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  1. #1

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    The road to artistry is long and, for most, uncertain. However, there has been one litmus test for arrival: the ballad. The ballad brings together the entire array of a musician's skills and sensibilities. I have always believed that it is more difficult to play one note well than a flurry of notes in succession. Every note must count, every breath, every lingering and nuance. Here's the great ballad master talking about the ballad in the intro of his interview.


    And, here's Dexter speaking through his music in the classic "I'm A Fool to Want You."


    What do you think?

    Play live . . . Marinero
    Last edited by Marinero; 12-27-2020 at 06:55 PM. Reason: spelling

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  3. #2

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    I have to agree with you on this. I think it's especially true on the guitar.

  4. #3

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  5. #4

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    Well if I have any idea how to tackle a ballad, it’s probably thanks to Dexter because I used to spend hours listening to his records, and especially the ballads, he was a total master.

    Somehow you have to make every note and phrase count, I just go by instinct and rely on everything I’ve hopefully absorbed by listening to the greats. Sometimes all they play is the melody but that’s enough, e.g. Ben Webster.

    Singers are good to listen to as well, e.g. Sinatra.

    I agree that it’s hard on the guitar, you have to really think yourself into the right place somehow.

  6. #5

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  7. #6

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    Did that barman put on dextors hat...lol

  8. #7

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    I was lucky to see Dexter Gordon at a jazz festival in 1981 and then again for 2 whole sets at Ronnie Scotts in 1982, an unforgettable experience.

  9. #8

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  10. #9

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    while i certainly agree that ballads can reveal much about the player, dexter could also blow hard & fast...here's the track that put him on the map..a frenetic duo with the great wardell gray

    the chase



    for ballads i also like stan getz, paul desmond and chet baker...

    cheers

  11. #10

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    a beautiful chet...gentle trio with nylon string guitar and bass

    on green dolphin street



    cheers

  12. #11

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    Another ballad album on guitar:

    -Jim Hall-Ballad Essentials

  13. #12

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    The fantastic record version of Round about Midnight by Baden Powell, plus a double bass. Wes didn't do any better ... just different


    Also saw him to play it for 20mn in Paris, no accompanying band, not too long before his death. Concert by him alone was planned to be 1h, he played 3h !! Will never forget that incredible concert, the speed at which he played some tunes (most in fact !), a cigarette always in hands !!

  14. #13

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    I can't agree it's the supreme test.
    On a ballad a musician can demonstrate certain skills that he couldn't demonstrate on a more uptempo song and vice versa.

  15. #14

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    Medium tempo is the acid test for swing imo

  16. #15

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    That's why I do all those standards every month. Again and again, usually. But I don't think ballads are the only thing in life.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by voxsss
    Yeah - Dexter's the man, not a coincidence that he's thinking about the lyrics,

    This guy could play a ballad too...


  18. #17

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    Well, the general rhythm's slow but you know what Coltrane's like :-)

  19. #18

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    Tomasz Szukalski-the best Polish ballad player.


  20. #19

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    I love how Herb Ellis played "It Could Happen To You."


  21. #20

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    Ballads are cool, but not as a main attraction for me. One per set is ok, more is pushing it. Singers love them though. Playing a ballad on jam session could be tedious, if everyone wants to take a solo. Oh man, I remember one in NYC for the singers where five of them in a row called a ballad tune. I think the host had to interfere and say "no ballads please'' after the 4th one haha. It's unbearable!

    The one ballad I've heard recently that really got me is Angel Eyes by Sting from Leaving The Las Vegas soundtrack. Even my gf who knows nothing about jazz got hooked. Too lazy to look for it now... But yea, that's a fact, chicks dig ballads.

  22. #21

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    Being able to comfortably play a ballad without reverb is sure a technique breakthrough on the guitar!

  23. #22

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  24. #23

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    "God Bless The Child" on "The Bridge" (Rollins/Hall) kills me every time...

  25. #24

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    One of my all time fav ballad performances.

    I can't help it
    If that doggone moon above..


  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    I love how Herb Ellis played "It Could Happen To You."
    I love that tune. And Herb Ellis's version makes me nod off in a wistful daze.

