Sunday, December 9, 2018

Jazz in Zandvoort with Vincent Koning

I have posted about Dutch jazz guitarist Vincent Koning earlier but somehow I forgot to post this concert later. The concert was recorded on april 1 2012 in the "Jazz in Zandvoort" series that feature guest musicians accompanied by the Johan Clement Trio. I am watching it right now as I am typing these words. A very enjoyable concert indeed. You will see and hear Vincent on a set of standards accompanied by Johan Clement on piano, Eric Timmermans on bass, and Frits Landesbergen on drums. It's a full concert, slightly over 2 hours. Vincent is one of the big jazz guitar cats in the Netherlands for sure. Wonderful playing.

"The Ghost, The King and I"
Vincent (1971) graduated from the Hague conservatory in 1997, where he studied with Peter Nieuwerf and Eef Albers. A year later he graduated from the Hilversum conservatory too. He is part of the drummerless trio "The Ghost, The King and I" (with Rob van Bavel on piano and Frans van Geest on bass) with which he tours and records a lot. You will find a number of vids by this trio if you look for them on the Tube. They recorded several albums. Here's a vid of them:

Jesse van Ruller Trio at the Vic

One of the great things of people carrying cell phones or small cameras all over the place all of the time is that you get to see snippets of jazz concerts on Youtube that you would normally not even know of. I was kind of surprised yesterday to come across some footage of the Jesse van Ruller Trio at the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel - "jazz at the Vic" - that was apparently shot on 4 december last. It is not that often that you can see and hear this great Dutch jazz guitar master on a set of standards in a trio setting. He is playing tunes that you find on much of his earlier work (The End of a Love Affair, Detour Ahead etc.). And his sound on the new guitar is really very vintage Jesse! So I was really excited and the vids - though sometimes dark and shaky - are just marvellous. Sound quality is good. Of course Jesse needs no introduction.

On bass you will hear Ernst Glerum (1955). He teaches double bass at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and therefore must be a colleague of Jesse. He has had a rich career in Dutch jazz, both as a composer and a performer.

On drums we have Wouter Kühne (1996), a young Dutch jazz talent that is still studying at the Amsterdam conservatory (or has maybe graduated in the mean time) but has already won several jazz awards.

I'd like to thank whoever shot this footage. Enjoy!

My Funny Valentine
                                                                                          The End of a Love Affair
                                                                                            Detour Ahead
                                             With a Song in My Heart

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Take Your Pick

Text and pics by Manfred Junker
Over the last six months or so I did some research on picks that would suit me and my playing best. I feel most comfortable with triangular shapes and I am going for a fat/beefy/warm/dark sound with a minimum of string-noise (both with and without the amp). These are factors that brought down the number of possibilities quite a bit.

It is very interesting to hear the differences between picks and for me it was a great learning experience as it is absolutely important to explore the pick as a vital part of one´s sound. Below you will find an overview of what I spent my money on.

Fender Classic Celluloid (heavy/extra heavy)

These "standard" inexpensive picks are available from several companies and I have used them for a long time. Obviously the extra heavies sound darker and therefore I prefer them. You can make them sound even better by using extra fine sandpaper to bevel the side where the pick meets the string - a process which happens more or less automatically when you play a pick over a longer period. Repeat this procedure from time to time to keep the surface smooth.

Hense Cream Speedy 1,4mm & Happy Turtle Pick (1,4mm)

These picks from Germany are pretty expensive (19,90 € each), but really worth a try. The sound of both goes in the direction that I was looking for (dark, warm, beefy), with a minimum of click-noise. Both have beveled and polished sides, which is always nice to begin with.

The Cream Speedy is one of my favorite picks on my semi-acoustic guitar - to me the sound has a certain amount of "dirtyness" that I like on that guitar. After playing it for several weeks I realised that the material wore off a little bit, but after some sanding the pick was smooth again.

The Happy Turtle Pick is advertised to have the sound and feel of classic turtle picks. However, the special material (in German it is called "Milchstein") is not 100% even, which kind of distracted me, but fortunately one of the three sides felt ok. The sound is very good on electric, archtop and nylon-stringed guitars.

To avoid unwanted warps, see to it that the pick does not get wet.

To conclude, I do not regret spending that kind of money for a piece of plastic, but now I always do double-check my floor before vacuum cleaning!

Two picks by Jim Dunlop that really surprised me

The 3,0mm Large Tri-Flatpick (the left one in the picture) is obviously pretty thick. If you can handle that, it gives you a really dark, warm sound (the darkest out of all the picks I checked out). I was surprised that it works best on my nylon-string guitar! Especially when playing chords, there is more click noise than with other picks (and it certainly depends on the guitar and the strings you play) - some guitarists might even like this and call it a "percussive quality". It´s quite inexpensive: 8,65 € for a pack of 3 picks.

