Category Archives: Guitarist

Guitar players only, the exclusive club of instrumentalists

Ted Greene

Solo Guitar

This time I want to talk about an extraordinary guitar player, who died in 2005: Ted Greene. I have to admit, that I was introduced to him accidentally when searching online stores for recordings of Gershwin tunes. I bought the only album that he ever recorded and still is one of the most beautiful solo guitar albums I ever heard. The album is called “Solo Guitar” and was recorded in 1976, around the same time when Joe Pass recorded his “Virtuoso” albums. Joe Pass became famous and Ted Greene is forgotten, it seems.

Ted played usually a Fender Telecaster and experimented with different tunings, that is how he created his specific sound of deep bass notes. Ted spent most of his time as a teacher. “I didn’t mean to be a guitar teacher,” he said, “but I just fell in love with it.”

He wrote four books: Chord ChemistryModern Chord Progressions, and Jazz Guitar Single Note Soloing Volume 1 and Volume 2. These books became quite successful and are still available.

The album “Solo Guitar” was recorded at a time where Ted was having a Sunday night gig. The recording was made over 10 hours on two days where Ted was just playing what came into his mind. Out of this material 8 songs were put into this album. The list contains versions of Gershwin tunes ( A medley with “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”) and cover versions of other famous songs like “Ol’ Man River”, “Send in the Clowns” or “Just Friends”.

Ted Greene experiments on all this songs with different styles of playing (walking bass in “Just Friends” , classical almost baroque chord progressions and flageolet melodies in “Danny Boy” or just changing the key in “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”). The whole album shows the commitment of Ted’s playing to melody and harmony and results in perfectly balanced chord progressions and voicings. This is really one of the greatest solo guitar albums I know.

Since Ted was having so many students there is still an active Ted Greene community on the internet. You can find transcriptions from the album and many other student’s material compiled on the website www.tedgreene.com.

You will also find a lot of interesting videos on Youtube. I selected one video from 1993 where he plays “Autumn Leaves”. Ted speaks briefly also about changing keys “since it starts to loose it’s charm” when you stay on the same key for too long.

 

Finally I have also created a little playlist to allow you to listen to the album:

George Benson: Inspiration

Inspiration_ A Tribute To Nat King Cole

Another album from the Concord Records from 2013 is George Benson’s tribute to Nat King Cole: Inspiration.

I might have explained before that I also think that the music of Nat King Cole is something I’m also enjoying to listen, but with that CD George Benson makes it clear that he was and still is one of the greatest admirers of Nat King Cole and his muisc.

The album starts with a recording from 1951 with Little George Benson singing and playing the Ukulele to “Mona Lisa”, his personal choice at that time and still today, also closing the record with the original arrangement from Nelson Riddle.

In between we hear many of those great songs Nat King Cole became famous also in it’s original arrangements and George Benson as the really inspired vocalist. Benson’s voice is very similar to Nat King Cole’s way of singing, especially on “Walking My Baby Back Home”.

“Just One Of Those Things” featuring Benson also on the guitar with a classic-Benson solo singing the guitar solo line.

“Unforgettable” with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet and Benson on guitar playing this song groovy and relaxed with no extra pathos.

“Route 66″ shows again the excellently swinging Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, under the direction of arranger Randy Waldman.

My personal highlight on this CD is “Nature Boy”. The arrangement is again from Nelson Riddle and Benson plays the solo part on guitar. This song has not covered any dust in all those years since it was released by Nat King Cole in 1948, just amazing. And I think this is also Benson’s message with this album: Here is some music I grew up with and the music from my youth has inspired me my whole life and now I allow myself to play and sing these original arrangements and hopefully inspire another generation of musicians.

“Smile” features Till Brönner on trumpet, “Too Young” features Judith Hill (you can hear here tonight at the Oscars) on vocals in a nice vocal duet and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” is again a swinging big band arrangement giving Benson again the opportunity to play an excellent guitar solo.

So this tribute to Nat King Cole shows this music in it’s original form perfectly played by today’s masters. Benson himself is very proud of this album because it presents one the greatest guitar players of our time as what he always wanted to be: a great singer.