Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny…*


Well, I finally caved in and did it – I got desperate and got a Jazz guitar teacher. Books and magazines are great up until a point but they can’t take you where a grizzly 50-year-old gig-hardened Mississippian (go check the spelling and see) veteran can in terms of imparting experience, anecdotes, knowledge and spontaneous licks.

The problematic part is this – I don’t actually like Jazz – at least, for the most part the stuff I’ve heard (and trust me, I’ve been in plenty of elevators) doesn’t really stimulate me as much as say a wild ‘n’ heavy thrash metal riff from Megadeth or a wailing distorted Yngwie Malmsteen solo, or a fusionesque and tortuously twisted Allan Holdsworth lead might. No – my musical interest and motivation is in IMPROVISATION, i.e. spontaneously making up some music on the spot without any premeditation and the Jazz realm is where this happens in its most refined and evolved form I suppose.

So, having already said that I don’t like Jazz let me qualify that by saying that generally, those Swing and Bebop tunes don’t really appeal to me though I do appreciate the harmonic sophistication and the musicianship that comprises a lot of it – I want to learn these techniques and apply them in a way that doesn’t sound quite so happy and jolly as a lot of Jazz does (of course I’m deliberately showing my ignorance here – no offence intended :)). Maybe I’ll dive into this in future to avoid too many flames on a new blog – (wishful thinking that there are even any readers out there…). Commentators may feel free to suggest Jazz which is non-happy and non-jolly sounding.

In browsing various magazines I happened across this (highly paraphrased) quote from Pat Martino: “sooner or later the guitarist is confronted with having to learn how to play over changes” – so that’s where I am now. A player for 20 years in various rock and metal styles, the time has come when I’m faced with a chord chart that shows more than just a static E minor chord vamp, but instead has a G7#5b9, B7+-\G, Em7, F+, C13#4b2sus3 and I am scratching my head saying ‘huh? How the heck do I play over this without looking like an idiot?’ – albeit an idiot with a fuckin’ bitchin’ looking pointy-headstocked metal guitar.

Part of the effort of this blog will be to document ‘before and after’ scenarios so I’ll be posting examples of my playing as I progress through my journey with my new guitar teacher and hopefully will be able to demonstrate some kind of improvement. I’ll also try to lay down some of what I was shown so if you’re so inclined you can copy some of it too.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.

*attributed to the late great Frank Zappa – another totally bitchin’ guitarist and a unique improvisor.


5 Responses to “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny…*”

  1. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  2. Fair enogh – don’t agree on which points?

  3. Watch out! You might start to like it when you start to understand it…

    A Happy Jazzer

  4. […] liked the Minor ii, V, i progression. In case you hadn’t noticed I mentioned long ago that I actually don’t really like jazz and I think I can trace at least part of that to the happy sounding major II, V, I progression that […]

  5. Jazz isn’t dead which is why still teach it. But yes, it smells a little weird. It always has.

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