The Dunlop 1.50 Primetone Triangle Pick has turned out to be one of the favorite picks for me. 10,24€ for a pack of three is a very modest price for a hand beveled pick that sounds just the way I like it on each of my guitars! For me the quality is at least on the same level with picks that are much more expensive (like the Hense picks and the Blue Chip pick which you can read about below. Try it!

The Blue Chip TAD60

This is by far the most expensive pick that I bought. 46,90€ (!) really is a crazy amount of money - and

1. This was before any punitive custom tariff had been imposed against US products.
2. Yes, I told my wife about it 😊

Nevertheless, this 1,5mm pick sounds very good on all my guitars. As advertised, the material does not wear out and the beveled sides do not have to be polished - my pick looks exactly the same after several months!

The sound is pretty close to the Dunlop Primetone 1,5mm which is much more inexpensive - not better or worse, just a little bit different. That is the reason why I probably would hesitate to buy it again - it is simply way too expensive. But as it is I am glad to have it.

Two Duralin picks

Here are two picks made of Duralin. They are both availaible from Planet Waves and D´Addario - which I believe is essentially the same company. Whereas the heavy one on the left side feels and sounds ok (somewhere in the region of a Fender x-heavy celluloid), the black one (1,5mm) is a real surprise. It sounds very good, much warmer than the purple pick, with a minimum of click-noise.

For me the only problem is the teardrop-shape which I do not feel as comfortable with as with the triangular shape. I contacted D´Addario and asked if there was any chance to have the black one in that shape. For reasons I cannot understand, it is not - all the other slimmer picks are available in both shapes!

So if you are happy with the teardrop shape, you should really check that one out.

Two really disappointing picks

The yellow Dunlop Ultex pick sounds way too bright for my taste with lots of click-noises. Sanding it did not help at all... maybe it is a good one if you are playing other styles than I do.

Even though I did not have good experiences with wood picks before, I fell victim to the beautiful ads of Thalia, which praised their "Exotic Wood Picks" and promised a "warm tone that sounds better with each use." Made up of two or three layers of wood this pick produces a thin, scratchy sound that comes with excessive click noises. I even tried to make it sound better by sanding way, sorry, forget it!

D'Andrea Pro Plec 346 Rounded Triangle (Shell 1.5mm)

After several friends mentioned this pick, I thought I really should try it.

Hard to get - I found it nowhere in Germany and the only source seemed to be a dealer in Italy who charges 30€ for the postage alone! But I finally got it from for very little money: 10 picks for $7,90 plus $5,74 postage!

And it is really great - a nice warm sound on all my guitars with very little click-noises. Even though it is not beveled or polished, it easily matches or even beats the quality of all those expensive picks I checked.

In short, an exceptional pick!

Manfred Junker is a Jazz-Guitarist from Konstanz, Germany. To listen to his music and read about his projects, click here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Peter Beets Trio with Kurt Rosenwinkel

It is not often that I watch full concerts on Youtube. It's usually isolated clips that I view. It's pretty incredible what is available on Youtube and there's so much to see ... However here's a concert that I enjoyed so throroughly that I watched all the 9 clips of the playlist in one go. The musicianship is outstanding (Peter Beets' solos are pretty out of this world too and the trio is really tight) and Kurt's modern jazz guitar sounds blend wonderfully with the more traditional, acoustic setting of the classic piano trio format. Club jazz at its best. What's more, you get to hear to hear one of the best modern jazz guitar players both on a set of standards and more modern tunes such as "Inner Urge" and the Coltrane tunes "Satellite" and "26-2." Kurt is a much more lyrical player than I thought he was. His ballad playing on "Turn Out the Stars" and "More than You Know" is superb. You can select individual tunes by clicking the icon in the left upper corner.

The concert was recorded on may 1, 2015 at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. The mix is not the most balanced (especially for the bass player, he deserves much better) but on the whole the sound quality is decent enough. Enjoy!

Peter Beets - piano 
Kurt Rosenwinkel - guitar 
Frans van Geest - double bass 
Joost Patocka - drums

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thomastik Infeld Jazz Swings versus d' Addario Chromes

A few years ago the Thomastik Infeld company was so kind to send me a few packs of TI Jazz Swings so I could test and review them on my Blog. Well, as it happened I have strung all my guitars with them in the mean time (on some 012 and on some 011) and have been playing them ever since. So that review is long overdue. But here it is ...

