the 5th sounds like against the chord, what the maj7th sounds like etc. Once you can hear and see those clearly on the fingerboard, that gives you enough anchor points to create lines that are grounded in the chord changes but also form logical and beautiful melodies. Beyond that, it’s all about transcribing the jazz masters in order to learn what good lines sound like. How they resolve. How they use chromatic notes. How they sit on the time. How they swing. 

Dan: Have you used any materials that you would recommend?

Dick: I have used many educational materials over the years but I can’t say I think I have found the definitive way to learn how to play jazz guitar yet. There is so much excellent material. I used to study from the internet a lot. I do like Joe Pass’ “On Guitar” method. It’s a bit more accessible than his original “Guitar Style” but not so profound and comprehensive. As it is, I have a bookshelf full of jazz guitar methods, most of which are hardly ever used these days. Playing along with Aebersolds and later, Band-in-a-Box, the iReal Book and Hal Leonards has always been a big part of my studies. You have to play tunes. We have a luxury problems these days. It’s all there on the internet and on Youtube for free but  … you have to be able to filter out the good from the bad. You have to find the stuff that works for you. Or get a good teacher. 

Dick: Tell me about your latest project and your gigging plans for the future.

Dan:  I’m very excited to be putting out a new album as a joint project with four other great musicians. It’s called “Arty Facts” and will be released in a few weeks. Speaking of the international reach of jazz music - this album is a great example of that: I am originally from Israel, but living in NYC for half my life. Arnon Palty, the bass player and producer, is also from Israel where he plays and teaches harmony and composition. Yvonnick Prene is a phenomenal young harmonica player from Paris. Lewis Porter is an educator, author (“John Coltrane”), and fantastic piano player who has recorded with Dave Liebman and others. And Marcello Pellitteri is a great drummer from Italy who gigs in NYC and commutes to Boston to teach at Berklee. The album was actually recorded in the summer of 2012 when Arnon came to NYC to record an album of his arrangements with the Dave Liebman Big Band. He brought some of his compositions with him, which were all contrafacts on known standards, and we each brought some of our own tunes to create an album of all original melodies on standard chord changes. We have some great gigs lined up in Israel and New York to celebrate the release of the album, and I hope people will take the time to check it out. Details can be on my website.

Dan: Thanks, Dick. It was a pleasure exchanging ideas, and I am truly looking forward to meeting you in person and trading fours. I feel like we have known each other online for so many years that it will surely feel more like a reunion than a first meeting when we finally shake hands. All the best to you and your family!

Dick: Yes, it seems strange that we have known each other for so many years without ever having met in person. You have always been a great source of inspiration to me and still are. I wish you continued success, both with your professional and musical career! Thanks so much for the intervierw.