Thursday, February 25, 2016

Early Versus Late Wim

Wim in the 1960s
In an earlier post I have shown a few vintage clips featuring Wim Overgaauw in the Pim Jacobs trio/quartet that were recorded in the 1960s. Meanwhile two very interesting longer videos of Wim during concerts have appeared that reflect his development to a more modern approach very well.

The first 30 minute clip is from 1968. No doubt in my mind that Wim must have been one of the best European jazz guitarists in the 1960s. Love this video.  Bebop galore!

The next video dates from 1992. It was recorded for Dutch National Radio so the sound is pretty good. Wim did only few public appearances towards the end of his life and was mostly teaching at the Hilversum conservatory so concert footage from that time is rare. I was wondering about this particular concert so I contacted the piano player who posted the clip and asked about it. At the time the concert was a live recording for Radio 4 in the CNM studio. A few original tunes by Wim were played, as well three standards. It seems the second piece was named after Wim's cat.


1 Blow (Wim Overgaauw)
2 Kalistra Axavri (Wim Overgaauw)
3 In Your Own Sweet Way (Dave Brubeck)
4 Hard Bass (Wim Overgaauw)
5 Time (Wim Overgaauw)
6 Punch-in (Wim Overgaauw)
7 Peace (Horace Silver)
8 It could happen to you (Jimmy van Heusen)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Carvin HH2 Holdsworth

By Jack Zucker

I just picked up a Carvin HH2 Holdsworth, headless guitar. It's got a chambered walnut body, 5 pc walnut/maple neck, rosewood fingerboard. Chambered body. It's fairly heavy for a headless guitar. Approximately ~6.5lbs.

I got this because I am refactoring/morphing my playing style with studies from Tim Miller and Derryl Grabel into a more legato style and I wanted something with 24 frets and access to all 24 frets without being neck heavy. The headless design solves the problems of neck heavyness that accompanies most guitars with extreme upper fret access. I also specifically wanted something with a little bit brighter and more modern neck pickup sound because - despite many claims that 24 frets ruin the neck pickup - I actually like the modern sound that the 24 fret configuration gives to the neck pickup. It also makes for a nice middle pickup position sound.

I have gone through 5 different holdsworth guitars. I've had 1 of each type H2, HF2, H2T and then a couple of the headless (this is my 2nd). One issue I've found is that all of the Carvin Holdsworth guitars that are not headless are neck heavy and uncomfortable for me to play. Many of the Carvins that you see on the second hand market have ridiculously quilted tops and flamed necks and while this is gorgeous, it's not always the best fit tonally for what I'm looking for. Case in point, the previous HH2 I tried had a gorgeous 10 top and birdseye fingerboard and neck but was extremely bright and the neck moved a bit with humidity and weather changes. The 5 pc neck on the model I got is perfect and so far has not moved at all. The 5pc necks have a history of being extremely rigid which is why Gibson uses them on the L5.

Walnut is an interesting sounding wood. It's brighter than mahogany but not as bright as maple. And the rosewood fingerboard seems to tame down the high frequencies somewhat as well. I think the walnut is as beautiful as quilted maple but doesn't add the high end sheen of the maple.

The guitar gets a really beautiful Holdsworth sound, has a great clean jazz tone with a little bit of modern twist, great funk tone with both pickups on and gets some classic rock tones as well. Additionally, the guitar is very light and extremely well balanced. Its chambered body offers a bit of hollow quality to it which makes it sound decent for jazz though it's not the right axe for channeling Joe Pass or Wes Montgomery.

I normally practice standing up but the design of this guitar allows me to sit it on my lap in the same position as when I'm standing which is impossible to do on a standard body style such as a Gibson 175 or Les Paul.

 The guitar is not perfect. There are a few negative points

1. The body does not have a cutout for your thigh. Many of the headstock-less "ergo" guitars have a cutout near the bottom for your thigh. Since the HH2 does not have this, you end up resting the guitar's tuners against your leg when you play sitting. Note the bottom/rear leg cutout on this Strandberg guitar. Some feel this is ugly but it does put the guitar in classical position without your leg resting against the tuners (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Ergo Guitar with Leg cutout

The gear ratio of the tuners is too high in my opinion. I would like some finer adjustment because just the tiniest turn of the gear changes the pitch too drastically and it's sometimes difficult to fine tune it. I think this is a compromise because if they used a lower gear ratio, it would be too hard to initially tune the string to pitch but I'd rather deal with that.