Prior to my conversion to the TI Jazz swings in 2015 I had been using d'Addario Chromes for about 20 years. To great satisfaction I must add. I still think Chromes are great sounding strings for Jazz archtops. So why the conversion? Let's have a look. I'm going to focus on 3 variables: feel, sound and durability.

This is undoubtedly the main reason for my conversion. TI Jazz swings feel much more comfortable than Chromes due to the lower strings tension when using similar gauges. As a matter of fact, the string tension on a set of 0.12 TI will be more or less equal to a 0.11 set of Chromes and, consequently, a set of 013 TIs will feel like a set of 012 Chromes. That's partly because the string gauges are slightly different starting from the G string and partly because Chromes feel "stiffer" somehow. The TI's smoothly polished nickel winding on a round core versus the Chromes' stainless steel winding on a hex core will make the TIs way more flexible and therefore more comfortable to play.

Many argue that TIs will sound more mellow than Chromes. So Chromes are a bit "brighter" sounding. This makes sense, because hex core strings tend to sound brighter than round core strings. Personally, I did not notice THAT much difference between TIs and Chromes sound wise. Both brands sound great. In addition, it is argued that round core TIs will have more sustain than hex core Chromes and that they sound more vintage. The superior flexibility and sustain of round core strings is explained in this short vid:

Both brands will last a long time, that's for sure. Both TIs and Chromes will easily be on one of my guitars for at least a year. Sometimes the only reason I change a set is because the intonation finally goes bad.

This is only a minor advantage but I do like the TIs red wrapping on the wound string ends and the brass plated high e and b strings!

Though I always liked Chromes, I will stick to TIs from now on. Over here in Europe they are cheaper than Chromes and I really prefer the superior "feel" of the TIs. Sound wise, they are not worlds apart but I think the TIs produce more sustain and are a bit more mellow sounding. Heck, I finally found a guitar related advantage of living in Europe! I get the best strings for half the money but you guys in the US get the vintage Gibsons for 1-2 k cheaper and have way more to choose from ...

To sum up, the TI Jazz Swings are very reasonably priced in Europe, a joy to play and they last forever. End of story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Night of the Jazz Guitars

The Night of the Jazz Guitars is a guitar project that was initiated by the German jazz guitarist Andreas Dombert in 2002. He recorded two CDs (2002, 2006) with his former teacher Helmut Kagerer. With the addition of Paul Morello in 2010, the duo became a trio. A year later, Morello invited Larry Coryell to do a quartet album in 2011 and a tv concert of this quartet was recorded in the same year at the International Jazz Week at Burghausen.

Since 2014, "The Night of the Jazz Guitars" has been touring and recording in different line ups and with different guests such as Philip Catherine, Michael Sagmeister, Ulf Wakenius, Pat Martino and Jesse van Ruller. The line up is only guitar, no rhythm section!

But let's go back to the original 2011 quartet line up with guest star Coryell which was recorded wonderfully for tv. IMHO this is currently one of the most enjoyable live jazz guitar concerts available on Youtube. Sound and image are excellent. The music is highly arranged and at times almost chamber music like but the interplay is gorgeous, inventive enough and even adventurous at times. Both standards and originals are featured. Enjoy!

The studio album is available at Amazon here.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Joe's Guitars

I have always considered Joe's guitar tone in the mid and late sixties to be the best recorded archtop sound ever. I have written about that earlier. I am talking about the sound that you hear on records such as "For Django", "Joy Spring", "Simplicity" and "Intercontinental." Surely, this is a subjective statement, however, I do know that many agree with me on this. On these records Joe is playing a Gibson ES 175. For much of Pass' early recordings he employed the ES175 that was given to him as a gift right after he got out of drug rehab, when a wealthy real estate jazz fan discovered that Pass didn't own his own guitar, but was using a Synanon-owned solid body Fender. A solid body? Yes, while Joe Pass was at Synanon (drug rehab clinic) to kick his habit, Joe recorded his first album album as a leader  and used a Fender Jaguar because he did not own a guitar at the time. Somehow he managed to sound absolutely great on it. Amazing how fully developed his single line playing already was at the time, after a mostly wasted and drug ridden decade in the 50s ... In this post I'd like to have a look at the other guitars he used too throughout his career. 

But let's first go back to the ES 175. Joe used that guitar on all his classic recordings in the 1960s and continued to play it well into the 70s. I'm pretty sure he used it on the seminal "Virtuoso" albums and of course his duos with Ella feature this guitar. Anyway, a good example of the classic 175 tone that I dig so much is (of course) "Joy Spring." I have written about the 60s Joe Pass here.

In the 1970s Joe had James D'Aquisto build him a guitar with a single pickup installed. This guitar made it onto several recordings. Here's a solo recording on the D'Aquisto.