  27. #26
    Some great posts so far and some great music! So, I used Dexter as an example because I loved the interview and he was one of the saxophonists to whom I devoted the lionshare of my attention and energy in another life when I primarily played sax/flute. He was an inspiration to young players(and old) since his control of the saxophone was unlike most who played. His use of subtones, bending notes, playing beyond the register, breathing, nuance and the ability to morph a note in countless ways added to his palette of sounds and his boundless creativity. And, it was always his personal, unique voice that stamped his music as special. However, as guitarists, we don't have the potential array of sounds at our fingertips ,if we chose to play unadulterated guitar(without effects aside from amplification), that woodwind players have at their disposal. It's the nature and personality of our instrument. So, in my opinion, we must choose our repertoire wisely for maximum effect and play those tunes that are decidedly "guitaristic" in nature that will allow our instrument to speak in a personal voice. And, for me, this is the unique challenge for Jazz guitar--finding the combination of melody/harmony that both enhances the music and helps create a unique musical voice.
    Ballads, for most guitarists, are difficult to play since you cannot hide behind flawed technique, poor musical training, understanding of theme and development, attention to pacing and phrasing and the use of less rather than more for artistic statement. I have listened to many pro guitarists that could burn your house down with their playing but couldn't play a ballad to save their life. It's another talent and requires as Dexter stated so well-- a knowledge of the words and meaning of the music to bring your personal vision to the work. One criticism I've had with many musicians over the years (unlike most writers and visual artists) is that they seem to lack the desire for and seasoning of the human experience to bring to their music: love, loss, memories, happiness, sadness, etc. since they believe that everything happens during practice--how well do your fingers move? For me, this could not be further from the truth. Similar to the writer and visual artists, we must be a sensorium for the richness of life that surrounds us, not just a music machine who plays the right notes. You don't have to be an artist to think like an artist and even for those who will not travel far down the road to mechanical/artistic proficiency . . . it will put a stamp on your music. People will hear it.
    I once hired a guitarist as a replacement in an R@B group I had in Chicago in the 70's. During the auditions, every guitarist who tried out had better technique and more experience than him but when he played, his sound and concept were personal and unique.I never regretted hiring him and during the time he played with us, his music and sound continued to grow. He was a great compliment to our group and I was sad the day he left for family reasons but still remember his music today. . . it was stamped with his name in bold letters.

    Play live . . . Marinero

    Here's Wes' "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."


  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    Some great posts so far and some great music! So, I used Dexter as an example because I loved the interview and he was one of the saxophonists to whom I devoted the lionshare of my attention and energy in another life when I primarily played sax/flute. He was an inspiration to young players(and old) since his control of the saxophone was unlike most who played. His use of subtones, bending notes, playing beyond the register, breathing, nuance and the ability to morph a note in countless ways added to his palette of sounds and his boundless creativity. And, it was always his personal, unique voice that stamped his music as special. However, as guitarists, we don't have the potential array of sounds at our fingertips ,if we chose to play unadulterated guitar(without effects aside from amplification), that woodwind players have at their disposal. It's the nature and personality of our instrument. So, in my opinion, we must choose our repertoire wisely for maximum effect and play those tunes that are decidedly "guitaristic" in nature that will allow our instrument to speak in a personal voice. And, for me, this is the unique challenge for Jazz guitar--finding the combination of melody/harmony that both enhances the music and helps create a unique musical voice.

    Ballads, for most guitarists, are difficult to play since you cannot hide behind flawed technique, poor musical training, understanding of theme and development, attention to pacing and phrasing and the use of less rather than more for artistic statement. I have listened to many pro guitarists that could burn your house down with their playing but couldn't play a ballad to save their life. It's another talent and requires as Dexter stated so well-- a knowledge of the words and meaning of the music to bring your personal vision to the work. One criticism I've had with many musicians over the years (unlike most writers and visual artists) is that they seem to lack the desire for and seasoning of the human experience to bring to their music: love, loss, memories, happiness, sadness, etc. since they believe that everything happens during practice--how well do your fingers move? For me, this could not be further from the truth. Similar to the writer and visual artists, we must be a sensorium for the richness of life that surrounds us, not just a music machine who plays the right notes. You don't have to be an artist to think like an artist and even for those who will not travel far down the road to mechanical/artistic proficiency . . . it will put a stamp on your music. People will hear it.

    I once hired a guitarist as a replacement in an R@B group I had in Chicago in the 70's. During the auditions, every guitarist who tried out had better technique and more experience than him but when he played, his sound and concept were personal and unique.I never regretted hiring him and during the time he played with us, his music and sound continued to grow. He was a great compliment to our group and I was sad the day he left for family reasons but still remember his music today. . . it was stamped with his name in bold letters.

