Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 478 #523)

PT Gazell!!!
We welcomed PT Gazell to class last night to play and talk about his jazzy playing.

Gazell's early career was in bluegrass and country, playing as a sideman to Johnny Paycheck and then chasing that Charlie McCoy style. He was a single note melody player. But then, as Joe describes it in the late 80's, there was a puff of smoke and PT disappeared from the scene.

What happened? As PT described it, 1988 was pre-Howard Levy and Gazell was just frustrated with the missing notes on the diatonic harp. He wanted to play fluid melodies and did not want to wrestle with the shortcomings of the chromatic. Plus, the western swing bands he was in at the time wanted him playing accurate lines in the horn section. In frustration, he put the harp down and didn't resurface until 2003 when he became exposed to the possibilities of a half-valved diatonic.

He has improved the valves now too and in partnership with Seydel offers the Gazell Method harmonicas, which you can order here.

Why play the half-valve? He offered three concise reasons:
  • You get all the notes  - three full octaves.
  • They follow the bending and flattening logic he grew up with - flat notes come from bending.
  • Extra emotion across all the reeds - because everything bends, he has expression everywhere.
Back to his playing. PT played a handful of tunes last night, including This Can't Be Love, The Thumb, Here There & Everywhere, and Just You, Just Me. And he spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about what he plays and how he gets there. He described learning to improvise and said, "Learn the melody so well that you don't have to think about it anymore."

Please re-read that quote. It is crucial to masterful playing. Once you're to that point with a melody, block it out and listen to the bass player.

Other improv ideas? Transpose a phrase over the changes - particularly moving a one chord lick to the IV chord. Jazz players do this a lot. Speaking of jazz players, he especially likes trumpet and clarinet players for inspiration.

As for particular players - Harry Sweets Edison, trumpet; Nat King Cole's early trio stuff; Ben Webster, sax; Johnny Hodges, sax; and the Benny Goodman sextet. His favorite music era was the 50's and 60's when these guys were playing and soloing over the melody rather than being scale-oriented.

He also talked about being inspired by the guitar player and taking his own solo off in a different direction just because of what he heard that other musician do. And he also says he has a "basket of licks" that he is always adding to and that he uses those licks as he writes little songs within a song.

It was a terrific night in B1 with a masterful musician. Thank you PT for visiting again!

Class Notes

  • Time to register for classes now!
Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew