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Harmony and Guitar.

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  1. Quintricacy
    Member

    Lately I've been thinking about the guitar and harmony. I'm starting to feel that we are one of the most harmonically underdeveloped instruments in jazz in a soloist context. If we think about sax players and piano players they have all this harmonic stuff going on where as we tend to be quite chord/scale oriented. I guess maybe it's because we don't really have those towering figures of harmony such as Coltrane for sax and Herbie for piano. The only two guys I can think of on guitar who have some quite interesting harmonic things going on are Lionel Loueke and Nelson Veras. If anyone knows of others please let me know. I'd be interested in other peoples thoughts too.

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  2. mikelorenz
    Member

    I'm finding your comments a little vague. Do you just mean pattern type playing? Or "taking it out" so to speak? Either way there are tons of guitar players that do both it's really hard to say that they don't have "stuff going on" like piano players or saxophonists.

    Jim Hall, Kurt, Ben Monder, Peter Bernstein, Vic Juris...the list goes on. I know these are mostly common names but I hear things I find to be harmonically exciting things in all of their playing. Maybe its more of a taste issue than anything else?

  3. nateroberts
    Member

    Rez Abassi is another guy who has an immensely deep harmonic concept, and it shows in his playing. Check out his most recent solo album, Things to Come. Really great and interesting stuff. I got to study with him and play with him and the guys in Rudresh's group last spring. It was cool to be able to hang with them for a couple days - really great musicians and great people.

    - nate
    http://www.naterobertsmusic.com

  4. jbroad
    Member

    add mick goodrick, wolfgang muthspiel and john stowell to that list

  5. jazzbum
    Member

    I have had this feeling before, but I always find guitar players that prove me wrong. One of my all time heroes is John Abercrombie in this regard, he has an amazing way of dealing with changes that no one else seems to have on the guitar. In my opinion one of the more significant things that guitar players tend to lack compared to horn players and pianists is amazing time. Michael Brecker comes to mind.

  6. guitar
    Member

    Tim Miller is one the most harmonically advanced guitarists that I have heard. I studied with him at Berklee and it was astounding the stuff that he had going on. Really deep. I agree with you about Nelson Veras, absolutely incredible musician and insane harmonic concept.

  7. Quintricacy
    Member

    Yeah, I guess i am talking about "outside" playing. Jim Hall for sure but I'm not sure about Bernstien, I would classify him as fairly straight ahead. In a way i know it's a little stupid to be saying why don't we play like sax players or piano players? But I'm only speaking harmonically here. Good point on good time, Guitar. Brecker's time is great but so is Nelson Veras and Kurt too.

  8. Sandemose
    Member

    For me, Ben Monder is a harmonic unclimbable tower. I also agree about Abercrombie, his way of dealing with changes is really individual. Allan Holdsworth must be the father of advanced harmony on guitar. Strange he havent been mentioned here. Perhaps he is the most important guitarist for Kurt Rosenwinkel generation. When I listen to Kurt, Gilad, Kreisberg playing with distortion, I think of Holdsworth in an instant. And Allan have been around since the 70s?

    Best, Sandemose

  9. mikelorenz
    Member

    I'd suggest listening to Bernstein more closely. He does a bit of "side stepping" the changes which is an "outside" concept. It's great to hear how he mixes that kind of stuff in with really swingin', straight-ahead material.

    You could also check out Mary Halvorson or Marc Ducret for "outside" stuff.

  10. guitar
    Member

    Sandemose, I agree with you that Holdsworth is a really a father of advanced harmony on guitar. Mick Goodrick as well. The new generation of innovative players: Kurt, Monder, Adam Rogers, Nelson Veras, Tim Miller, Jonathan Kriesberg, etc owe a great deal to his innovations.

  11. Matt
    Member

    Ben Monder, agreeing with Sandemose, is absolutely astounding. I can't say i know outside playing all that well, as i'm only intermediate level improviser, but Ben Monder is fantastic.