    Play live . . . Marinero
    Thanks, Marinero. Excellent, excellent post.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    Some great posts so far and some great music! So, I used Dexter as an example because I loved the interview and he was one of the saxophonists to whom I devoted the lionshare of my attention and energy in another life when I primarily played sax/flute. He was an inspiration to young players(and old) since his control of the saxophone was unlike most who played. His use of subtones, bending notes, playing beyond the register, breathing, nuance and the ability to morph a note in countless ways added to his palette of sounds and his boundless creativity. And, it was always his personal, unique voice that stamped his music as special. However, as guitarists, we don't have the potential array of sounds at our fingertips ,if we chose to play unadulterated guitar(without effects aside from amplification), that woodwind players have at their disposal. It's the nature and personality of our instrument. So, in my opinion, we must choose our repertoire wisely for maximum effect and play those tunes that are decidedly "guitaristic" in nature that will allow our instrument to speak in a personal voice. And, for me, this is the unique challenge for Jazz guitar--finding the combination of melody/harmony that both enhances the music and helps create a unique musical voice.
    Ballads, for most guitarists, are difficult to play since you cannot hide behind flawed technique, poor musical training, understanding of theme and development, attention to pacing and phrasing and the use of less rather than more for artistic statement. I have listened to many pro guitarists that could burn your house down with their playing but couldn't play a ballad to save their life. It's another talent and requires as Dexter stated so well-- a knowledge of the words and meaning of the music to bring your personal vision to the work. One criticism I've had with many musicians over the years (unlike most writers and visual artists) is that they seem to lack the desire for and seasoning of the human experience to bring to their music: love, loss, memories, happiness, sadness, etc. since they believe that everything happens during practice--how well do your fingers move? For me, this could not be further from the truth. Similar to the writer and visual artists, we must be a sensorium for the richness of life that surrounds us, not just a music machine who plays the right notes. You don't have to be an artist to think like an artist and even for those who will not travel far down the road to mechanical/artistic proficiency . . . it will put a stamp on your music. People will hear it.
    I once hired a guitarist as a replacement in an R@B group I had in Chicago in the 70's. During the auditions, every guitarist who tried out had better technique and more experience than him but when he played, his sound and concept were personal and unique.I never regretted hiring him and during the time he played with us, his music and sound continued to grow. He was a great compliment to our group and I was sad the day he left for family reasons but still remember his music today. . . it was stamped with his name in bold letters.

    Play live . . . Marinero

    Here's Wes' "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."

    Wow. But I thought Wes died by 1968?

  30. #29
    "Wow.
    But I thought Wes died by 1968?" Hep to the Jive

    Hi, H,
    So, then a musician's legacy/voice/work dies when he dies?
    Play live . . . Marinero

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    Some great posts so far and some great music! So, I used Dexter as an example because I loved the interview and he was one of the saxophonists to whom I devoted the lionshare of my attention and energy in another life when I primarily played sax/flute. He was an inspiration to young players(and old) since his control of the saxophone was unlike most who played. His use of subtones, bending notes, playing beyond the register, breathing, nuance and the ability to morph a note in countless ways added to his palette of sounds and his boundless creativity. And, it was always his personal, unique voice that stamped his music as special. However, as guitarists, we don't have the potential array of sounds at our fingertips ,if we chose to play unadulterated guitar(without effects aside from amplification), that woodwind players have at their disposal. It's the nature and personality of our instrument. So, in my opinion, we must choose our repertoire wisely for maximum effect and play those tunes that are decidedly "guitaristic" in nature that will allow our instrument to speak in a personal voice. And, for me, this is the unique challenge for Jazz guitar--finding the combination of melody/harmony that both enhances the music and helps create a unique musical voice.
    Ballads, for most guitarists, are difficult to play since you cannot hide behind flawed technique, poor musical training, understanding of theme and development, attention to pacing and phrasing and the use of less rather than more for artistic statement. I have listened to many pro guitarists that could burn your house down with their playing but couldn't play a ballad to save their life. It's another talent and requires as Dexter stated so well-- a knowledge of the words and meaning of the music to bring your personal vision to the work. One criticism I've had with many musicians over the years (unlike most writers and visual artists) is that they seem to lack the desire for and seasoning of the human experience to bring to their music: love, loss, memories, happiness, sadness, etc. since they believe that everything happens during practice--how well do your fingers move? For me, this could not be further from the truth. Similar to the writer and visual artists, we must be a sensorium for the richness of life that surrounds us, not just a music machine who plays the right notes. You don't have to be an artist to think like an artist and even for those who will not travel far down the road to mechanical/artistic proficiency . . . it will put a stamp on your music. People will hear it.
    I once hired a guitarist as a replacement in an R@B group I had in Chicago in the 70's. During the auditions, every guitarist who tried out had better technique and more experience than him but when he played, his sound and concept were personal and unique.I never regretted hiring him and during the time he played with us, his music and sound continued to grow. He was a great compliment to our group and I was sad the day he left for family reasons but still remember his music today. . . it was stamped with his name in bold letters.

