Fretz Music Center

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Welcome to Mark Walsh's Jazz Cafe. Check out these topics:

  1. Discussions of Jazz
  2. Recording information and tips
  3. Musical examples, tips, licks, concepts with a Jazz Guitar emphasis
  4. More Jazz History
  5. Post Bop
  6. The Modern Era

  1. Jazz

The first question I would like to address is:  what is Jazz?

Jazz is the only true American art form, and it has been around for a hundred years.  Almost any other definition must be qualified in some way.  For example, you might say Jazz is improvised music.  Although that statement is mostly true, there are forms of Jazz that are not improvised, such as Big Band and some Dixieland.  Jazz is also very much about swing;  but not all Jazz swings, e.g. Bossa Nova and Fusion.  Chances are that if you are reading this, you are a guitar player and likely into Rock.  The way I came to love Jazz was through Fusion, which is a combination of Jazz and Rock.  If you are new to Jazz, you'll find that Fusion is a good way to get into Jazz, because Fusion guitarists use distortion and more of a Rock tone.  Also, I highly recommend the Ken Burns PBS series entitled "Jazz", available on DVD.

Jazz began in New Orleans around the turn of the 20th century.  There was a "melting pot" effect at that place in time, culturally and musically.  There were Europeans, black slaves, people from the Caribbean, and Creoles (people of African and French roots, more closely associated to their European heritage).  There was marching band music, opera, European classical music and the blues all coming together in the same place at the same time.  I find it interesting that Fusion is thought of as a new thing and looked down upon by jazz purists, when this is how Jazz itself got started - by fusing different styles of music. 

The first person to write down Jazz (also referred to as Jass) was Jelly Roll Morton.  He is also known as the father of Jazz.  Remember that this was before recording existed.  The first Jazz recording was made in the 1920s, and we really have no idea what the Jazz that existed before that sounded like.  The earliest Jazz was ensemble music;  there was no "soloist" until a young trumpet player from New Orleans came along and changed the face of music forever, transforming Jazz into art.  That musician was Louis Armstrong.  Armstrong developed the idea of the soloist by playing 2nd trumpet in King Oliver's band.  The first trumpet would play the melody, and Louis would improvise harmonies and lines around the melody.  That concept led to the Jazz solo as we know it today.


Jazz Cafe Logo

Mark with Steve Morse of the Dregs, Kansas and Deep Purple.

2. Recording

Most of my knowledge of recording comes from my work as a studio guitarist, from having my own home studio for the last 20 years, and from working for a time in the recording department of a major music store.  It has been my pleasure to record with many successful artists and producers, and I have produced and co-produced a couple of albums;   I am happy to pass on a few things I've learned along the way.

The first thing you need to know (other than how to plug in a microphone!) is the difference between analog and digital recording.  Although analog (tape) has a "warmer" sound, the advantages and low cost of digital recording (hard disk or digital audio tape) have caused analog recording to be almost phased out.  Some advantages of digital recording are the editing capabilities (i.e., cut and paste), as well as non-destructive recording (not having to record over other tracks as on tape).  A big question for someone getting into recording is:  should I get one of these "stand-alone" recorders, or use my computer?  Korg, Roland and a few other companies make these stand-alone units, but I think using your computer for recording is the way to go.  You will need a large screen to do editing, because editing in the digital domain is very visual.  The screens on the stand-alone units are much too small, and the platforms are not compatible with anything else.

So you're a musician, and you've written a couple of songs.  Why should you get into home recording?  Answer:  it's a lot cheaper than going into a recording studio.  The least amount of money needed to do a decent demo in a studio is a couple of thousand dollars.  For that same amount of money, you could build a very functional home studio, and record any time you want, day or night.  You're not on someone's clock.

OK, you're going to put a computer-based home studio together.  What platform should you use?  There are a few to choose from - Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Sonar, Nuendo and a few others.  I have been using Pro Tools for about 10 years, so I'm a little biased.  Most commercial recording studios have Pro Tools;  so, it's the most compatible recording software.  Let's say you want to record drums in a big studio because they have a big room and nice microphones.  You can take that Pro Tools drum session home to your $300 system and add guitars and vocals for weeks, and again you're not on anyone's clock.