  12. Matt
    Member

    Also, i noticed Nelson Veras has been mentioned a lot, and i found a clinic given by him, if anyone is interested-
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=220275918824&id=215402256689&ref=mf

    [+] Embed the video | Video DownloadGet the Video Plugins

  13. Quintricacy
    Member

    I thought I'd get this going again. I posted a blog elaborating a little bit on what I posted about last year. I'm still not completely convinced we've really embraced chromatic playing to the level of saxophonists/pianists. Thoughts?

    http://8thnotes.blogspot.com/2012/05/why-is-jazz-guitar-so-harmonically.html

  14. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Interesting writing... I never devoted much time to those subjects honestly. Don't you think Ben Monder has an approach based on that?

  15. Matt
    Member

    i'm playing devil's advocate here, but why does it matter and/or how do we know that a player cannot play chromatically just because they don't generally?

    i would bet that Scofield, Holdsworth, and Metheny can play very advanced chromatic lines, but perhaps they don't because they know that like 90% of the world's population will be turned off to that sound. Already jazz is something that a lot of people gripe over and dislike, so why further alienate audiences?

    and maybe my point is that i don't think it matters. I don't measure the quality of music by it's technical achievements and i don't accuse anyone here of doing it either and admittedly i find some of Coltrane's work and Hancock's work to be boring. i think that progress is important in music but it still has to have an audience outside of other musicians.

    i'd argue that the guitar really had progressed music more in the past decades than any other instrument even if chromaticism is still largely vacant. guys like Metheny, Frisell, Scofield, Wayne Krantz, Rosenwinkel, Monder, tim miller, etc have made enormous leaps in music that havent been rivaled by other instruments.

  16. Quintricacy
    Member

    Some good points, Matt. I would agree that there has been a lot of innovative figures on the guitar over the last 20 years and more so than most other instruments but I think you're missing the point a little. I'm not saying that we all have to play chromatic lines all the time, more that I'm surprised at how largely vacant it is in our vocabulary as guitar players when all other instruments have adopted it to a certain degree. I don't think that 90% of the worlds population would be turned off by chromatic lines, if you take the classic quartet period of Coltrane's career, he packed out clubs and theatres throughout Europe and the US to and he was in pretty deep at that time. To be honest as well, I wasn't into Coltrane up until about 2 years ago. I don't know what happened but something clicked and for me Coltrane is one of my favorite jazz musicians of all time. Again like I stated in the blog, I don't think what Kurt or Metheney or Scofield are doing is wrong or boring or old fashioned, I love what they do. I'm just trying to find guitarists who use this type of language and so far I have come across very few and have to look to saxophonists and pianists.

    As for Monder, I think he does get close to what I'm talking about but not to the extent someone like Nelson Veras can.

  17. aramaya
    Member

    Aren't the things you are asking for what kurt innovated (IMO) in his early career? How much time have you spent listening to the next step and the mark turner album dharma days (i am asking this with an honest tone, no snarky attitude)? Kurt's earlier style was pretty different from where he has gone now. Tone as well (though the overdriven tone was in use; ie chris cheek's "vine"). The other thing I think people overlook in their hunt for harmony is the ability to play innovative melodies. 70% of trane's sound, even on Transition and Sun Ship, is about playing melodies. There became a mixture between lines (which in some respects function more similarly to drum fills) and melody which guided the direction of the content. If there is anything that is lacking in guitar, it is the ability to have sustain and body for long tones, hence the trend in overdrives, to get more of a saxophone tone. I think kurt may have said this himself in an interview.
    Also, trane had a deep capacity for theme and variation with his melodic fragments (Impressions, village vanguard 1961).

    How many live recordings of there of trane playing giant steps? One of my mentors said that was an etude for a time and place and then he left that shit behind. It was a point in his growth, but not the pinnacle.

    Herbie's quartal innovations from the mid-60's can be heard in the lines of kurt, peter bernstein, and others once you know the sounds. Transcribe Kurt's solo on the 1st tune on dharma days (iverson's odyssey). Also, both peter bernstein and larry goldings' solos on the tune Asimov on Sweet Science and you will see melodic use of the kind of harmony you are asking about. When you get to depth with melodic usage of quartal harmony, it's a lot more than some fancy patterns. And the manner one can contrast the symmetry of quartal sets and inversions is incredible.