    Play live . . . Marinero

    Here's Wes' "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."

    That's well said. As a middling solo jazz guitarist I struggled with the spaces in ballads. People always say "don't be afraid of some space" but for some reason with solo guitar that space can seem awfully... empty. But tasteful fills and transitional phrases are challenging to players with limited musical vocabulary. While I don't know whether ballads are in fact "the" acid test of musicianship, I certainly agree they constitute a challenge that sorts out players pretty quickly, just like the really fast bop tunes can.

  32. #31

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    Ballads make my “Chick” restless, bored, and sleepy - she prefers medium swing and easy bossa. Anything like “Giant Steps” (lots of chords played too fast) or “Impressions” (no chords played too fast) drives her from the room.

    Some singers love ballads because it gives them more time and space to emote and transform a beautiful and timeless melody into something “personal” and unrecognizable. If they choose a nice swinging medium tune like “All of Me”, they are done in less than a minute and then have to stand around doing nothing but snapping their fingers for 5-10 minutes. Not enough opportunity to reveal their “artistry”.

    My second least favorite thing in jazz (“scat” singing being number one by a WIDE margin) is singers who completely disregard the original melody, so as to display their superior melodic creativity over Gershwin, Kern, Porter, etc.
    Last edited by BickertRules; 12-29-2020 at 11:02 PM.

  33. #32

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    Singers are wack.

  34. #33
    The Round Midnight movie starring Dexter Gordon is on of the best jazz movies ever made. Herbie Hancock plays piano and John McClaughlin has the guitar seat. If you get a chance to rent this Great piece of Cinema I would certainly do so. You will not regret it!!!

  35. #34

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    One of the best ballad guitarists I've heard is Grant Green. Guitarist generally put a lot of flourishes into ballads to compensate for lack of sustain and timbre. Grant was able to slow everything down to a hypnotic snail's pace. Keeping time at those very slow speeds takes discipline. He sounded great. It was so many years ago I don't remember the CD (or tape). Maybe somebody else can remember?

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve burchfield
    The Round Midnight movie starring Dexter Gordon is on of the best jazz movies ever made. Herbie Hancock plays piano and John McClaughlin has the guitar seat. If you get a chance to rent this Great piece of Cinema I would certainly do so. You will not regret it!!!
    The version of “Body and Soul” from that movie is still my favorite.

  37. #36

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    That movie rulez! I wish that atmosphere and music was real so I could go there. Herbie and Dex's playing is outa sight throughout. Bobby Hutcherson on the vibes, too. Herbie did several of the compositions.
    Last edited by Clint 55; 12-30-2020 at 12:08 AM.

  38. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    Wow. But I thought Wes died by 1968?
    In many of our lives Wes never died!!! I have a guitar partner I play with some time who drove over a thousand miles just to get to play one of Wes 's original guitars in Ohio or Indiana I believe. Not too many others left that much inspiration ! I remember hearing Pat Metheny jam with Carmen McCraes trio when he was just starting out at the Copley Plaza in an afternoon jam session and one thing he was very proud of was knowing 4 on 6 note for note for note solo included and they did some other Wes tunes!

  39. #38

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    Different people like different things, that's all.

  40. #39
    Chet Bakers last recorded performance on Earth of I Fall In Love Too Easily is quite powerful!

  41. #40
    I just found Chet Baker Live at Ronnie Scotts 2014 on YT I think Ill watch that!

  42. #41

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    Let's not ignore the new up and coming players. Some of them play ballads beautifully.


  43. #42
    "but for some reason with solo guitar that space can seem awfully... empty. But tasteful fills and transitional phrases are challenging to players with limited musical vocabulary." lawson-stone

    Sometimes, L,
    It's just a mindset but your comment is exactly correct and real. For example, if you are a baseball player that loves hitting 95-100 mph fastballs, you'll find it difficult ,at first, to hit a junk ball pitcher. It's the pacing. This is also true for music. Many outstanding boppers excel at blistering speeds but fall short, for me, when playing ballads. A musician is a sorcerer who must have a complete palette of sounds/tempos.
    As a young musician, I grew up playing R@R, Soul, and R@B music. And, in the case of the latter two, they have always been ,for me, a direct line to playing Jazz Music. A Soul/R@B guitarist does not always keep a steady rhythm as in R@R but rather uses creative improvisations . . . musical tidbits throughout the song while the rhythm is carried by the bass, drums, piano/organ/guitar. He's an improvisor. Cornell Dupree was legendary for this type of playing and his ballad work was second to none. Here's Cornell's tasty licks in the famous Brook Benton song "A Rainy Night in Georgia " Enjoy!
    Play live . . . Marinero

    ?