I've mentioned the word "editing" a few times.  Let's get into what that means in terms of digital recording.  With a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) you can cut, copy and paste just as you would with a word processor.  Let's say you have recorded three takes of a rhythm guitar track.  Track A has the best feel, but there is a mistake in the middle of the track. With Pro Tools, you can copy the same section on Track B and copy it seamlessly to Track A.  In about 30 seconds you have created a perfect track.  Can you see the advantages of recording this way?  You can make an OK track good, and make a good track great this way.  Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Pro Tools is one of the deepest and most powerful programs out there.  If you take the time to learn it, you will be rewarded.  The first guitar solo on the first track of my CD "From The Top", available at Fretz Music Center (shameless plug) is a composite from about ten tracks of solos.  This amount of editing was done in the demo version of that song.  When we recorded the finished product, I played the solo straight through.  Is this cheating?  I don't think so.  We are using the tools that we have available.  Would Beethoven or Picasso have used computers for their art?  You betcha!  For more info on Pro Tools, go to

3. Licks Tips And Musical Examples

Welcome to part three of Mark Walsh's Jazz Cafe - licks tips and musical examples. We will examine elements of style and phrasing.  Legato phrasing (i.e., not picking every note) is a big part of Rock, Blues and Fusion Jazz styles.  The right hand picking is always the thing that slows down guitar players.  Legato phrasing puts the emphasis on the left hand. Example #1 is a hammer-on exercise.  The use of three notes on a string is great for speed.  Start with your first finger on the third fret of the sixth string, and smack your second finger on the fifth fret, then your fourth finger on the seventh fret.  This involves a lot of stretching, so make sure to bend your left wrist. One word of advice - always warm up! I recommend at least a five-minute warmup before you attempt these exercises.

Exercise #1

Example 1

Exercise #2 uses pull-offs. Start with your fingers down on frets 5, 7 & 8 on the first string.  Pull off with your fourth finger to the side, then pull off with your third finger to the first finger.

Exercise #2

Example 2

Aside from legato phrasing, it is very important to be able to pick every note.  Legato phrasing always came easily to me, and it seems like I'm always working on the "pick every note" technique.  As with many things in music, it is important to use the correct technique when playing a certain style of music.  For example, Country players and straight ahead Jazz players mostly pick every note.  Check out Steve Morse and Jimmy Bruno for this kind of phrasing.  For the legato stuff, check out Allan Holdsworth (fusion), Scott Henderson and also rock guys like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

4.  More Jazz History

For the next installment of the Jazz Cafe, we are again going back into Jazz history.  We left off at Louis Armstrong.  Louis not only took what was known as Jazz and turned it into a soloist's art form, but also redefined popular music's vocal style and phrasing.  When Armstrong appeared on the scene in New York City, he got jobs with the early Swing bands such as Chick Webb.  The word spread about the hip trumpet player, and many players began to copy him.  One famous Jazz critic commented that if you took any of the melodies from the Swing era and sang it with a gravelly voice, it would sound like Louis Armstrong.

I'll be skipping over the Swing era, because it's not one of my favorite kinds of music.  There was some cool stuff by Count Basie (the Big Band out in the desert in the movie "Blazing Saddles"), Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and others.  Much of the music of the Swing era, such as Glenn Miller, was pretty commercial stuff.  Miller's "In the Mood" is the song most often associated with the Swing era.

It's time to move on to my favorite period in Jazz history - Bebop.  There were a few simultaneous events that led to the development of Bebop.  Swing music was essentially dance music.  Musicians grew tired of the restrictions of dance tempos (for you rock guys, think Disco!), and they searched for new ways to express their creativity.  World War II came to a end in the mid 1940s, after which people moved to the suburbs and stayed home more often.  This led to the end of the Swing bands.  A few Big Bands did keep going, e.g. the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

After the Swing bands faded away, musicians were playing smaller rooms with smaller bands, and there was no room for dancing.  This allowed the players to try faster non-dance tempos and odd time signatures.  The mecca of Jazz in the 1940s was 52nd St. in New York City.  Behind the scenes in a club called Minton's Playhouse was where the real experimentation was taking place.  Drummer Kenny Clark was playing in a new way that used syncopated accents to support the soloist.  Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespe and pianist Thelonius Monk were using more advanced chord changes.  It wasn't until a young alto sax player named Charlie Parker came on the scene, however, that musicians realized that the new music must go in Parker's direction.  Parker's "breakthrough" was that the soloist could base his choices of notes more on the notes of the chord being played, and could use any note of the chromatic scale as long as it was resolved correctly.  Players copied Charlie Parker no matter what the instrument - piano, sax, trumpet or guitar.  Unfortunately, many Bop musicians copied Charlie "Bird" Parker's addiction to heroin, hoping to find insights into his genius.

Bebop never gained mass popularity as did Swing music.  Singers like Frank Sinatra, Rhythm & Blues, and eventually Rock & Roll pushed Jazz music out of the mainstream.  Bebop Jazz was a higher level of art than any of the forms of Jazz that preceded it.  Bop was, and is, very difficult music to play.  You must be able to play your instrument very fast and in all keys, just for starters.  Even the great Miles Davis (who replaced Dizzy Gillespe in Charlie Parker's band) had a hard time with the rapid tempos in Bop.  Miles was forced to develop a different style, based more on tone and note choice rather than speed.