3. I'm not crazy about the mini toggle switch for the pickup selector. I'd rather have a full size switch.

4. While the guitar is not neck heavy, the position of the strap buttons cause the guitar to tip forward when it’s being supported on the strap. This happens no matter which strap button you choose on the bottom of the guitar. I found that if I use the bottom strap button and then position my strap in front of the upper strap button it mitigates this issue somewhat. I made a more permanent solution by cutting a second strap hole in my strap positioned so that my strap now attaches to both buttons. The lower button does the actual holding of the guitar and the upper button’s attachment to the strap keep it from tipping forward.

To conclude, the Carvin Holdsworth is a ridiculously great and modern ergo-guitar at a ridiculously cheap price. The entry level price for the guitar is $1250 and that's what Allan Holdsworth uses. He doesn't play one with quilted top and upgraded woods. He plays the stock model. That would be my recommendation as well.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Steve Crowell's "Jazz Standards in Chord Melody Style" series

I have had Steve Crowell's "Jazz Standards in Chord Melody Style" volumes 1, 2 and 3 for ages. If you are a student and you are interested in playing chord melodies, this is a very accessible and attractive series in chord studies. The books have both chord diagrams and standard notation for every standard. Though I'm not sure playing prefab chord melodies necessarily qualifies as "jazz", Steve's books do provide an excellent series in chord studies so you can get your own thing going later. Though there are some (performance) notes for each tune, there is little to no theory involved. Tunes range from easy to intermediate.

Over the years I have been playing tunes from this series over and over again and though some are not that easy, they provide good insights into chord melody playing. I recorded a few of them over the years and I decided to make a compilation of 7 tunes. What I found on my hard drive I simply glued together. Some of the older vids are way over 10 years old so the quality of the sound and image is not very consistent with the more recent ones. I did not have a good camera at the time. And you will see a much younger Dutchbopper at work ...

 The samples are incomplete for copyright reasons.

By the way, I think the series has been updated with TABS these days. The old copies I have only have chord boxes and standard notation. The samples you see here are probably not what you find in the current series anymore.

For ordering a book in this series click here. Below I added an overview of the standards in each book.

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 1 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "Bluesette, Here's That Rainy Day, Cute, Girl Talk, Misty, Satin Doll, Moonlight In Vermont, Moonlight Serenade, Have You Met Miss Jones".

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 2 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "On Green Dolphin Street, The Girl From Ipanema, How High The Moon, One Note Samba, Look For The Silver Lining, The Shadow Of Your Smile, Polka Dots And Moonbeams, Wave, Witchcraft".

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 3 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "Autumn Leaves, Meditation, Once In A While, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (Stevie Wonder), Sophisticated Lady, A Prelude To A Kiss, Lil' Darlin', How Deep Is Your Love (The Bee Gees), We're All Alone (Anne Murray)".

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 4 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "Sweet And Lovely, The Way You Look Tonight, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Dancing On The Ceiling, Too Marvelous For Words, Ain't Misbehavin', Delta Blues, Ferris Wheel Rag, Fly Me To The Moon".

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jesse van Ruller's Solo on "The Best Things in Life are Free."

Jesse's album "Here and There" (Criss Cross 2002) has alweays been a personal favourite of mine. He recorded it in 2001, just a few weeks after we jammed at The Crow. (check out Jesse's "Complete Solos at the Crow" here). I remember him telling me he was about to leave for New York to do a recording with David Hazeltine and a few other New York jazz cats. The result was a wonderful album which Criss Cross describes as follows:

"Joined by an assortment of New York's finest, 29-year-old star guitarist Jesse Van Ruller, Holland's first Thelonious Monk Competition Award-winner, emphatically stamps his voice on a meaty program of jazz originals, less-traveled songbook gems, and an original blues. On piano the great David Hazeltine, with bassists Nat Reeves or Frans Van Geest, and Joe Farnsworth or Willie Jones III on drums."
The album starts off with a wonderful rendition of "The Best Things in Life are Free." What a great tune. A week ago I found a trancription of his solo on this tune by Mikko Hilden. I have included the sheet music below.