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve burchfield
    The Round Midnight movie starring Dexter Gordon is on of the best jazz movies ever made. Herbie Hancock plays piano and John McClaughlin has the guitar seat. If you get a chance to rent this Great piece of Cinema I would certainly do so. You will not regret it!!!
    +1 on that. Worth watching.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    "but for some reason with solo guitar that space can seem awfully... empty. But tasteful fills and transitional phrases are challenging to players with limited musical vocabulary." lawson-stone

    Sometimes, L,
    It's just a mindset but your comment is exactly correct and real. For example, if you are a baseball player that loves hitting 95-100 mph fastballs, you'll find it difficult ,at first, to hit a junk ball pitcher. It's the pacing. This is also true for music. Many outstanding boppers excel at blistering speeds but fall short, for me, when playing ballads. A musician is a sorcerer who must have a complete palette of sounds/tempos.
    As a young musician, I grew up playing R@R, Soul, and R@B music. And, in the case of the latter two, they have always been ,for me, a direct line to playing Jazz Music. A Soul/R@B guitarist does not always keep a steady rhythm as in R@R but rather uses creative improvisations . . . musical tidbits throughout the song while the rhythm is carried by the bass, drums, piano/organ/guitar. He's an improvisor. Cornell Dupree was legendary for this type of playing and his ballad work was second to none. Here's Cornell's tasty licks in the famous Brook Benton song "A Rainy Night in Georgia " Enjoy!
    Play live . . . Marinero

    ?
    And as an aside... that song has more WORDS than any three songs being done today. What ever happened to lots of words in a song, telling a literal story???

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by vsaumarez
    One of the best ballad guitarists I've heard is Grant Green. Guitarist generally put a lot of flourishes into ballads to compensate for lack of sustain and timbre. Grant was able to slow everything down to a hypnotic snail's pace. Keeping time at those very slow speeds takes discipline. He sounded great. It was so many years ago I don't remember the CD (or tape). Maybe somebody else can remember?
    Possibly "Round Midnight" from the album "No. 1 Green Street"? It's a terrific take. I actually recently learned the head based on this version.

    He also plays very slow on "My Funny Valentine" from the album "Grantstand", but I much the Round Midnight take.

  47. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    And as an aside... that song has more WORDS than any three songs being done today. What ever happened to lots of words in a song, telling a literal story???

    Hi, L,
    It would imply they had the concentration and imagination to follow a complete story. And, that they really had something to say. Well said.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  48. #47
    Lucious Spiller Walk With Me Lord on NPR YT is a touching performance. He also has a version of Rainy Night In Georgia which is written by Tony Joe White I believe Chomp Chomp Gator Got Your Granny! Lucious has been working at Morgan Freemans blues and soul food joint I understand. I dont know how to post yet but I think he is a real deal musical artist you might like! I do!

  49. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    "but for some reason with solo guitar that space can seem awfully... empty. But tasteful fills and transitional phrases are challenging to players with limited musical vocabulary." lawson-stone

    Sometimes, L,
    It's just a mindset but your comment is exactly correct and real. For example, if you are a baseball player that loves hitting 95-100 mph fastballs, you'll find it difficult ,at first, to hit a junk ball pitcher. It's the pacing. This is also true for music. Many outstanding boppers excel at blistering speeds but fall short, for me, when playing ballads. A musician is a sorcerer who must have a complete palette of sounds/tempos.
    As a young musician, I grew up playing R@R, Soul, and R@B music. And, in the case of the latter two, they have always been ,for me, a direct line to playing Jazz Music. A Soul/R@B guitarist does not always keep a steady rhythm as in R@R but rather uses creative improvisations . . . musical tidbits throughout the song while the rhythm is carried by the bass, drums, piano/organ/guitar. He's an improvisor. Cornell Dupree was legendary for this type of playing and his ballad work was second to none. Here's Cornell's tasty licks in the famous Brook Benton song "A Rainy Night in Georgia " Enjoy!
    Play live . . . Marinero There was a band named Stuff.
    Cornell Dupree played in a band with Steve Gadd and Eric Gale named Stuff I think you would like! Richard Tee was in it too.
    ?
    cornell and eric gale and steve gadd had a band named stuff

  50. #49
    I just found a NYU film panel talk by the people responsible for Round Midnight it is on YT.

  51. #50
    I think Dexters role is loosely based on Bud Powell.