Thursday, March 29, 2018

Picking The Guitar

Nick Lucas (1897 - 1982) (source: Wikipedia)
Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese (August 22, 1897 – July 28, 1982), known professionally as Nick Lucas, was the first jazz guitarist to record as a soloist. Lucas played banjo with various dance bands in the early 1920s, and in July of 1922, he made his debut recordings for Pathé with Picking the Guitar and Teasin’ the Frets, both guitar solos.  He re-recorded both sides for Brunswick the next year (and again in 1932, electrically).  Before long, he was making vocal records for Brunswick as the Crooning Troubadour accompanied by his own guitar, sometimes with a piano or orchestra. In 1929, Lucas appeared in the talking picture Gold Diggers of Broadway, introducing Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips with Me, which he also made a hit on record. In 1930 and ’31, he recorded with his own band, the Crooning Troubadours, and the following year he made some recordings for Hit of the Week.  Lucas’ fame faded in the 1930s, but he continued to perform. In the 1940s he made a few Soundies, followed by some Snader Telescriptions in 1951.  Lucas experienced a resurgence in popularity late 1960s after he had appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1969, and in 1974 he performed several songs for the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby movie.  After enjoying a career that spanned more than half a century, Nick Lucas died of pneumonia in 1982. (excerpted info from this source)
Nick Lucas picking the guitar (YouTube still)
Here I'll set focus on Nick Lucas' guitar playing and leave the singing troubadour to others (- learn more about Lucas' career at the official website, here). As mentioned above, Lucas had his recording debut featuring two guitar solos in July, 1922. I'll insert both solos below, as they are considered the first ever recorded jazz guitar solos. Eddie Lang may be the Father of Jazz Guitar, but Nick Lucas then may be the Grandfather of Jazz Guitar, as he preceded Lang as a recording guitar player with at least three years (- if you count Lang's 1925 guitar work with McKenzie's Candy Kids  in  Best Black (Vocalion, A 14978) as his registered first jazz guitar solo). - Here is first Nick Lucas' Picking The Guitar as recorded for Pathé Actuelle in July 1922

The flip-side of the 1922 Pathe Actuelle Record 020794 had Lucas' recording of Teasing The Frets

Today it's hard to recognize Nick Lucas' two initial guitar solos as jazz guitar playing, nevertheless Lucas was an influental figure in the development of the plectrum guitar picking technique which helped early jazz guitar pioneers like Eddie Lang to switch from tenor banjo to the guitar. Besides recording as the singing troubadour Nick Lucas also wrote several guitar method folios that inspired other musicians to take up the plectrum guitar
Nick Lucas Guitar Method Vol. 1
A contemporary guitarist, Jake Sanders, has arranged some of Nick Lucas' guitar pieces which were not recorded by Lucas himself, but are included in one or more of his published guitar method folios. There are four Nick Lucas arrangements included in Jake Sanders' recently issued CD album, shown below
Jake Sanders, Estrellas de Radio (Jalopy Records, JRCD003, 2018)
Learn more about Jake Sanders and the shown CD here. - To end this small review of Nick Lucas the guitar player, here is Jake Sanders' version of Lucas' Picking The Guitar (- not included at the shown CD) from a live gig performance featuring Jake Sanders in a trio setting


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Friday, March 9, 2018

From Licks To Riffs At The Guitar

Notation of a simple guitar lick
In popular music genres such as blues, jazz or rock music, a lick is a stock pattern or phrase consisting of a short series of notes used in solos and melodic lines and accompaniment. In a jazz band, a lick may be performed during an improvised solo, either during an accompanied solo chorus or during an unaccompanied solo break. Jazz licks are usually original short phrases which can be altered so they can be used over a song's changing harmonic progressions. A lick is different from the related concept of a riff, as riffs can include repeated chord progressions. Licks are more often associated with single-note melodic lines than with chord progressions. Riffs can be as simple as a tenor saxophone honking a simple, catchy rhythmic figure, or as complex as the riff-based variations in the head arrangements played by the Count Basie Orchestra.  However, like riffs, licks can be the basis of an entire song. For musicians, learning a lick is usually a form of imitation. Imitating style is as important as learning the appropriate scale over a given chord. By imitating, musicians understand and analyze what others have done, allowing them to build a vocabulary of their own. (info excerpted from Wikipedia, here)

Ton Van Bergeijk
So many words to announce a new course by Dutch master guitarist, Ton Van Bergeijk, who has just released a DVD based guidebook entitled Licks to Riffs with focus on the blues style and how to adapt any lick to any chord changes at the guitar. Ton explains the project more precisely in the video below

In the video Ton stated, quote: ”I've always found that licks played on other instruments are a great source of inspiration for guitarists. Pianists like Jimmy Yancey or James Booker are at the top of my personal list. For stronger riffs, I look at the great riff orchestras: Count Basie, Al Cooper, and then there's T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan, Allen Toussaint…musical sources for “riff-spiration” is virtually endless. (-) Of course, we can translate the lick to guitar, and then play the lick exactly as it was played, over the same chord or chord changes. But if we change just one or more notes, we can create new licks that can be used over other chords and chord changes. I’ll show you how to do that in this Licks To Riffs Guidebook.”
DVD course (TrueFire, 2018)
According to the inserted video and further info at the website offering the course for purchase, Ton has organized the course into two sections. In the first section, you’ll learn how to make a lick fit over the three chords in a standard blues progression. Ton will show you how to "barbershop" a lick and turn it into a riff. Then, he'll demonstrate how easy it is to make changes to that lick for a jazzier blues. In the second section, Ton will teach a selection of his own favorite licks that he has transformed into versatile riffs.  Learning how to get the most of any lick is the key objective of this course to generate  “riff-spiration” for other guitarists. - More info about the DVD course and how to purchase a copy, here

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