In the 80s Joe played the Ibanez Joe Pass signature JP-20 model guitar that Ibanez made for him. Much has been written about whether Pass did or didn't like this guitar, but he was faithful in using it over the life of the endorsement deal. I'm not that impressed by the sound of this particular guitar, neither by my own experience with it, nor by Joe's recordings that he made with it. Compared with his earlier sound on the 175 it always sounds tinny and trebly. Many argue the pick-up placement is wrong on that guitar but the following observation found on a guitar forum may be a more accurate assessment:
The problem is actually that Ibanez added two frets - gratuitously - to the fretboard. Pass didn't even realize this, nor did he use those frets. You can tell this when he wanders up there in his first Hot Licks instructional disk (in 1986 it was actually a videotape). He was surprised to discover that the JP20 went to "D." The extra two frets pushed the relative position of the pickup beyond the node of the 24th fret.

So the bottom line is that the 175 is 20-fret guitar, whereas the Ibanez JP20 is a 22-fret guitar with the pick-up in a position further removed from the neckYou can hear Joe on the Ibanez on many recordings and live performances of the 80s and on the left you can see and hear it in action. Of course it should be noted that Joe would sound great on any guitar but hey ... this is a nerdy place to begin with so we have our preferences :)

Sometimes Joe played an acoustic guitar. I read somewhere that he recorded "Summer Winds" and "Appassionato" with a 1942 Epiphone Deluxe owned by John Pisano that originally belonged to John's father.

Joe finally went back to a Gibson ES 175 when Gibson built him a custom model in 1992. This particular model had the pick-up placed closer to the neck and it was slightly thinner than a regular ES 175. It was one of a kind. And it sounded great. IMHO, Joe was back to the guitar that has best fit him over the years. Listen to the warm and lush 175 sounds here:

He also used it on my favourite later recording, "In Hamburg" that he recorded in 1992 with the NDR Big Band.

It's a darned shame that Gibson never marketed this particular custom made ES 175 model as a Joe Pass Signature Model. Over the years they have had a Tal Farlow, a Barney Kessel and a Herb Ellis model and not a Joe Pass model? Why a Steve Howe and not a Joe Pass 175? Incomprehensible. For many people Joe's sound on the 175 has become the archetypal jazz guitar sound to begin with. The perhaps greatest of them all had to forego his own Gibson Signature ES 175 ...

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Need a bass player?

I use backings to practise quite often but many of them get tedious after a while, especially the ones made in Band-in-a-Box or the iReal Book. Sure, there's the Aebersold playalongs and the Hal Leonard ones but these often feature piano comping and sometimes you just want to hear something different to play along with. These days I kind of prefer duo and especially drummerless trio settings for playing in anyway. A while ago I came across the Youtube channel of Mr. Sunny Bass. He's double bass player from Italy that has over 170 videos featuring jazz standards on double bass to play along with. Click on the playlist icon in the left upper corner in the vid below to view it. 

I added some examples of me improvising over a few standards. As you can hear, I sometimes add a comping guitar to create my own backing track so I can play with a "trio" feel. They also work great for practising duo playing with bass of course. Anyway, I have to thank the guy for all his hard work and judging from the reactions under his videos and the number of subscribers, many people dig them.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Interview with Frank Wingold

I first heard Frank Wingold on a live recording that was made to celebrate Wim Overgaauw's 65th birthday in 1994. It was recorded at Nick Vollebregt's Jazz Cafe in Laren, a year before his death, Wim performed with his (ex) students Maarten van der Grinten, Jesse van Ruller, Martijn van Iterson and ... Frank Wingold. But I only heard these recordings many, many years after the event when they appeared on Youtube and I kind of forgot about him. Until recently, when I came across a few clips that featured him playing solo guitar and I was so impressed that I caught up on him and his career and decided to ask him for an inteview. I added two of his video clips that you should watch in full ...

Here's the first solo guitar clip "Darn that Dream." Out of this world ...

At what age did you pick up the guitar and what did you first study?

I picked up the guitar at the age of 9 but I was a very bad student in the beginning. I had very traditional, classical orientated lessons and that was absolutely not my interest at that age. That changed rigorously at the age of 12 when I met a teacher who was into acoustic blues, folk, ragtime, western etc. He was a very free-minded guy teaching young people in groups - chords, melody, fingerpicking, all playing together, singing and hanging out. I really got into fingerpicking then, ragtime, blues, fingerstyle guitar. I started to teach there at the age of 15. Around that time I also got very good classical guitar lessons which changed my approach from finger gym to really understanding music. I also got interested in jazz but mainly self-taught since it was hard to find a teacher back then in the little town I grew up. I only got a few lessons as a preparation of the auditions. But I had a band with a group of friends, we tried to play everything from standards to Steve Coleman and Frank Zappa.

