Saturday, March 26, 2005

You Are The All Things

Previous: I took most of the past two days off from guitar and the journal, but something happened during that time that I think is worthy of note. I had a few minutes with the acoustic guitar and I was playing around with ATTYA running through the changes without a metronome or accompaniment. It was a neat experience in that the work that I’ve been doing this past month is showing results. As I was playing through the changes I was noticing that I was working through them with more confidence and more musicality. I could avoid being so literal through the changes and displace my phrasing without getting lost. It was a neat experience and a lot of fun to play.

Afternoon: I went back to my Paul Desmond ATTYA transcription. I refreshed on the old licks and tried some new ones out. I took me a little while to get warmed up, but not so bad as previous experiences of taking two days off. I spent some time learning some of his licks and then playing along with his and Gerry Mulligan’s solos. My chord voicing were two big for their ensemble, but it was a good exercise in getting them back into practice. My soloing was quite slow and boring for a while, but I used that as an exercise in chord tones. The tune is really fast for me so just playing two chord tones per bar is a decent challenge. As I was getting warmed up I could string together some eighth note passages. Just listening to them playing so fast helped out my technique. I’m gripping the pick a little closer (choking-up) and I’m playing faster than I have in a while (I don’t play fast very often). It was a good exercise and I enjoyed being close to Paul & Gerry’s phrasing.

My next exercise was with the loop station. I put down a click track and then improvised through the changes from memory one time through and then overdubbed the chord changes underneath them. It was a wild experience. One of my problems that I could address was the fact that I was getting lost in the changes previously. I am so accustomed to being a solo guitarist that I’ve picked up some one-man-band bad habits. Mostly it’s time. When I don’t know a change, I can slow down. It’s called rubato. As I was playing through the changes without hearing them, and only listening to the click track I never got lost. I always knew where I was and could really feel the changes as they were going on underneath me, whether or not I was outlining them with my improv. This was a neat observation for me given that I frequently get confused when playing with another player. My diagnosis is that I was too dependent of a collaborator when working with someone else (or a click track). I sort of lost confidence that I knew the changes and would thusly keeping checking to see if I was lost. It such a terrible predicament to be in: always checking, almost expecting to be lost in the changes. When I was playing with just a click track there was no accompaniment to listen to therefore I just had to keep the changes in my head and solo at the same time. It seems obvious that the soloist has to take a bit of a leadership position. The soloist has to step up and project to the audience, just like a public speaker does or a person having a conversion with a group of people. I enjoyed the exercise and I enjoyed it’s results. I’m still really struck at how different my soloing sounds with this exercise. I’m going to put it to the test with the exercise reversed to see how it’s changed the way I listened to changes.

When listening and working through the Desmond solos I was remind how I don’t solo over the changes. I solo through them. I’m articulating or at least thinking about every chord as it moves by. I don’t have a lot of background soloing over the changes (soloing in the key) and I think this is an important observation, especially with a tune like ATTYA. So I tried soloing through the key a couple of times and I really hit on some of the over-the-bar-line ideas you can come up with. It made me want to take step back in my jazz playing; maybe look at Benny Goodman or Woody Herman. Either way, I think there is more to be revealed as I continue studying the Desmond solo. I’m just about finished with the first chorus and can almost play it in time (a slower time than the record). He’s using some reharms or substations that I think are important. Maybe I’ll get to them tonight.


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