Nuances, Fine Points and Subtle Distinctions

Oct 08, 2019
The steam tunnels below my small and relatively elite southern New England alma mater were home to many corridors of evidently sanctioned, or at least tolerated, student grafitti, my favorite instance of which was a neatly painted bit of lettering reading simply, "Milt Jackson On Vibes." I think by then I was already hip to the Modern Jazz Quartet and their double LP Live In Europe, but had yet to discover Jackson's worthy predecessor, Lionel Hampton, whose work I wouldn't stumble across until I heard the Benny Goodman Sextet recordings with Charlie Christian. As I write this, I'm grooving to one of my latest Spotify finds, the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces reissue Benny Goodman: Small Groups 1941-1945. Until now, I've always viewed any Benny Goodman records without Charlie Christian as a waste of time on a par with Allman Brothers records lacking Duane Allman. And yet, putting together the Fingerstyle Five material (more on that in a moment) has got my ears more dialed in than usual to swing-era ensemble sounds in general and the nuances of those ensembles' arrangements in particular. So these later Goodman recordings, though they have less star power than the earlier small group stuff (no Teddy Wilson, Hampton or Christian, much less Count Basie or Cootie Williams) are still plenty hot and entertaining.

Granted, on some level, it's all nuances, especially as one gets into the weeds of various and assorted 70-plus-year-old recordings. On another level, the nuances are what makes it all so enjoyable. And I'm sure if I were Mel Powell or Red Norvo, I'd think the nuances matter a great deal indeed, Powell and Norvo having played piano and vibes, respectively, on the Goodman small group recordings under discussion. Meanwhile, I've got some nuances of my own to clarify about what's happening or about to happen around here in terms of new courses and other material I'm making available. There's the ever-approaching Membership, a second round of the Blues Chord Substitutions Workshop, and the recently announced Play The Changes Intensive. Here, to explain what's what, is your host, Señor Fretboard himself, David Hamburger:
The Fingerstyle Five, a.k.a., the Membership: If you've scoped out any of the past three lessons – The Horizontal 3-StepThe Dominant Dozen, or What To Work On – you know I've been zeroing in on five essential elements of playing solo fingerstyle blues, and how to develop a more compelling repertoire of instrumental tunes. The membership, launching next week, will deliver new repertoire and exercises on a monthly basis and provide a private forum for posting performances, discussing your work and connecting with like-minded peers from all over the world.

Blues Chord Substitutions Workshop, Transatlantic Edition: The first six-week live-online Blues Chord Substitutions workshop is wrapping up, but when I first offered it back in September, a number of people asked if I could offer it at a more convenient time for people in the U.K. and Europe. If that interests you, I've got a waitlist going over on the main page of; just scroll down till you see the red signup button to put your name on the list. I'll send you more details and the registration info later this week.

Play The Changes IntensiveAnother live-online workshop, this time for anyone interested in understanding how swing, jazz and jump blues guitarists play the changes on the blues. Like the chord substitutions workshop, this will be conducted live via Zoom over six weekly sessions. There is also a waitlist signup for this course on; scroll down and click the green button to sign up and receive details and registration info later this week for this course as well.

Both workshops are limited to twelve students per course to provide for maximum interaction and attention to your questions and posts. Because the pace of the workshops and the membership will be different, they are theoretically completely compatible with one another. The workshops are about a getting a concentrated dose of material in a short-term but highly interactive context. The membership is a more long-term approach, a place to focus on the steady establishment of the skills and approaches to reach your long-term musical goals.

As usual, if you've got questions, drop me a line or post them in the Comments section of the Fingerstyle Five lessons I've already released.

More soon,