Why did you go to the Netherlands to study jazz?

Back in that time there were very few places to study jazz in Germany, the classical tradition was very strong there. The conservatoire in Hilversum had a very good reputation so I tried there and they accepted me. To be honest I was pretty naive at that time, not like students today who check all study places thoroughly before they apply. I had a great time there and it was good to leave my hometown to start learning jazz from the scratch.

Could you tell us a bit about Wim Overgaauw’s approach to teaching jazz guitar?

His approach was mainly to play together and then he made some remarks about certain changes, voicings, endings, turnarounds, rehamonisations, etc. He never seemed to have a very strict methodological concept, perhaps because he also learned rather by playing, listening and teaching himself. I think we all learned a lot from him on an unconscious level, just by playing and listening. I always sounded way better when I played with him just because of the way he was comping. Somehow that’s still a miracle to me. But he also had a couple of pretty advanced concepts, hexatonic scale patterns or cello like chord voicings with the use of the thumb in front of the fretboard.

In his last years he was very much into Steve Coleman and Gary Thomas, the whole M-Base scene. When I got to know him better he invited me to his house and he showed me the first computers which could do hard-disc-recording (first the last Atari, then one of the early Macintosh computers). That was pretty surprising because he was well-know for being a post-bebop and standards player. He composed tunes in that style and recorded all parts in the computer with a MIDI-guitar-interface and with hard disc recording. He was always fresh and modern in his mind, interested in recent developments of jazz. I think few people knew about this side of his musical personality.

The lessons with Wim were very valuable and inspiring. But I’d like to mention that I am also very grateful for the lessons which I had with Henk Sprenger en Maarten van der Grinten.

Your peers during your time in Hilversum were guys like Martijn van Iterson and Jesse van Ruller. Did you guys study and play together? Did you learn from each other?

There was a group with 5 guitars, Wim, Maarten, Martijn, Jesse and me, plus bass, drums and saxophone. We played mainly arrangements of Maarten and did a couple of gigs in Holland. Later we played in several universities in the U.S. as represantatives of the Hilversums Conservatory to make contact with some universities there, Berklee, Miami and New York. Unfortunatly Wim was too sick to come with us then. At that time we played together and I think we all learned from each other at school.

Are you still in contact with MVI and JVR?

No, today we don’t meet any more.

You also got a degree in classical guitar in Hilversum. How did you manage that?

I was very much in classical guitar as a teenager. I was also thinking about studying classical guitar for a while, but then I was much more fascinated by improvising and creating my own music. In Hilversum I had the opportunity to get very good classical guitar lessons as a secondary subject during my study. In my last year I was basically done with all theoretical subjects and had only jazz guitar lessons. I thought why not asking if I could do an exam in classical guitar at the end of the school year. The school said it´s okay if the teacher accepts me and estimates my level as high enough. I played for the classical guitar teacher Lydia Kennedy and she accepted me. So I had one year of high level classical guitar lessons plus some really interesting theoretical subjects like analysis of 20th century compositions. That was a great year for me full of music, learning and practicing. It was a lot of work of course because at the same time I was starting my first own bands, composing my own music, etc.

I never intended to become a professional classical guitaris but the approach to playing the guitar and to composing is very much influenced by classical music. I always loved music of the Rennaissance and Baroque era and especially by 20th century composers. This influence is still very strong in my approach to playing, especially when I play solo, and in my compositions. But I also regularly play contemporary classical music for electric guitar, solo, duo or with bigger ensembles. I also composed two works for chamber orchestra and electric guitar.

Which jazz guitarist(s) had the most influence on your jazz playing in your years as a student?

Jim Hall always was and still is a great inspiration for me. I still think that his direct musicality and endless stream of fresh ideas is outstanding and beyond categories of traditional, modern or anything else. As a student I also was very much into John Scofield and Bill Frisell but this became less during the years.

What happened after your graduation from the Hilversum conservatory?

I didn’t want to go back to my hometown area because there was basically no jazz scene back then. I was thinking about staying in the Netherlands but I didn´t have a lot of perspectives there. In the last years of my study I made some connections with the jazz scene in Cologne and I decided to move there. It´s still close enough to Holland to keep up the connection, you can travel basically everywhere in Germany from there and the city has a strong jazz scene. In the beginning it was pretty tough but after a while I could earn some money by teaching and I started to play in some bands there. I made my first CD with Dutch musicians and then life went on.

