I’ve played solo all over the Delaware valley area for close to 25 years, Please check my Events page for upcoming engagements.
Intimate in activity, playing an instrument solo is an ultimate form of creative self expression. One communicates their feelings, thoughts and ideas freely in a format which expresses “this is who I am.” Austere in nature, playing solo guitar it has its freedoms as well as its barriers, like anything else in life. This is true for any instrument and especially the guitar, which has no damper pedal (unlike that of the beautiful piano) which assist in the endless sustain or holding of lower or bass notes (or any for that matter) of choice while one soars, playing melodies, chords and improvising above. Any notes sustained on the guitar are done with the fingers or open strings as a drone, making it a very challenging instrument to play with a fully orchestrated sound. Still one can work out ways to play multiple lines at once, but this is a formidable skill to master, taking much time and patience. Yet this is truly part of the resident beauty of this instrument. The challenge of playing the guitar solo and making something beautiful and complete in form is one of its greatest joys!
1. My Favorite Things – Originally from the show “The Sound of Music,” this 1959 Rogers and Hammerstein very polite classic was completely turned on its ear by the 14 minute rendition done by the great John Coltrane in 1960. My favorite Coltrane version is the 1963 live version form the Newport Jazz Festival – Unbelievable! I was totally inspired when I heard this in my sophomore year at Berklee. It literally changed my whole perception of music. It is of the heaviest and most beautiful of music I’ve ever heard in my life.
2. Body and Soul – This lovely and well-known jazz standard with music by Johnny Green has been performed by Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday as well as by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse among many, many others! A staple of the tradition with its characteristic angular intervals and chord changes, this tune is always a pleasure to play!
3. Chega De Saudade (No More Blues) – Written by Vinícius de Moraes, this is considered to be the first recorded Bossa Nova song. Literally translated, the phrase means “new trend” or “new wave.” A type of Brazilian music fusing samba and jazz, this musical form gestated in the 1950’s and 1960’s and has gone on to influence musicians and music all over the world. I enjoy playing it more as a samba, feeling it crisply in “two.” It has a wonderful melody, rhythms and chord changes. I like the juxtaposition between the dark and light tonalities, respectively, of D minor of which it starts and D Major in which it concludes.
4. Penny Lane – The Beatles, my first and greatest initial musical influence, recorded this picturesque Pastiche of their childhood experiences at the end of 1966 into 1967. I wanted to keep the integrity of the tune, its beauty and simplicity of essence (so many “jazz interpretations” often loose the essence of their corresponding pop remakes). Walking the bassline and keeping the melody going is something I’ve admired so much in Lenny Breau’s playing that I began to experiment with it when I arranged this tune in 1997. This type of playing has been so developed over the years it may be difficult to appreciate its pioneers. Lenny was certainly one of the first to truly master this style and for me, is one of the most masterful, creative and original guitarists who ever lived!
5. Just the Way You Are – A total pop classic which is now a musical standard. Billy Joel (no relation) says he dreamt the music and wrote the song in one sitting. At the time he and the band thought it was a “chick’s” song and did not intend it as a release. Thanks to intense prompting from Phoebe Snow and Linda Ronstadt, the group figured they were right and decided to put it on the album they were recording. I remember seeing the great Joe Pass play in 1991 up in Boston and he played this tune. He was joking and rationalizing playing a tune by a pop/rock musician with a smile and laughing, “It’s a nice tune, man.” I think it’s a lovely tune with great melodic and harmonic content. This recorded version is relatively traditional.
6. They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Written by George and Ira Gershwin and from the 1937 Fred Astaire move, Shall We Dance, this composition, as many wonderful tunes from this time, formed the foundation for the Great American Songbook. There are so many versions of this from Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald to Brian Wilson and Van Morrison, one can always find a new way to rework a wonderful piece of music and place upon it their own unique stamp.
7. What’s Going On – Turbulent times expressed beautifully and elegantly in this gentle yet very powerful tune from the spring of 1970. Written by Renaldo Benson, Al Cleveland and Marvin Gaye around only a few chords, its simplicity is its dynamic drive. These were simpler times, to be certain, but 50 years ago, like today, people were nonetheless dealing with the challenges of survival on planet Earth.