MY GUITAR TEACHERS:
John was my very first Jazz guitar teacher. I studied with him while I was attending the University of Miami in the early '80s. Even though he was (only) a grad student, his playing back then already showed a tremendous amount of maturity-- especially considering that he was in his very early twenties !!! For one thing, John had a fabulous swing feel and rhythmic drive in his lines, and just listening to him play for me was a formidable lesson in itself. Among other things, he had me play the 3rds and 7ths of the chords while playing through changes, as opposed to running the modes up and down. He also opened my ears to the necessity of voice-leading the top notes of the chords while comping. After leaving Miami, John moved to New York and hooked up with organist Jack McDuff with whom he toured and recorded for years. John did 2 albums on Blue Note Records that are amazing.
Randall was my next teacher at UM. He was (and is still) the Chair of the Jazz Guitar Department there. Randall's approach to teaching was based on intimidation. He had a habit of giving his private students so much homework that we were just never completely ready for our lessons-- and thus always feared reprisals ! Remember that in the context of a Music School, you can flunk your "Private Lessons". He never raised his voice, but had a way of looking at you with a straight face that said plenty... With that said, I owe a lot to Randall. First of all, he had me transcribe solos on a regular basis. I remember a Summer Session during which he had me transcribe (and play) a different solo every week!!! On top of all the other work, of course... the other work included single-note studies from the Joe Pass book, Bach Inventions played with a pick, chord studies from the Barry Galbraith book, writing chord solos, single-note solos, etc...
A crucial development in my understanding of chord progressions (and of the fingerboard) came from working on what he called "3-note voicings", also known as "shells" by piano players. The system is disarmingly simple:
1) The chords (no matter what types) are boiled down to 3 notes, which are the Root, the 3rd and the 7th (in some cases, the 6th may replace the 7th).
2) The Roots are played exclusively on the 6th or 5th string.
3) The 3rds and 7ths of the chords are played on the 3rd and 4th strings.
I have to say that Randall was a surprisingly versatile player: I heard him play duets with Joe Pass (on tape), saw him perform with Steve Morse's band, or trade solos with John Scofield in a smoking Quartet! Being from Texas, he was also a great Blues player. I finally got to know him a little better and found out that he loved the French comic Louis de Funès!!!
I only studied with Dave Creamer briefly shortly after I moved to San Francisco in 1987. I knew that he had recorded with Miles Davis and that he lived in the Bay Area, but nothing more. I had a regular gig in an Indian restaurant in the city, and noticed his name on their music calendar. After checking with the bartender that he really was "the" Dave Creamer, I returned to the restaurant a couple of days later to hear him play. He really impressed me and I approached him for some lessons.
If Randall was the master of chords, Dave was the master of scales and arpeggios... For instance, he had a name for all of the Major Scale systems: the "Bill Leavitt Fingerings", the "7-note-per-2-strings fingerings" or what have you... besides having me rethink some of my scale fingerings, he introduced me to some interesting arpeggio concepts-- which he would execute flawlessly with a stunning sweeping technique similar to Frank Gambale's. In all honesty, I haven't worked too much on those since then, but I should probably give it another try someday...
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