Could you tell us something about your current teaching activities?

I´m teaching jazz guitar in Groningen. It’s a nice school with a special program called ‚NY comes to Groningen‘, that means that every week there’s a different additional teacher from NY at school to teach his instrument, group lessons and Masterclasses. It’s nice to be in touch with all these musicians and especially I like that students come from all over the world to study in Groningen, the atmosphere is very lively and inspiring. I also have a professorship for jazz guitar at the university in Osnabrueck/Germany. It´s also a great school with a fantastic line up of teachers from the current German jazz scene. Meanwhile there are a lot of places to study jazz in Germany nowadays, but Osnabrueck grew to one of the biggest and most influental jazz departments of Germany in the last years. The study language is German, not English like in Groningen, so there are less international students. But it’s a unique and ambitious school with a huge potential and I like to work there a lot.

Could you mention some highlights in your career as a musician?

With my dutch trio "Agog" we won the Dutch Jazz Competition in, I think, 2001, and we made a very nice CD and played a concert tour with the string quartet "Zapp". With the quintet "Underkarl" we had a lot of concerts in the late 90s and we played at the Berliner Jazzfest 1997. We had a couple of great tours in Central America and Pakistan. With "Agog" we had some very nice tours in India, China and South Korea. I made two CDs with a Cologne based quartet "Clairvoyance" which I’m still very proud of.

I love your solo guitar playing. Could you tell us something about your picking technique and approach? 

Since my first love in guitar music was fingerpicking, blues, ragtime, etc. it’s blueprinted in my basic understanding that you should be able to sit down with your guitar and play in a way that nothing is missing. That’s why I always played solo, even before I had any ambitions in that area. My solo playing is strongly inspired by the contemporary classical guitar repertoire and my fascination of the possibilities of the piano. I’m not so much into the rather linear approach when you play with a pick and you combine lines with chords. I prefer to break up everything into different layers, use more orchestral techniques and switch the melody line from top to the middle voices to the bass. I played some transcriptions of Keith Jarrett solo piano pieces for guitar, that opened my ears and eyes. I think there are endless unexplored possibilities on the guitar which are still to be discovered. I try to develop a dynamic and emotional way of playing, many solo guitarists have the tendency to prepare a lot and then sound very controlled.

Do you still like playing jazz standards?

Of course I do. That’s where it all comes from, I think that jazz originaly evolved from varying melodies, mainly well-known melodies. The energy comes from the tension what is familiar and what is new to the listener. I find it important to come back to this point in playing and composing regularly, especially because I have the tendency to move far away from that area in my compositions.

What music do you like listening to? Any favorites?

I come back to my old favourites like Jim Hall and Keith Jarrett regularly. Of course I follow the current American and European scene and try to stay up to date. I’m fascinated by music which manages to create a whole new world within itself. In that sense I like the music of the piano trio ‚Dawn of Midi‘ very much. Many pieces of composer Conlon Nancarrow are very inspiring. He did his own thing basically isolated from developments of classical music of his time and composed for player pianos. By composing directly on the paper rolls he was able to realize rhythmic and textural structures which are impossible in written music. There are arrangements of his music for the contemporary music group ‚Ensemble Modern‘ which are extraordinary beautiful and touching.

You live in Cologne. What’s the music scene like over there?

Cologne and Berlin are the strongest jazz scenes in Germany. There are plenty of great musicians in Cologne, of all styles and colours. Cologne was the first unversity with a jazz study in Germany. The scene is pretty open, there are a couple of initiatives by musicians and established organizers. Additionaly the radio stations WDR and Deutschlandfunk contribute in supporting the jazz scene. Unfortunately the opportunities to play are a little weak compared to all this potential. But as a jazz musician you have to travel anyway.

What future do you see for current and future jazz students?

The academic education of jazz helped to raise the general level of musicianship in all non-classical areas. Private and music school teachers are much better educated and experienced in Jazz, Groove and Afro-American culture then 15 years ago This is especially important in Germany where the classical tradition is so strong and all non-classical styles are often regarded as a nice but inferior ‚extra‘, not the ‚real thing‘. Of course it’s hard to say which perspectives jazz students will have in the future. Surely they will not all end up in the club and festival scene, but my experience is that young students are very realistic and well-informed nowadays. The chance to get rich is small in that area, but they know about it. They want to play and teach, be creative and often find their own way of living and realizing their creativity. The education helps them on this way. Guitar is still the most popular instrument among kids and young people and there is a certain demand for teachers on the market. And it´s important that jazz musicians get organized and do lobby work - in Germany there are many new initiatives by young musicians.

What guitars do you play currently?