Next time:  Post Bop.  Break out your Miles and Coltrane albums, or buy them if you don't have them!

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5. Post Bop

Welcome to the next installment of Mark Walsh's Jazz Cafe.  Today's topic is the development known as post bop.  As you may recall, bebop music featured tunes and solos at very rapid tempos.  Musicians eventually got tired of this, and the natural reaction to playing those fast tempos was of course to play slower ones.  This next phase was called cool jazz.  Miles Davis was the central figure of cool jazz.  A great Miles recording to check out is "The Birth Of The Cool".  This was a collaboration between Miles and arranger Gil Evans.  This duo put out several very influential albums in the late 1950s.

In the early 1960s cool jazz came together with Brazilian music to form bossa nova, which translates as "new beat".  FMC's own Bill Sharrow and I have had the pleasure of working with jazz drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt, who introduced players like saxophonist Stan Getz (The Girl From Ipanema) and guitarist Charlie Byrd to the new Latin rhythms.  The central figure in bossa nova was composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, who wrote "The Girl From Ipanema", "One Note Samba", "How Insensitive" and other memorable titles.

Around this same time, Miles Davis put out the classic album "Kind Of Blue", one of the best selling jazz recordings of all time.  The lineup featured Miles Davis on trumpet, Julian "Cannonball" Adderly on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax and Bill Evans on piano.  Miles had the idea of writing tunes based on a mode (or scale) rather than the traditional use of chord progressions in many different keys.  The result was that the player had eight or sixteen bars to improvise and develop ideas, rather than relying on the old bebop cliches.  It's interesting to compare and contrast the two sax players on this recording.  Adderly was still very much in the Charlie Parker school, where Coltrane was pushing the limits with his unique experimentation.  One should also consider what Bill Evans brought to the project.  Evans was very much influenced by Romantic composers like Ravel, and he brought those more advanced harmonies to the form Miles had devised.

Most of the musicians on "Kind Of Blue" were accomplished artists and bandleaders in their own right, most notably John Coltrane.  Coltrane was one of the most important figures in 20th century music.  A relentless practicer and experimenter, he focused on the tenor sax and reintroduced the little used soprano sax to jazz.  Coltrane had a hit with a recording of "My Favorite Things"  which featured the soprano.  "Giant Steps" is the recording to check out if you are unfamiliar with Coltrane's music.  This album has an intensity of soloing that is unsurpassed by almost anything in the bebop era.  Coltrane's body of work is similar to that of Vincent Van Gogh in that there is only a small window of about 15 years from which we have a record of their art.  Yet in that short time, they were able to produce an amazing amount of work.

In the late 1960s jazz declined drastically in popularity.  The Beatles and the so-called British Invasion, Motown and other popular music had all but pushed jazz out of the record business.  The one last gasp of popular jazz was Louis Armstrong's recording of "Hello Dolly".  This recording  actually pushed the Beatles out of the #1 spot on the Billboard charts.  Some jazz critics and others believe that jazz ended in the late 1960s.  I disagree with this.  The next Cafe will focus on one of my favorite periods, jazz-rock fusion, or simply fusion.  To wrap it up, we will go from 1970 to 2007.

5. The Modern Era

Welcome back to Mark Walsh's Jazz Cafe.  All the jazz history I have written about so far has been from before my lifetime (I'm not 100 years old!).  Which means, all the information leading up to this last chapter has come by way of my study of jazz music for close to 30 years.  In this final chapter, we will take an in-depth look at Jazz Fusion, Jazz-influenced Rock, Smooth Jazz, and even take a guess at what the future of Jazz might be.

In 1970 the Newport Jazz Festival hired new rock & funk bands like Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin.  Miles Davis loved what he heard and was envious of the crowd reaction to these bands.  There were thousands of kids screaming, dancing and partying.  Suddenly, the trumpeter who was always the coolest dude on the planet felt old and out of touch with the new music scene.  The days of acoustic jazz quartets where the horn player walks up to the mic and plays a solo were over.

The birth of Jazz-Rock Fusion was when Miles Davis put together younger musicians like Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, who were already experimenting with electric instruments.  The recordings that arose from these sessions - "Bitches' Brew", "In A Silent Way" and the seminal Jazz-Funk album "On The Corner" - were among the most important albums for this new musical direction.

There were other jazz musicians who brought electric instruments and rock infuences as well - Chick Corea and Stanley Clark with Return To Forever; Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and later Jaco Pastorius with Weather Report, and John McLaughlin with the Mahavishnu Orchestra.  As you may notice, most of these guys played with Miles at one time or another.

