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Les Paul

I was lucky enough to see Les play at the Iridium in New York City over Memorial Day Weekend in 2008.  It was great to finally get the chance to see him.  He was incredibly entertaining and his band was amazing.

From CNN.com:

(CNN) — Les Paul, whose innovations with the electric guitar and studio technology made him one of the most important figures in recorded music, has died, according to a statement from his publicists. Paul was 94.

Paul died in White Plains, New York, from complications of severe pneumonia, according to the statement.

Paul was a guitar and electronics mastermind whose creations — such as multitrack recording, tape delay and the solid-body guitar that bears his name, the Gibson Les Paul — helped give rise to modern popular music, including rock ‘n’ roll. No slouch on the guitar himself, he continued playing at clubs into his 90s despite being hampered by arthritis.

“If you only have two fingers [to work with], you have to think, how will you play that chord?” he told CNN.com in a 2002 phone interview. “So you think of how to replace that chord with several notes, and it gives the illusion of sounding like a chord.”

There is a great documentary about Les called “Chasing Sound”. Highly reccommended.  It chronicles all of his accomplishements over the years and even shows his guitar collection which includes Django’s guitar.

Thank you Les. For Everything.


Jimmy Herring – Lifeboat


As one of the leading guitarists on the “jamband” scene, Jimmy is widely respected.  For many years his fans were urging him to finally make the record that all of us knew he could make.  Through his time with Aquarium Rescue Unit, Project Z, Frogwings, The Allman Brothers Band and currently Widespread Panic his talents always seemed (just slightly) pushed to the side.

Until now.

“Lifeboat” is a perfect example of a modern day interpretation of classic guitar heavy fusion.  Not fusion in the sense of playing jazz licks with distortion, but a combination of varied influences and styles.  Joining Herring is his longtime musical partner Oteil Burbridge on bass.  The combination of Jimmy and Oteil really holds this record together. Along with Jeff Sipe, Kofi Burbridge and Derek Trucks there is no shortage of outstanding musicianship.

The opening track “Scapegoat Blues” is an uptempo blues in 6/4.  The melody is vibrant and has a hint of a Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse vibe to the phrasing.  Recently in Guitar World magazine, Jimmy did several lessons demonstrating the use of the diminished scale in this particular tune.

Another standout track on the album is “The Jungle Book Overture”. Yes, that Jungle Book.  It is an amazing feat for a musician to be able to take music from his or her childhood and still make it relevant today.  Not only does it speak to the quality of the composition, but also the talent of the musicians.

Overall this is one of my favorite albums of 2009 (even though it was released in 2008).  The tunes are so strong that you almost forget that this is an entirely instrumental album.

You can purchase “Lifeboat” from Abstract Logix.

Here is a great interview with Jimmy all about his new album:



Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion Project

Update: Here is a follow up post – If I was Pat Metheny

We recently had Pat Metheny as a guest at our Purchase, NY campus for our Jazz Summit.  During that appearance, he went into a bit of (more) detail about his latest project entiled “The Orchestrion Project”.

Here is a descripton from his website:

“Orchestrionics” is the term that I am using to describe a new performance method to present music alone onstage using acoustic and acoustoelectric musical instruments that are mechanically controlled using the power of modern technology.

In early 2010 a new recording will be released on Nonesuch. It will be a “solo” record in that I am the only musician—but a CD that in some ways recontextualizes the term.

Even in speaking with Pat directly I was a bit confused as to exactly what to expect with this project.  My understand is that he has developed some new more electronic based interfaces to create music.  It sounds exciting and fresh and exactly what (I think) modern jazz needs right now.

If I was Pat I would get a videocamera and record some demos of the Orchestrion material and put them up on YouTube.  I am sure a lot of fans would like to discover these new sounds right along with Pat.

For a description of this project in Pat’s own words, click here.

At the end of his clinic with us, he played a few chourses of Autumn Leaves very similar to the video below:



National Guitar Workshop Summer Tour Part Three: Austin, TX

Keep Austin Weird.

Austin is by far one of my favorite cities to go to.  There is always great food nearby and if live music is your thing (which for me it is), there is plenty of great bands and musicians to check out.

JV

This year our workshop took place at Concordia University in the northwest suburbs of Austin.  It is a great campus that gave the feeling that you were on a nature retreat somewhere in the hill country of Texas.  Everyone there welcomed us back (we were at their old location in 2006 and 2007) and I was really looking forward to seeing the returning students and our faculty.

Our featured guest for our Blues Summit was Jimmie Vaughan.  Jimmie is a legendary Texas Blues musician and is one of a handful of guitarists who we have never had the chance to work with.  For his appearance, Jimmie brought his band with him that included Mike Flanigin on B3 and the legendary blues drummer, Frosty.  The band did a great job of mixing up some performances of Jimmie’s tunes and some Q and A with the audience.   This is a big reason why our students come back year after year, they get the chance not only to see some of their guitar heroes up close, but also get the opportunity to ask them questions.

photoAnother guest we had in Austin was John Jorgenson.  John is largely known for his time in the twang supergroup The Hellecasters with Jerry Donahue and Will Ray.  John’s talent as a musician is endless.  Not only is he a scary good electric country player he is easily one of the foremost Gipsy style guitarists in the world.  Adding his skills on clarinet and he is pretty much one of the most versatile musicians around.

Overall it was a great week for the students and faculty alike.

Here is a video of an especially talented student playing on the student concert:



Jimmy Herring and Oteil Burbridge Clinic

During our Jam Summit, we were lucky enough to have two of the most in demand musicians on the scene as special guests, Jimmy Herring and Oteil Burbridge. Jimmy and Oteil have a long history together. They first came to prominence as members of Col. Bruce Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit.

photo

Oteil has been the bassist in the Allman Brothers Band for the last twelve years and Jimmy has been holding down the guitar chair in Widespread Panic. This fall both bands are heading out on a tour together. The combination of Oteil, Jimmy, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks will be one you surely don’t want to miss.