I’m totally into 7-string guitar playing these days. I’m very fascinated by the possibilities of the extended range. I have a Schecter semi-acoustic (ES 335-like model) and an Eastman Archtop guitar, both 7-stringed. Especially the Schecter is not a high-profile instrument, but after I changed the pickup to a handwound Kent Armstrong I really like it’s sound and playabiliy. I’m thinking about selling all my 6-string guitars and get a collection of high-quality 7-string guitars in the future. But for now I’m happy with the ones I have. The best guitar which I have is a Guild Artist Award Archtop - this one I will definately keep.

Any future projects we should know about?

This year two recordings of mine will be released. In May there will be my trio CD with Robert Landfermann on bass and Jonas Burgwinkel on drums with all trio compositions of mine. It’s called "Entangled Music" and the compositions work a lot with sublime textures and uncommon interweaving of the instruments. It’s a very special music and I’m curious how people will react on the release and how it works in live concerts. In october there will be a release of a duo recording with singer Martina Gassmann, it’s our third release. Also here we travel some new pathes, the music is hard to categorize and I do some challenging guitar work there. In some tunes I use the 7-string guitar. I think I will mainly be busy with promoting these two projects and do some touring. For the future I’m thinking of releasing some solo work on YouTube and on CD. And then we’ll see where the road leads.

Thanks so much for the interview Frank!

To order a CD or contact Frank mail him at

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Checking Out Some Vintage ES Guitars

Every once in a while I take a trip to check out some guitars. I noticed MusicWork Waalwijk had a few vintage guitars in their collection so I paid the store a visit last saturday. I took my own 1964 ES 125 with me as a point of reference and my own trusted Mambo amp. The guitars I wanted to check out were all vintage ES guitars. The store owner proved to be an elderly - and very nice - guy that told me running a music store was hardly profitable anymore due to the presence of internet giants such as Thomann and Bax. Fortunately for him, he had reached retirement age, so he could close at any time now and it was more a hobby than necessity. I felt for him though. What if all the smaller stores have to close and you can only order your guitar online ... Yikes.

First guitar I tried out was a 1950s Gibson ES 125. It was a cool guitar (very responsive) with a darker sunburst than my own 1964 one. It sounded very good, but I liked the tone of my own 125 even better. Much more punch and woodiness in it. Check out the video. You can hear it easily. Quite a relief though that the guitar you already own is the better one! In fact I already suspected this, for the 1951 ES 125 that I owned earlier, was very much like the one in the store and I always suspected that the 1964 one that I own now was the nicer guitar ...

I was very happy to finally be able to play a 1950s ES 175 with a P90 pup. I have played vintage ES 175s earlier |(from 1959, 1961 and 1964) but an earlier P90 equipped one was new to me.

It proved to be a very nice guitar but sound wise very much in the vein of a 125, which is not surprising. The playability of the 175 was a bit better due to the 175 being a mid end guitar and the 125 an entry level one, but sound wise the difference was not shocking. The price tag for the 175 was too steep for my taste, almost 5k. I played the same lick more or less on the 175 as on the 125 so you can hear the difference.

The next guitar I wanted to play was a 1946 Gibson ES 300. Unfortunately some strings were missing but the store owner quickly put on a few fresh ones. The guitar had some serious issues though, as you can hear in the video. It really needs some work and possibly a complete refret. It sounded great though, as far as the limited playability allowed. The sound was big and deep. The price tag too unfortunately. Way, way too steep for the condition it was in ...

I could have played some more guitars. The store really had an impressive collection archtops for its size. He had a few older GB 10s, an Ibanez Joe Pass, a Peerless Jazz City a Gibson Herb Ellis and some thinline vintage ES 120 and ES 125 Gibsons but the only guitar I played further was a Conti model. I had never seen one before actually. Not sure what exact model it was. Anyway, it was a pleasant afternoon and I hope the vid gives you some idea of the sounds I heard.

Monday, March 26, 2018

No more free gigs

Where I live there are few jazz gigs available. It's probably the same where you live. Venues that have jazz on the agenda are more the exception than the rule. This means that amateur jazz musicians usually play for free, for lack of opportunities. I know I have been doing that too often since I started out on my jazz journey. Sometimes, I do not even get expenses paid, which simply means that I have to PAY to play somewhere. For, my car runs on petrol, my guitars need strings and I did not get my instruments and my amp for free. As a matter of fact, I take about 4k worth of gear to any free gig. And then there's the time investment. A local gig takes up about 5-6 hours of my time. And what about all the years I put in on the instrument? The talent and time it requires to even be able to play jazz on a certain level is considerable. It takes years. Funny, how people expect me to play the stars from heaven (Dutch saying) and then offer me two free consumptions as a fee ... They even think that is perfectly normal and acceptable. O yeah, don't believe in the "exposure" myth. It is so stale I'm not even going to explain why it is rubbish in most cases.

