This piece has recently evolved from a more Trane Quartet-type of modal tune (over a pedal tone, a la the beginning of “Spiritual”) to something with a more eastern feel. I’d been using a standard, clean jazz guitar tone with Travis playing in more of an Elvin vein on the full kit. Jeremy started using slide on the bass and a an old Mu-Tron envelope filter for this, and that opened things up a bit in terms of timbre… I’m playing guitar synthesizer sitar sound here, with Travis playing Egyptian tabla. This was our first time playing the tune with this instrumentation/orchestration, recorded live at Langdon St. Cafe, 7/15/2010 (though unfortunately cut-off after a few minutes when camcorder battery ran out).
The melody figure vexed me for some time: while harmonically simple, it shifts tonalities over the G/C pedal tones towards the end (introducing Bb and Eb into a C major tonality), and I found the using standard and Lydian chordmodes based on this for improvisational development of the melody wasn’t really sustaining the mood of the piece. After revisiting Yusef Lateef’s brilliant “Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns” book to work on some Indian and Japanese scales, I realized that several of these were a perfect fit for this tune. The Indian Todi scale (C-Db-Eb-F#-G-Ab-B) and Japanese Naka Zora (B-C-E-F#-G-B) and Kumoi (C-D-Eb-G-A) scales – which are both really partial subsets of Todi – allowed me to explore the relationship between the E/Eb fulcrum and initial CM7 arpeggio of the melody, and created some intriguing tensions over the pedal tone. Coincidentally, I’d also started playing around with the guitar synth again for the first time in years, and this all seemed to fit together nicely: really getting at the sound I’d been hearing for this tune.
Although this excerpt only features synthetic sitar, the overall form returns to a standard guitar tone after this eastern section.
Here’s some flip footage of us playing my original composition “Multi-Dimensional Array Blues” at Langdon St. Cafe in Montpelier, VT on 7/15/10.
This is a basic blues tune in Bb that’s been souped up a bit with the use of George Russell’s Lydian b7th scales, and various polyrhythms supplied by bassist Jeremy Harlos against drummer Travis Shores’ drumming.
Saturday, June 19, 6-8pm: Justin Perdue and special guests at Lincoln Peak Vineyard & Winery, 142 River Rd, New Haven VT 05472
Celebrate the solstice with Lincoln Peak wines paired with gourmet foods prepared by local chefs, live jazz music performed by Justin Perdue & Friends, and a silent art auction with works by local artists.
Fundraiser for Otter Creek Child Center
$30 per person – $50 per couple
Tickets available at the door, or call OCCC: 802 388 9688
Influenced by the chord voicings employed by McCoy Tyner and the harmonic patterns used by John Coltrane, Justin Perdue began tuning his guitar in fourths (E-A-D-G-C-F, low to high) in 1990. Initially, this was intended as an experiment to explore that possibilities it opened up for more symmetrical scalar patterns and chord voicings than the conventional guitar tuning – and also to develop “outside-the-box” guitar techniques that his studies with trumpeter Bill Dixon encouraged.One of the immediate (and lasting) effects of this change is that standard bar chord voicings and open position chords are no longer workable options. As it turns out, many guitar cliches one takes for granted become significantly altered – making one realize that these phrases have become cliches due to how readily they fall under the fingers in conventional tuning — a convenience which is often not the case when tuning in fourths.
By the same token, the 4ths tuning lends itself to its own set of cliches spawned from certain types of more easily executed phrases and voicings. For example: Any chord voicing spanning 4 strings can be transposed by simply moving to any other set of strings without changing the fingering. Octaves, for instance, use the same fingering regardless of the string pairs being played. The same holds true for any scalar patterns – gone are the asymmetries resulting from the third between the G-B strings in standard tuning.
So, while tradeoffs include some oddities — for instance trying to cop a Wes Montgomery line or chord solo note-for-note may or may not fall under the fingers more readily in all fourths tuning — the symmetrical nature of the fourths guitar tuning greatly simplifies playing one of Wes’ signature octave runs. Similarly, Coltrane’s pentatonic and sheets of sound patterns are readily transposed anywhere on the fretboard without changing the fingerings.
In pursuit of the tone – namely the sound of Wes Montgomery – I abandoned using a pick several years ago. While it has is drawbacks when I’m looking to strum (especially in say a funk context) I’m a convert otherwise: It’s fine for comping, and great for chord soloing and single-note octave lines. I find it affords a much greater range of tonal colours and expression: Virtually never use the volume knob anymore, except to set an initial level, any volume modulations I need can be accomplished in a “tactile” manner. For that matter, I never end up touching the tone knob, as a wide range of tonal colours are a literally at ones fingertips when playing without a pick. While Wes only used his thumb while resting his fingers on the guitar, I’ve found using my index, middle and (on occasional) ring fingers – in a sort of hybrid classical guitar technique, though without any nails – is what’s working for me.
At the time I became interested in choosing not to pick, I was also looking for a way to more readily execute wide intervallic leaps, and integrate right-handed tapping techniques. Not so much in the interest of being the next Van Halen, but actually in pursuit of certain Coltrane/Dolphy-type possibilities. Conventionally cross-picking a line of wider intervals that alternate between, say, the low E/A strings with the top strings always struck me as a lot of work (a job best left to the John McLaughlins of the world). Finger-picking these types of intervals is comparatively simple, however.
So, though I certainly can’t recommend ditching the pick for guitarists across the board – I’d definitely in the camp that it has it’s merits for the jazz player in search of a warmer, more pliable tone, and perhaps the opening of other some doors leading to different shapes in your lines.