Many rock bands in the 1970s also had a jazz influence.  Oakland's Tower Of Power blended Funk and Jazz with tight horn arrangements, as well as highly developed solos from saxophone master Lenny Pickett.  Chicago (originally Chicago Transit Authority) gained huge popularity blending catchy tunes with influences as diverse as Hard Rock, Classical and Jazz.  Later in the '70s the rock band Steely Dan blended rock grooves with very sophisticated harmonies in their horn and vocal arrangements.  Larry Carlton's guitar solo on "Kid Charlemagne", from the Steely Dan recording "The Royal Scam", to me embodies what jazz fusion is all about.  Carlton's rock guitar sound is much closer to a horn than to the traditional clean arch-top sounds, but his ideas and phrasing are all Jazz.  Many guitarists in the 70s went in the direction of borrowing the distorted rock guitar sound, such as Allan Holdsworth, Mike Stern, Al DiMeola, Robben Ford, Scott Henderson and many others.  There was one young guitarist from the Midwest, however, who would go against what everyone else was doing and only use the traditional arch-top tone, and later forge his own unique sound that many others would copy.  This guitarist would go on to win more Grammy awards in different categories than any other artist ever.  I'm speaking of course about Pat Metheny.  His favorite player growing up was vibes virtuoso Gary Burton.  His first pro gig at an early age was with the Gary Burton Quartet.  He then attended Miami University for only one semester before being asked to become a guitar instructor.  Metheny's first album "Bright Sized Life" featured Bob Moses and Jaco Pastorius, and remains a classic.  He would later go on to co-found the Pat Metheny Group with keyboardist and writing partner Lyle Mays.  Some of my favorite PMG albums are "Pat Metheny Group" (a copy of which Pat was good enough to autograph for me when I had the chance to meet him a few years ago), "American Garage" and "Letter From Home".  He still continues to play to sellout crowds, and his latest albums are among his best.

Around the 1980s there was a movement of traditional jazz players spearheaded by Wynton Marsalis.  These players were often referred to as the "young lions of Jazz".  Wynton, Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman, Kenny Kirkland and Jeff "Tain" Watts were among this group of traditionalists who never experimented with Fusion.  Another rather large development in Jazz took place at the end of the 70s, continued to grow slowly through the 80s and exploded on the scene in the 90s.  It began with the Chuck Mangione hit "Feels So Good" and George Benson's breakthrough album
"Breezin' ".  These recordings, along with work by the band Spyro Gyra, had more of a pop sensibility to it.  The melodies were catchy and there were solos, but they didn't go on for ten minutes.  In the 90s radio stations coined the phrase "Smooth Jazz".  Keep in mind that musicians were simply playing music, not twisting their moustaches while plotting to "dumb down" Jazz to make a lot of money, as some might think.  It was the radio conglomerate Clear Channel that bought up all of the smooth jazz stations and turned them into rigidly formatted and repetitive pop music stations.

I am a fan of Smooth Jazz.  I wrote and co-produced my own Smooth Jazz CD entitled "From The Top" (another shameless plug, available at Fretz Music Center!).  If you want to check out my list of good Smooth Jazz, I would recommend Bony James, Brian Culbertson, Steve Cole, Jeff Golub, The Rippingtons and Dave Koz.  As to where Jazz might be headed, I think that as long as there are great players and people who love music, Jazz will survive.  There is a lot more to be "said" in Traditional Jazz.  I think Fusion and Smooth Jazz will come together to form some hip music that takes more chances.

Mark Walsh's List of Favorites (all styles of music)

Pat Metheny                     Scott Henderson                   Allan Holdsworth
Mike Stern                        Miles Davis                           John Coltrane
Charlie Parker                 Jaco Pastorius                      Jimi Hendrix
Stevie Ray Vaughn          Ludwig Von Beethoven       Steely Dan
Genesis                            Kansas                                   UK
Bruford                              Yes                                          King Crimson
Vince Guaraldi                 Lee Ritenour                          Larry Carlton
Weather Report               Chick Corea                          Herbie Hancock
Phil Woods                       Edward Van Halen               Wes Montgomery
Jim Hall                             Emerson, Lake & Palmer    Chicago
Brian Pastor Big Band    John Mayer                           Jeff Beck
Tower Of Power               Luther Vandross                   Sly & The Family Stone
Frank Zappa                     Michael Landau                    Michael Brecker
Yellow Jackets                  Stevie Wonder                     Marvin Gaye
Sam Cooke                      Clifford Brown                       Louis Armstrong
Thelonius Monk                Gentle Giant                          Joe Pass
Steve Hackett                   Peter Gabriel                        Sting
Donald Fagen                   Rush                                      Antonio Carlos Jobim
Brian McKnight                 Kathy Sledge                       Jimmy Bruno
Vinnie Colaiutta               Tribal Tech                            Beatles

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