So why do people play for free? Probably because they rather rather play for free than not gig at all ... At least, that's how I used to feel. But this has changed. As I'm getting older, I'm not so keen anymore to be on that stage. More and more I find free gigs downright insulting. Every free gig reminds me that my art and skill level is worthless and it invariably leads to me driving home with a bad feeling. Was it worth it? What is THAT great? Nah, usually not.

I came across an article that sums it up nicely. Let me quote:
3 reasons why you should not play for free
1. It devaluates the profession. When you play gigs for free, you are sending the message that the title “musician” is not worthy of being an occupation. We don’t need more people believing that being a professional musician is nothing more than a silly dream or something you can “always do for fun on the side”.

2. You are cheating yourself. Think about everything that you have done to get to where you are now. When you play a gig, you are displaying thousands and thousands of hours of hard work to an audience. You’ve suffered through lots of frustration, sacrifice, and even money to hone your craft. Don’t let all of this time and energy go to waste by giving it all away for free!

3. It hurst the music economy. So maybe you’ve read all of this so far but you’re thinking: “I’m not really a professional musician. I don’t care about getting paid; I just love to play. So what if I play a gig for free? I have a day job!” Well hear me out on this one. If there is any reason why you shouldn’t play gigs for free, it’s because you are hurting the music economy by doing so. A huge problem professional musicians are having right now is that venues are not willing to pay for music, or are only willing to give insultingly low amounts.
This I can relate to. Venues know darned well that they can get most amateur outfits for free. And sometimes the quality of the music on offer may even deserve little to no pay. So it's probably not all black and white. But for advanced players and experienced musicians - even those that have a day job - it should be at least doubtful.

I came across this diagram that can help you decide if you should do that free gig or not. It was created by the folks of Work Not Play – a UK-based musician’s union. It is very helpful to make a decision.

I have made up my mind about free gigs in the meantime. I'm not doing them anymore. For local gigs that require little travelling, the least people will have to offer me is to cover my expenses. Outside my region, I will expect a reasonable fee. Or I will stay at home happily ... I have other channels that enable people to listen to what I am doing on that guitar.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

MVI the solos II

5 Years ago I uplodaded a video complitation of a few Martijn van Iterson solos to my Blog that I recorded a few years earlier during a live show at the Crow. Click here to view them. He was playing in a quintet with Simon Rigter and Ruud Breuls at the time. This week I was going through my video vault and found a second compilation from that show that I have never published earlier. These tunes are a bit lesser known than the ones on the first compilation. But you will hear the same great playing and the same great sound on his ES 125, captured with my old camcorder just a few yards from the stage ... So after 5 years ... here's the second instalment of MVI the solos.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Praise be to the Gibson ES 125

Wow, It's been months since my last Blog entry. I haven't been active on Facebook either. I have had some better times and let's leave it that.

Last april I got my 1964 Gibson ES 125 from a store in Amsterdam.I wrote about that in an earlier post. I have been playing it with great pleasure ever since. It's an amazing vintage guitar, considering its relatively low price on the market. There are many around (I read somewhere that it was Gibson's most produced and actually mot successful model ever) so it's not that collectible. It was designed as en entry level archtop in the late 40s  and it had no fancy appointments. Still, I like to believe it is not THAT different from a 1950s P90 equipped 175. It has a maple top, mahogany sides and maple back, a one piece Honduras mahogany neck, an unbound rosewood fingerboard, nickel-plated Kluson Deluxe tuners and one P90 pup in neck position. No fancy bindings and position markers. The body size at lower bout is 16". Scale length 24 1/2". Nut Width: 1 11/16".

What is so nice about the 125? Well, to begin with ... its price.If you are lucky, you can get one for under 2k. And make no mistake, it IS a genuine vintage Gibson guitar. You'd have to pay at least twice that money for a 1950s ES 175 ... So price wise, the ES 125 has no competition in the vintage electric Gibson archtop market. None whatsoever.

And then there its sound of course. It is of a much lighter build than contemporary Gibson laminates and together with the old woods and vintage production methods, this results in a very responsive instrument. It is really nice to play unamplified. A great couch guitar. Plugged in, you can get that old school 1950s bebop sound easily.

Considering what the 125 has to offer, it is remarkable that so few actually play them.

Here's two clips that I recorded recently. One features the guitar unplugged and one plugged in. Mind you, this guitar was never intended to be used unamped ... The chord melodies are mostly my own arrangements, but not all.