Swing Guitar

Dedicated to pre-bebop jazz guitar.

Monday, October 17, 2005

So Freddie Green never took a solo, huh? Not so fast!

UPDATED: Sound Samples Working!

The legend of Freddie Green very clearly states that Freddie never soloed. Well ... like most legends, that's not exactly true.

Freddie can be heard soloing on "Dinah" by Pee Wee Rusell's Rhythmakers from 1938 (I really should double check that date....). Freddie's using a chordal style much like Allan Reuss or perhaps like Al Casey. But this short 16-bar break was supposedly the only exception in Freddie's career.

"Dinah" - Pee Wee Russell


Hal Smith recently turned me on to another Freddie Green solo from the New Testament Basie band (which I generally do not consider to be "Swing" in the genre sense of the word; that band was very straight-ahead, although they may have been "swingin'"). The solo clearly indicates Allan Reuss' influence on Freddie's solo style. This clip is a live version, and appearently there is studio version which is much clearer.

"The Elder"- Count Basie

Friday, October 14, 2005

Songs for Beginners

There was a thread on the Django Swing Page forum - www.hotclub.co.uk - about good songs for beginners. I thought I should put something here about good songs to start with for players new to the style. Some of these good for practicing leads, some better for practicing rhythm, and most for both.

Here are some suggestions:
Rhythm Changes
Minor Swing / Dark Eyes / Blues en Mineur
Honeysuckle Rose
Rose Room
/ I Can’t Give You Anything but Love
Dinah / Lady Be Good
All of me

Here’s a little explanation as to why these can be helpful
Blues: This is clearly something every jazz musician needs to know backwards and forward. Of course it is a good place to start since it contains only 3 chords at its most basic level.
Rhythm Changes: Now, this song does have a lot of chords during the A sections, but more often than not, I just consider them to be 8 bars of Bb when soloing. The ability to play over the most simple of changes is far more important in the long run, than being able to mechanically run through complex changes. Playing 8 bars of a single chord is a great way to make yourself play melodically. Changes create interest – when there are no changes you have to create the interest.
Minor Swing / Dark Eyes / Blues en Mineur: Each of these is a variation of a minor i-iv-V progression. You could basically play though the entire song with the harmonic minor scale. But you can also use arpeggios throughout. Either way, it is good training ground to balance chordal movement and scale-based playing.
Honeysuckle Rose: A great example of playing V-I tunes, like Sweet Sue, or You Rascal You. V-I is a very simple move, but since its so obvious and entirely diatonic it can be hard to play something that doesn't sound cliche or corny. Step one is to embrace the corny, and then move on. The bridge is also a classic set of movements, which will come up time and time again. I7-IV is classic as is the II7-V7. The best part is that all of the changes go by fairly slowly – only every 2 bars.

These are a bit more difficult:
Rose Room / I Can’t Give You Anything but Love: Another song with classic movements you find all of the time. Both have a I7-IV-iv movement which is very classic. Additionally, each has a II7-V7 section, and I-IV7-ii-V movement as well. Again, here the chords don’t go by too fast.
Rosetta: More classic changes. I-V+-I-IV7-II7-V7-I. Each of these changes is classic. These changes do go by a bit faster. The bridge can basically considered a 4 bars of Am, then 4 bars of C going back to F.
Dinah / Lady Be Good – The A section is another lesson in I-V movment (although Lady has that IV chord). Each bridge has more common movements. Lady has a classic IV-iv-I movement along. Both have the vi-vimaj7-vi7-vi6 movment (say, Em, Em/D#, Em/D, Em/C).
All of me: This is the most complicated of the list. See my earlier post about the breaks down all of the changes. Again, the changes only come every two bars.

Some final thoughts:
I know when I started, so many modern jazz tunes have changes that go by 2-per-bar, and move in unfamiliar or novel ways. I found that I couldn't play melodies, but just mechanically run through the changes. Once I started playing the swing/hot jazz style, I found that the simpler and more conventional changes of the style allowed me to play melodies instead of simple hoping to get through the changes. Now I can handle more complicated changes because I know how to play melodies, not just run mechanical lines.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Allan Reuss - Rhythm Revealed

Allan Reuss is possibly my favorite guitar player. Allan played with the Benny Goodman band at its height from 1935-1938, reportedly taught Freddie Green, learned from George Van Eps, played one of the swing era's only real guitar features - "Pickin' for Patsy", and went on to do session work in LA in the mid-40's. There are some links in an earlier post to some samples of Allan Reuss' chordal solo work. Those are essential listening for learning to play chordal solos. But besides being a standout chordal soloists, Allan Reuss played fantastic rhythm guitar. Hearing 4-beat rhythm work, however, is usually impossible. But there's one example where you hear Allan loud and clear:

Kay Starr - The Complete Lamplighter Recordings 1945-1946.


I found out about this record from Whit Smith's recommendations on the Hot Club of Cowtown website. The record mainly features a series of sessions recorded in Los Angeles in 1945-1946. The rhythm section for most of the tracks is Zutty Singleton on drums, Red Callender on bass, and our boy Allan Reuss on guitar. The best part is that you can hear Allan well the whole time. There are several great chordal intros and interludes, but the real star is Allan playing rhythm over Zutty and Red. Top it off with Barney Bigard, Vic Dickenson, et al, and you've got some great tunes.

If you aren't sure what a swing rhythm section sounds like ... Zutty, Red and Allan Reuss is just about perfect.