Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Art of the Jazz Guitar

Since the age of 16, I've been fascinated by the Jazz Guitar. I can't tell you why ... why I didn't want to be a Rock star or the Lead guitar player in a famous Rock, Blues or Country band.

The fame held no appeal to me nor did the promise of money. My interest seemed to be in something less tangible but more important. I eventually began to understand what aesthetics were and why creating art was central to my own identity.

My first influence was Wes Montgomery. I saw him perform at Pep's Musical Bar on North Broad street in Philadelphia when I was a teenager. Not only did I watch and listen to him but I also had the opportunity to meet him. I can say with a measure of pride and distinction that Wes himself taught me his famous octave technique. He also encouraged me to study guitar and music. He said "Don't do what I did. I couldn't find a teacher in those days. I had to "teach" my self." I think his words were significant in my determination to study the guitar and ultimately to teach it.

As I began to develop on the guitar, I began to consider music as a career. At the age of 19, I began studying with Dennis Sandole. Dennis was an enormously influential teacher in Philadelphia whose students included John Coltrane, James Moody, Pat Martino and many others. What Dennis taught was the aesthetics of music. By looking at his students, it was clear that he was more than a guitar teacher. But Dennis was a jazz guitarist and certainly had special insights into the instrument. He encouraged me to pursue music as an art form but not as a commercial form. That created both a sense of confidence and simultaneously, a sense of confusion in me.

By the time I graduated from college, I had established the beginnings of a reputation as both a player and a teacher. At the age of 21, my first major break came from an opportunity to become staff guitarist at the famed Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. See a You Tube video on the ChuckAndersonGuitar channel called "The Latin Casino Story".

The Latin was the East Coast's version of Vegas but without the gambling. It was here that Sammy Davis Jr, Bobby Darin, Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and a host of other show business luminaries performed on a nightly basis. We played 14 shows a week and rehearsed the next show on Monday afternoon. It was grueling schedule but I loved it. The need to make money to support a family was essential. I felt a sense of conflict between doing this prestigious but clearly commercial work and the advice that Dennis had given me. Vivid in my memory was him asking me why I was wasting my time playing "commercial soirees when I should be giving concerts for the Kings and Queens of Europe?" That and his well known disdain for "touching" money sent me into a state about the contradictions between making money and pursuing art for its own sake. Necessity won since I had a family to support.

After four years at the Latin, I decided to leave and form my own jazz trio. The Chuck Anderson Trio was anchored by Al Stauffer, the legendary upright bass player. Al, I and Ray Deeley formed the group, recorded our first album "Mirror within a Mirror" and began giving concerts. Throughout the Trios' life, Jimmy Paxson and Darryl Brown also contributed outstanding drum and percussion work. During this period, I began writing concert jazz. I still perform many of these pieces today. All of our recorded output has been captured on a compilation CD called The Vintage Tracks. Last year, I had the entire recording re - mastered by Allan Tucker of TuckerSound in New York (formerly Foothill Digital). It's now available at www.ChuckAndersonGuitar.com under CDs and DVDs.

It's now 2009 and I've focused my attention on my first love, the Jazz Guitar. What is it about this art form that captures me? In the first place, I dislike lyrics. I love abstraction in painting, in sculpture and in music. Instrumental music speaks to me in a unique way. Vocal music has never spoken to me. I think I enjoy my own story coming from the inspiration of instrumental music. To me, interpretation of mood, attitude and feel are what I enjoy in music.

Improvisation, the cornerstone of jazz, springs from life itself. It seems to represent the way we try to live - spontaneous and free. Of course, there is structure. There can be no freedom without structure. But within that freedom is the place in which we live and grow.

The earliest stages of musical development involve simple structures. As we grow, we seek advancement and growth in our pursuits. Jazz Guitar to me offers unlimited potential to grow. It can be technical, creative, spiritual, emotional, aural and includes any measure by which you might monitor growth in an individual.

The unlimited palette of colors available at the harmonic, melodic, structural and rhythmic levels offers endless fascination to me in the pursuit of my own horizon.

Chuck Anderson
Jazz Guitarist

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino

I recently wrote this in Pat Martino's guest book after hearing an interview that he did about his experience with Wes Montgomery.

