Monday, September 15, 2008

Strings full of Jelly, Head full of Pain

Ever heard of Jimmy Bryant? He and Speedy West were a Tele/Steel guitar duo sitting firmly on the fuzzy line between jazz and country. Here's a bit of them backing Tennessee Ernie Ford.

They did lots and lots of instrumentals, many of them re-released on Razor and Tie. Look up Stratosphere Boogie. Specifically, track 7, "The Night Rider".

I'll wait.

Here's the first five seconds of it.

"The Night Rider" (Intro)

Ever heard of Jim Campilongo? He's an uptown Tele slinger, known most these days for backing Norah Jones as part of the Little Willies. Slings a 1959 top-loader Tele, and recently a Fender Custom Shop copy of his '59. He also stands firmly on the fuzzy line between country and jazz, and he worked out the intro.

E -----------6-----------6------------6--6--6--6--6--10---
B ---6--8----8----6--8---8----6--8----8--8--8--8--8--8----
G -----------10----------9------------8--8--8--8--8--8----
D ---------------------------------------------------7----
A --------------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------------

Thanks, Jimmy, for playing it, and thanks, Jim, for transcribing it. There's more, but there's enough here to write.

Now, lets do some analyzing. I see four chords. I will switch to hexidecimal (8, 9, a, b, c, d, e, f, 10, with hex10 = dec16) for writing chords, so that'a xxxa86, xxx986, xxx886 and xx788a.

xxxa86 is, low to high, F G A#. A# and F are root-fifth for an A# chord, with the E, we can call it an A#6 chord. Changing inversion and we get a G minor dominant 7. Going with F as root, we get what? F9sus4? A#6 seems simpler to think about.

xxx986 moves the F to a E. A# flat 6?

xxx886 is easy, and it clears up the other three. D# G A# is a D# major, so, that makes the first three essentially D#2, D# flat2 and D#. Ornament notes over a chord, kinda like the earlier "Closer To Fine" example, albeit much cooler. Very chromatic, very jazzy.

xx788a. What? 88a is D# G D, which makes a major seventh. "Makes" doesn't fully mean makes, as these are all partial chords, not full. The 7 is A. The flat five. Don't often see that in chords. The more I think about it, the more I think it should sound awful. But, clearly it doesn't.

So, clearly, because I don't remotely understand why this works, I never would've come up with it. But man, isn't that cool?


Pribek said...

Sans dips a toe in to the Bermuda Triangle of jazz. Soon to be transcribing entire Grant Green solos and listening to early Tal Farlow on the commute.

Dave Jacoby said...

I've looked into jazz before. This blog has always held the position that John Coltrane was the giant of late-20th century music, and that nobody in rock ever got near the edge of his shadow.

It's just that there's such a wide gulf between loving it and understanding it....

Pribek said...

I kid, I kid.
Grant Green, I've always thought he pointed the way from blues to jazz in a concise way. There is a record that came out a few years called Charlie Christian: The original Guitar Hero; re-issues of a lot of the Benny Goodman Sextet and such. Listening to that stuff, it makes sense when you hear guys Like Wes or Joe Pass talk about how much of an influence Christian was on all of it.

Dave Jacoby said...

I think I need to expand on that.

Take the last thing I figured out, the Mudcrutch lick. It's an A minor pentatonic riff. Or a C major. The trick to the pentatonic is that it is all the notes shared by the scales for the root, fourth and fifth. C major = C D E F G A B. F major = F G A Bb C D E. G Major = G A B C D E F#. C major pentatonic = C D E G A C. This makes the pentatonic a safe scale, because it takes away the dangerous notes. The interesting bit is Mike taking it at speed across several octaves. That's the blues way, that's mostly the rock way.

The jazz way, as I'm sure you know, Jack, but others might gain enlightenment, is that each chord gets it's own scale. When you think about jazz and their algebra chords, they begin to look like scales themselves. And the point of the high numbers is that you might want to have different notes in the second octave where they'll clash more interestingly with the root. The high water mark for this style is "Giant Steps" where the chords pass by at breakneck speeds.

(I've taken a moment to cue up Toots playing "Giant Steps" on chromatic harp.)

I've said that bluegrass players are the best musicians in popular music. I often get "What about jazz?" My response: Jazz isn't popular music. I mean that in two ways. Yes, modern jazz musicians are generally better, but modern jazz can be so difficult to understand, even so difficult to love, as to scare away an audience. The best-selling jazz recording ever, Kind of Blue, was recorded nearly 50 years ago. There's a reason for that.

Uh-oh. The "Rant Mode" switch is stuck in the on position.

Dave Jacoby said...

Got that Charlie Christian CD. I haven't fell in love with it the way I have with Stratosphere Boogie, but I pull it out from time to time.

Pribek said...

I had this sort of blues/funk/hillbilly/surf/western swing power trio going on several years ago. The drummer was a Japanese guy. One night, his wife came to a gig and sat in on piano; great musician. One of the things we were doing was a version of "All Of Me" at a fast tempo and with be-boppish type changes. We played that thing and this girl just annihilated it, played this massive stuff on it. I thought she was going to conjure up a demon. It was the last song of the set and right afterwords, she was all shy and almost embarrassed acting. I asked her if there was a problem and she said; "I was not aware that we would be allowed to play jazz".

The Charlie stuff is a good example of playing over changes but before the amps got bigger so, it's a guy digging in and using economical ideas that are a road map possibly.

I used to think there was a secret jazz scale.

Jimmy Bryant is great and, those western swing guys really had it going on as far as playing over changes but also keeping it accessible. But, as far as that goes, Charlie Christian was a western swing guy before he went to New York.

Dave Jacoby said...

I'll tell you where I "got it", to the extent I got it.

Matt Glazer, Swingin' Jazz Violin

I'm a guitarist, a mandolin player and a fiddle owner, and I got that tape because I thought it'd get me going on two fronts, jazz and fiddle. And Glazer's talking about the transformative nature of Louis Armstrong's solos was my second-favorite part of the PBS Jazz series.

Not much movement yet. I'm OKish on intonation, I think, but need work on supporting the instrument with my chin and shoulder and bowing not like I'm picking. But watching that video, he made the scale/chord thing clear.

Pribek said...

It would almost make more sense on a fiddle because there's less geographical area, no?

Dave Jacoby said...

You're never asked to do two things at once, like leads and harmony. And you can make reaches few guitarists would dare, much less do.