    Any time you are playing Octatonic or whole tone, you are playing messiaen's modes. The other limited transpositions are based off more or less tetrachords involving the root and tri-tone. again, contrast of sets and symmetry.

  18. This is getting down to personal taste as they are both excellent guitar players. Monder's conception harmonically ( more in your face than his melodic sense ) clearly secures his footing in the territories of advanced guitar harmony and chromaticism , period. Nelson Veras' flexibility with rhythmic material and his neutral relationship to harmony (as it appears and is expressed melodically- evidenced in many YouTubes ) may give an impression of his capacities but I disagree that this is somehow beyond monder at all. It takes a lot of objectivity in approach to harmony and rhythm to be a sideman with Steve Coleman no doubt. As for holdsworth , harmony ( as expressed melodically ) is where he shines: accessing an unprecedented coltraneness on the instrument. As for harmony in a chordal sense i think this side of him is obfuscated by his aesthetic choice of the foggy timbres he chooses which frankly make it difficult to truly hear in an unambiguous manner all the voices in a given chord his intervallicconception towards for lack of better term pandiatonicism is very cool but I think more so as a conceptual leap of the autodidact more than advancing anything in a broader world for harmony ... But definitely for guitar it is/was pretty wow. Anyways, this is not connected to your larger point and is arguably a subjective detail.
    Part of it is the nature of the instrument: redundant appearances of a given pitch and the sheer visual component as to the neck's layout make it easy to somnambulate through changes with learned grips rather than honest decisions in the moment. There is this huge value on learning the neck visually ( position playing, boxes, etc) .it is a result of it yielding results. You can learn a lot of cool voicings by site- not the notes . How many people learned a lot of cool chords for no reason other than that someone said it was cool and then years later someone else or a book showed you to take a chord and then look at each voice and move each voice on the same string set to the next diatonic voice of the chord to arrive it it's subsequent inversion? Very different thinking. In dealing with the miller goodrick book it's quick to see that I need to shift thinking and expect less sooner: memorizing a few guidelines and tricks or pivot points isn't going to get this concept internalized in a holistic manner. I cannot sleep walk from Dbmajor triad to Cb( yes, I said it) 7 no 5 any more. I'm getting honest mileage from seeing these as two little pools of notes and the actual notes inside each and then in a seperate notebook jotting down any other way of organizing the connection ( ...but even that is a way of attempting to have a referential shorthand available rather than keeping myself flexible throughout a WAY of doing things).But , thats my challenge.
    think of how horn players really don't have the luxury to bust out their instrument on their 13th birthday and even do shitty versions of enter sandman. It could be weeks before their embochure is strong enough to approach a note and not a quavery fart. They don't care about shapes and tabs... They only know Db major as having Fs &Abs & Dbs. Piano players have nor redundant ways to sound a note and 10 fingers at the ready AND the upside of a visual layout, they can access to more voices simultaneously and execute rhythmic independence with far less ballet and sweat... And they also don't care about tabs.
    Lastly, (and correct me if I'm wrong ) could a lot of this have to do with some practical issues at odds with this material in the face of standard jazz repertoire - people's ideas reconciled with true or alleged ideas of etiquette or aesthetic expectations of 'the tradition' and when you show up what you're supposed to have down and what you should be up to and knowing what to NOT DO on the gig ? What I means is if I'm to understand the inquiry correctly, why arent you seeing more of this from jazz guitar players out there? Perhaps the bulk of that population are not the current handful of people (who are in demand in mainstream to moderate fringe jazz guitar) who are in demand predominantly NO LONGER OR NOT AT ALL for their interpretations of standards but for them generating their own ' modern - cutting edge ' shit? Put plainly, densely chromatic stuff is not going to be all over the place in people's music that are trying to carry the torch of stuff or Django fests. Making your own music and systems and fertile landscapes to make a home for these ideas and generate and germinate more seems to be a logical way to present this stuff . With in a world a logic... Not the crazy weirdo playing shit on ' wave ' at the wedding reception. When it has been done in standard repertoire, the most popular example has been from the biggest proponent and exporter of this ( as you, quintricacy -know so well from having played with the man himself who wrote the book on it: ' a chromatic approach to jazz harmony ' - Dave liebman ),they have done so from the platform of ' this is the deep shit. We are the heaviest dudes at the forefront of the reharmonization thing. This is not zany stoner crazy shit. I know why that note is against that chord and I can rubic's cube around that shit all day because I have skills'- high academia vibe type of thing... I mean that very respectfully.