I listened recently to your interview about your experience with Wes Montgomery, It was strangely similar to mine. It took place when I was 16 and it was also at Pep's Bar. After a set, Wes came to my table and said "Hi! I'm Wes Montgomery. I understand that you play guitar. Do you have any questions?" I asked about his octaves. At the time, I thought he pinched the 2 notes. He laughed and corrected that wrong impression. He then went to the bandstand and brought his guitar over to me. He handed me the guitar and showed me how to play octaves.I was thrilled and still have his picture in my studio. At that time, he had just released Boss Guitar, a vinyl LP. He asked if I had any requests. I was so flustered that I asked for "Pied Fries" which of course was actually "Fried Pies". When he played the song in the next set, he announced the song as "Pied Fries" Just thought I would share that memory with you.

Coreen and I send our love to you and Aya.

Chuck Anderson www.ChuckAndersonGuitar.com

Chuck Anderson

Lafayette Hill, PA USA - Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 23:49:48 (EDT)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jazz Guitar Solos

Today's blog will be very brief but important.

Jazz guitarists are, like many other guitar players, obsessed with speed. Although speed is a good measurement of how much you've practiced, it's not a good measurement of how musical you are.

Today's advice is simple. Remember that whole notes , half notes, dotted half notes and quarter notes are not only permitted in guitar solos but are actually desirable.

Rhythmic variety is an important tool in making a guitar solo interesting.

To organize the topic of rhythm, visit www.modularphoneticrhythm.com or check out my site at www.ChuckAndersonGuitar.com

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jazz and Promotion

This is a copy of an E mail that I sent to Ben Ratliff, jazz critic for The New York Times It's in response to a question concerning the market for jazz.


I am a veteran jazz guitarist, born in Chicago but based in suburban Philadelphia.

I appreciate how you handle sensitive topics related to the Art of Jazz.

Being in this business for a long time as a musician, educator, author and lecturer, I have a somewhat different take on the subject of jazz musicians and audiences. Though it's easy to blame the media and they deserve some of the blame, I think the biggest problem lies squarely on the shoulders of jazz musicians and the jazz community.

This community has never promoted or marketed their art and craft at the level or with the same intensity as other musical idioms. This is not to comment one way or another on the musical significance of jazz versus rock - country vs pop etc.

As an example, country music has an enormously popular and important tradition called Fan Day. This is basically a big convention for the fans to meet, up close and personal, their country music idols. Autographs are given, merchandise is sold, pictures are taken. I have never seen a country artist resist this tradition or complain about it. They recognize that without the fans, they would have no career.

Country music plays to the fans and seems to show a genuine interest in them. I understand the differences between country and jazz but jazz still must be marketed with consistency and enthusiasm. The musicians have to do their part in promoting and marketing their art and craft. I am talking about traditional forms of jazz not "smooth jazz".

Jazz shares many of the same issues with classical music. There is too often a distance and certain type of elitism that prevents audiences from getting "close".

I hold out great hope for the future because of the "new" music business - the "cyber marketing" and all the tools that are available to jazz musicians across the world.

Chuck Anderson
"Audience Friendly, Progressive Jazz Guitar"

If interested, I'd love to send you copies of two of my CDs as well as one of my books. It deals with the subject of development within the music business, the individual and within the artistic community. The book is titled "Music Pursuing the Horizon"
Chuck Anderson


The issue of picking has been debated for years with opinions on all sides. Picking gets down to pairs: 2 downs, 2 ups, 1 down and 1 up and 1 up and 1 down.

Alternate picking is typically used for 2 notes on 1 string. Consecutive picking is used to transition from string to string when the direction of the phrase permits it.

The term "sweep" implies an effect as much as it implies a technique. Regardless of how the picking motion occurs (which is a different subject), you can't avoid the concept of the picking pairs.

If you think of phrasing, consecutive picking gives you a legato, flowing effect, no matter what the speed. On the other hand, alternate picking gives you a more articulate sound.

Ultimately, virtually all jazz guitar players use a combination of alternate and consecutive picking.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Does Jazz Blues Exist?

This question was posed on The Jazz Network. This was my response.

Blues can be typically described as a 12 bar song structure based on the I, IV and V chords. These fundamental chords appear at specific locations within the 12 bar format. The function of the I chord occupies bars 1 through 4. Bars 5 and 6 introduce the IV chord. The I chord is again brought back to cover bars 7 and 8. The V chord makes its first appearance in bars 9 and 10. Bars 11 and 12 reintroduce the I chord and function as a turnback or turnaround.

Jazz Blues follows this same format but introduces substitutions and links between the critical chord functions. This discussion is based on the harmonic structures within Blues not the melodic or rhythmic aspects of it.

As Wes Montgomery said - "Blues is responsible for the fire in jazz" I couldn't agree more!!!

Examples of this style of jazz blues can be found in my "Blues for Chris" from The Vintage Tracks CD and "Aqua Blue" from the Angel Blue - A Tour of Jazz CD.