About 8-10 years ago I found my self in a little bit of a rut- sort of burned out on guitar. Then there was a series of events all of which help me to find fufillment in playing acoustic guitar. A couple of them I already wrote about in a previous post about Tuck Andress. It was around this period that I started playing around with alternate tunings. Just when I had thought I had seen it all I attended a Preston Reed clinic and concert and started using the body as a percussion instrument. One concept that came to mind was “NO RULES!”.
When you take the guitar and completely retune the instrument it is like starting over. Your normal chord shapes and structures will not necessarily work in the new tuning and you have to abandon your previous views on how to compose. People often ask me how I write my tunes and honestly they are almost all different but for the most part I like to start with a melody line and then fill in the bass notes. By the time the melody and bass are together there are only so many possibilities of what other notes you can fit with six strings, four fingers and a thumb! It is fun to start with a drum beat some times but I have found that I often get too caught up in the groove of the percussion and bass until I can no longer hear a melody or even a second section. Over all exploring what the guitar has to offer in any given alternate tuning can be a nice break from the theory-driven aspects of standard tuning.
I saw Preston Reed perform again recently only this time it was the as a music fan instead of a guitar player. It was just as inspiring but it a whole new way. Up till this point I had been focused on the complexity and technique of his playing, this time around I was swirling in the compositions.
So today I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Wes Montgomery played impossible things on the guitar because it was never pointed out to him that they were impossible.” Ronnie Scott
The other day I got this email from one of my band mates Melissa telling me to check out this great site called Jazz guitar life. Naturally I had to click on the link to check it out… “Jazz” “Guitar” and “Life” in one sentence….Jazz guitar is my life. And low and behold there on the front page there is this great interview by Lyle Robinson with Tuck Andres, who has been by far one of the most influential guitar players in my life. So much so I actually wrote a song that I titled Blues for Tuck because of the enormous impact he has had in my playing and in that song. Some might not hear the exact influence but it is there. The incredible part about this interview with Tuck is that even though he is on this almost non-human level of playing the instrument he gets right down to earth and lets you see a bit of his world. To hear him talk about his heros, his moments of awe, to hear about the some of the challenges they faced and how they worked around them… By Tuck letting us/me into his world a little through the portal of this interview I find myself rejuvenated. I feel inspired to practice more then I have in a while. It gives me hope, reminds me that everything is possible. Some of you may not get this from reading the interview, but I feel that Tuck is truly a gracious person that does deserve to be “that good”.
Of course reading this interview also took me back to what was and still is the highlight of my career, the night I got to open up for Tuck and Patti at the Magic Bag Theatre in Ferndale. My friend Chris Oleksy, who at the time was a fellow teacher at Gus Zoppi’s had been working on this project where we each played 2 guitars simultaneously. Chris, who was a student of mine back in the day, was huge into Stanley Jordon and was working on the whole tapping technique. Together we started arranging and writing tunes. We called the group Groovelation, like the song/album Groove Elation by John Scofield, also one of my favorite guitarist, then and now. I played a white Steinberger bass duck taped to a guitar stand on a Uhaul box with my left hand and a guitar with my right. Chris played a seven string in the right and a 6 string with his left laying across his lap. I don’t know how Chris did it but some how he hooked us up with this gig. It was crazy! I had a tremendous amount of respect for Tuck and Patti before, but watching them up close and in person took it to a whole other level. During the sound check Tuck would play a bit and Patti would call out to the sound guy something like “notch out a bit at 10K its a little hot and add a little around 100hz”. The two of them were incredible the way they prepared for the show. I have since been to a lot of shows at the Magic Bag and To date it still remains the show that had the best sound at that venue. After the show I got Tuck to autograph my 7 string guitar. It really was the opportunity of a life time.
After the show Chris and I played together for awhile around town and we performed together for my senior recital at Wayne. We also added a vocalist, Leah Woods (AKA James) and a drummer, Clint Sabon. We had a lot of fun. I think there is some really low quality video footage out there some where. It would be fun to see that now after all these years. This project definitely changed the way I viewed the instrument and what is possible. It was at the tail end of all this that I started writing the solo acoustic stuff. You could say I was looking for a way to combine those 4 guitar parts into one on the instrument. I haven’t quite gotten there but I am not done trying….