The clinic was a great mix of some performances with our NGW faculty Drum Instructor Simon Lott and questions from the audience. Many topics were covered from live as a professional musician to the creative process.

One of the most interesting topics that Jimmy covered was the use of chord scales within the context of Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor and Natural Minor scales. Soon I will have a handout available showing these ideas.

This was one of the better clinics I have been to in recent memory and we look forward to having them back again!


National Guitar Workshop Summer Tour Part Two: Chicago

As always, Chicago this year was great.  From the location to the housing to the great people at Judson who take care of us, it seems that every year our Chicago campus is usually my favorite.

The faculty this year included Matt Smith, Dennis McCumber, Cass Faulconer, John Horne, Murali Coryell, Mike Cramer, Shawn Purcell, Jeff Beasley, Dave Tiede, and several more amazing instructors.

The week began with meeting Amanda Monaco at O’Hare and then directly heading down to the Jazz Record Mart.  I had been there several times before and I knew that I had to put a time limit on our visit otherwise we would be there all day.  I ended up with a Paul Motian album and an early Jerry Bergonzi album.

The faculty arrived on Saturday and we had a nice hang before the students arrived on Sunday.  This year’s group of students were some of the most talented I had ever seen at NGW.  We had two students from Mexico, one from Italy and one from France. All of them had decided to come to Chicago to get the chance to see our guest artist, Buddy Guy.

One of the most memorable moments of the week was the night of the first student concert.  That afternoon the power went out for about half of the campus, which of course included our performance space.  At the last minute we decided to have the concert in a large classroom with minimal amplification and with the drummer only using a snare and a splash cymbal.

It was one of the most memorable student concerts ever.

Everyone who came had such a great time.  The students played great and many of them came up to me at the end of the week and let me know how great of a time they had.

On the 16th we headed down to Buddy Guy’s Legends to spend some time with the man himself.  As we arrived at the club, Buddy was sitting at the bar waiting for us.  Many of the students had to look twice as they walked in, not believing that he was just hanging out.

Buddy Guy at Legends

Buddy Guy at Legends Photo Courtesy of GuitarVibe.com

Buddy spent some time answering questions and telling stories about his life in music over the last 6 decades.  After he answered questions, he went back to sitting at the bar and proceeded to make sure everyone who attended had the chance to say hi, get an autograph or get a picture taken.  It was great to see someone at his level take the time to do this.

After all the autographs were signed the jam for the students started.  Buddy continued to hang to check out the first few bands and you could tell he was digging it.  It was an incredible thrill for everyone involved and I hope to talk to Buddy (and Isabelle) soon to bring him to another campus.

Another cool thing about this week was that Zack from GuitarVibe was attending as a student to document the entire week.  He did an amazing job of writing about the experience from a student’s perspective.  You can also check out some videos he shot on his YouTube channel.

I am already in Austin (very hot) and today we have the great Jimmie Vaughan on campus.  It is great being able to travel in the summer and see all of the students, but I am looking forward to going home on Saturday.


National Guitar Workshop Summer Tour Part One: McLean, VA

It always takes me a bit of time to get back into the swing of things when the annual (now my 6th summer) NGW tour begins.  As it has the last few summers we started in McLean, VA at one of my favorite campuses, The Madeira School.

A few of our teachers have already wrote about their experience at McLean.  You can check them out here and here.PatMartino

The week began with a trip to Blues Alley in DC to see Pat Martino with an amazing group that included Tony Monaco on B3 Organ, Eric Alexander on Tenor Sax and Jeff “Tain” Watts on Drums. Of course the music was amazing and the whole run of shows at Blues Alley was recorded for Pat’s upcoming live CD.  The whole band was very nice and it was really exciting to see them work out some new material.

Once the faculty and students arrived and the workshop began it really flowed pretty smoothly.  The Madeira School always does a great job as our hosts and the view from behind the auditorium is really incredible.

After the shows at Blues Alley ended, Pat came to campus to give an afternoon workshop and then he was going to spend the next day giving private lessons to some of our students.  I have seen Pat give 5 clinics in the past, but this one was by far the best.  He presented the material in such a clear and easy to understand manner (relatively speaking) that pretty much everyone got something out of it.

The handout for the clinic was an article by Jude Gold from Guitar Player, a leadsheet to his composition “Welcome To A Prayer” and an outline of the chord substitutions he would use on that tune.  The clinic was packed full of not only jazz students, but students from nearly every other class as well.  After the clinic, Tom Dempsey and I took Pat and his wife Aya out for dinner and we had a great time.  Both Pat and Aya are incredible to talk to and spend time with and this was likely the highlight of the week for me.

The other guest we had on campus was Alex Skolnick.  You might know Alex from his work in Testament, Trans-Siberian Orchestra or even his jazz trio.  Alex has been a longtime friend of NGW and it was great to bring him back this year.  I picked him up at the airport and we grabbed some lunch and then headed to the campus.  His clinic was a great mix of both his approach to playing metal and his newer jazz offerings.  After his clinic I introduced Alex to Pat and we all shared a ride over to Pat’s hotel.  Alex was in DC less than 12 hours as he was flying out to Amsterdam to begin a five week tour with Testament.

Overall the week was a great success.  I reconnected with some old friends on faculty and was introduced to some of the best guitarists and instructors in DC.  After the week ended, I headed back to CT for a few days and then yesterday I flew to Chicago to begin another workshop.

It seems like I was just here.