  19. Din
    Member

    It's funny, because I can't picture Hancock, Miles, Coltrane, Shorter, Rosenwinkel, Monder or anybody of that level having a conversation like you guys are having.

  20. Hahaha

  21. Matt
    Member

    miles: just play dat shit
    herbie/wayne: alright *E.S.P*

  22. Quintricacy
    Member

    Nice points everyone. I get the feeling though, that you think I am saying that people like Rosenwinkel, Monder etc are irrelevant or not "modern" enough or something like that. I love all these guys playing, I wouldn't be on this forum if I thought otherwise. As for some of your points Aramaya, Dharma Days is up there in my top 10 albums. Yes, Kurt's solo is great, yes it's a 16 bar blues, but if you look at the chart most of the chords are harmonically more advanced than a typical blues and for the most part he is playing within the changes of the form although it can sound like harmonic substitutions as he's the only chordal instrument on that album.

    I guess there are many ways to approach harmony chromatically and there is a specific sound that I'm searching for. And for me personally, I have only really found that sound or something close to that sound with Lionel and Nelson on guitar.

  23. Gia5
    Member

    I think that the evolution of the guitar has just been "delayed" for some reasons. In the 60's while Hancock, Shorter, Henderson & others were developing new complex aspects we had yes great guitar players, but only in the hard-bop direction, exception made for Jim Hall, which anyway had more a sideman relevance at that time. In a workshop in the late 90's I asked Kurt what were the reasons of this delay of harmonic evolution in his opinion, and he said to me that maybe it was because guitarists didn't know their instrument THAT well.
    But today, due to the work of Joe Diorio and Mick Goodrick, and the hundreds of talents they educated, directly or indirectly, I think that this gap is filled, and guitar is perfectly up to date. Of course the nature of the instrument itself can't let you hit a slash over slash over slash chord a la Richie Beirach. And the prominence of some peculiar new add in the language, may it be the Messiaen modes, or ragas (there's a guitar player, can't remember the name, wich plays sometimes with Vijay Ijer, that uses them) doesn't compromise the actuality of other guys who plays in a pan-chromatic way, like the ones some of you named here...Nir Felder comes to my mind first, together with Monder. I know some guys who are really deep into the triadic chromatic approach of Garzone, for example. So, I don't see this distance no more.
    Said that, i agree with Matt, all of this has nothing to do with the quality of music itself.
    "Avantguarde is in the feeling" said the great Massimo Urbani.

  24. aramaya
    Member

    @quintricacy. I am asking this so I understand clearly what you are looking for. Are you saying players who extensively play sets of subs over a given chord? for example if the chord is F7, then player plays substitution set C#-7/Gbmaj#5/Amaj#11 etc. Harmony within harmony? inefficent, but example 1/8 note line: (C C# E F#) (F Gb Bb D Db F) (Eb C# A G#)
    or are you looking for something else?

    Edit: I'll leave this comment, but disregard it. Going take some time and check out lionel loueke.

  25. With garzone and guitar, check out Chris crocco... There is a YouTube of him doing giant steps which shows his ease with garzone's Triadic chromatic concept .

  26. With veras and loueke my only complaint is those godins ( what's wrong with the sound of the guitar?) . It is so mid centric and does not do nylon strings justice.

  27. jorgemg1984
    Member

    I also don't get those godins...

  28. Din
    Member

    How about listening to some Scofield, Metheny...?
    Those guys are old and did everything you guys are asking for.

    Nir felder plays reeeeally out, usually more out than saxophonists even, so you can listen to him too.

  29. Matt
    Member

    yeah i'm always suprised by the lack of mention for Sco and Metheny. They have EVERYTHING going on.

  30. Din
    Member

    You've said it: everything. Even more than modern players I dare to say. Not that they are better or that I like them more, because actually I don't.


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