Wes Montgomery: Days of Wine and Roses Transcription and Tab

I'm pretty sure Wes Montgomery was the first jazz guitarist I ever heard, off a tape my brother had of The Wes Montgomery Trio. I remember not liking the sound of the organ and not understanding the guitar playing—few 10-year-olds are hip and I was no exception.

Cut to today and I'm still listening to and dissecting Wes' playing and hoping that just a little rubs off on me.

If you're reading this, you probably are already aware of how great Wes is, how clear his melodic ideas are, how his command of chord soloing is still astonishing and how unbelievably hard he swings. And man, he made it look so easy.

Days of Wine and Roses
Below is a transcription with tabs of Wes' solo on "Days of Wine and Roses" off of Boss Guitar. Wes changed up the harmony of the song a bit from what most musicians are used to from the Real Book. The head is worth a transcriptions of it's own as it's done in a chord solo format and it's just beautiful what he does with it but that's for another time.

I also included an analysis of what's happening in his lines, the scales, ideas and arpeggios he employs over the harmony. Like any analysis, it's reverse engineering. You're getting some insight into the way Wes is thinking and approaching certain harmonic situations, but there are sometimes alternate interpretations.

The solo is here:

There's just not a note out of place in this solo.

Some Notes
It's amazing how much music he wrings out of a relatively straight ahead use of scales and arpeggios. His thematic ideas are stated very clearly throughout—notice how he treats the D7alt chord in measures 5-6 and 21-22, repeating the same chromatic approach idea. There is also an echo of another line used over Eb7 at measure 9 that he repeats in measures 25-26.

In addition to pretty standard scale/key based improvising, Wes makes ample use of both chord tone soloing in this tune as well as superimposing harmonic ideas over the base harmony like in measures 7-8 where the harmony is G-7 and Wes superimposes a D-7 arpeggio idea creating a G-11 sound.

Links to the music:

Dig into this one, it will be worth your time to learn some of this if not all of it. I'll have a video up soon where I'll extract some of these approaches and demonstrate ways for you to get it into your playing, but until then, the analysis should give you an idea of how to use some of these ideas.

John Scofield Explains How to Practice, or Learn How to Learn

There's a video on YouTube of a clinic that Scofield gave in 1983 somewhere or another that is frankly not very good for most people. I don't think he was accustomed to teaching at that point and a lot of what he says clearly goes over the head of much of the audience. So I approached this audio of a clinic he gave in the mid-90's at Cabrillo College with some hesitation.

Turns out it's fantastic for a lot of reasons.

The whole clinic is available at Casa Valdez, a great jazz blog and is worth listening to for any type of musician, no matter what your instrument. Scofield presents a lot of very clear ideas on how he approaches learning tunes and music in general.

This particular part jumped out at me because I think about how to practice all the time and have often wondered about the practice routines of musicians I admire.

I'll let Sco lay it out:

All the musicians I know, what they're about is learning how to learn...and getting good at learning and to keep that happening...to keep learning...keep absorbing music and learn how to learn something so that it comes back through you. Learn what to learn in your practice time—what to work on. You get better at that. So you don't have to play arpeggios for an hour, scales for an hour and then get to the real thing...to weed out the unimportant things you work on and to really work out, up here what it's going to take to improve. So you got to keep your wits about you in this practicing thing.
 Later I'll post an analysis and transcription of his improvisation on Stella by Starlight and how he goes about getting the tune under his fingers. It's a killer.

What Happens In Your Brain When You Improvise?

This video has been out for a couple months but I found it fascinating.

Charles Limb, a scientist who happens to be a musician decided to investigate what goes on in the brain when someone is improvising jazz and freestyle rap by using an MRI scanner to measure changes in the musicians' brains.

In order to study what happens, he compared brain activity in someone who's playing a memorized solo to someone who is improvising one.

As he himself says, there's very little information on this yet but it appears that when we improvise, we have to shut off one part of our brain that inhibits us and activate an other. In addition, language areas light up and even with your eyes closed there are visual areas lighting up.

Reading the comments on the TED site, I'm struck by how many people—I'm assuming musicians or artists—seem to be threatened by this pulling back of the curtain. They argue that you can't possibly hope to understand creativity or the artistic process and further, science will never be able to create art without the artist.

So what?

They're kind of missing the point. There are robots that can probably shoot 3-pointers all day but it never gets old watching a real live human being do it in real time. Nobody's getting replaced here, it's about understanding. Demystifying the physics of shooting that 3-point shot doesn't make the athlete less compelling, if anything it makes them more amazing when you realize everything they're calculating on the fly.

As Limb says in the video, "It's magical but it's not magic."