What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Jimmy Bruno

There must be something in the water in Philly that spawns such great guitar players as Pat Martino and Jimmy Bruno. Although we did a bit on Jimmy earlier, now that I have had a chance to met him and see him play, I have more to report.

Jimmy Bruno has been called by some the Paganini of the guitar. It is an apt comparison in many ways. Jimmy has a dazzling arsenal of blisteringly fast lines that he weaves into his solos. But, he's not just all razzle dazzle... his melodic sense is exceptional. He seems to have an intuitive feel for finding 'the good notes' when doing eighth note lines and he also has a wonderful chordal sense when it comes to playing solo guitar. Needless to say, I was quite impressed with Jimmy Bruno in person.

I saw Jimmy at the Sam Ash Clinic in Los Angeles. He presented a system of looking at harmony for soloing that appeared quite simple and accessible. First he drew a circle on a blackboard, and then put all of the diatonic notes of the C scale inside. A B C D E F G. These are the basic tones for constructing a melody. On the outside of the circle resided the other tones A#-Bb, C#-Db, D#-Eb, F#-Gb, G#-Ab. These are the passing tones for C and if used judiciously, any and all can be incorporated. He played numerous phrases utilizing the passing tones over a II V I -- and built lines that made sense and sounded good, even with liberal use of the passing tones. The more passing tones used in tandem, the more outside sounding it became, however when resolved properly, these lines were certainly effective.

Once you change keys, say to the key of G, you simply move the F natural out of the circle, and then move the F# in. Everything thing else remains the same. The same principles apply. You can do this throughout all of the keys. I liked this model of presenting scales tones for soloing. It is easy to understand due to the way one can visualize the notes. Instead of the scale of C, Jimmy calls it the *note group for C*. This way you are not limited in your thinking.

This approach came about in an effort to simplify. Jimmy Bruno said that trying to think of this mode or that mode over this change or that change, or trying to analyze this alteration or that one while playing, he believes, will just hamper one with too much extraneous data. "Just play a good melody" is his axiom, "and don't clutter your thinking."

Jimmy then went on to field questions about his style of playing, and talked a bit about his career in general. He followed that by playing a few solo pieces.

Jimmy had some interesting things to say about innovations in jazz guitar. He is not too enamored by some of the new jazz innovators that are out there today. Not that they are not good musicians he said, but their music leaves him a bit cold. Innovation simply for the sake of being different (with nothing really new or exciting to back it up) can leave me cold too. He also said that many of the greatest innovators in jazz guitar were overlooked. As an example he used Joe Pass, who was never really considered a great innovator, but was in Jimmy's opinion (and mine also) the greatest solo jazz guitarist that ever was. He refined and mastered the existing genre and took it to heights that may never be equaled again, ever. And, if that is not true innovation, then what is?

Jimmy ended the clinic playing some tunes with clinic coordinator Tony do Rosario. They played 'Joy Spring', and it was a real treat!

I was fortunate enough to be able to catch a set later that day at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. He had Dave Carpenter on upright bass and Dick Weller on drums, so his back-up guys were first rate. He played a number of standards (Lover Man, Angel Eyes and so on). I thoroughly enjoyed the set. Jimmy has superb technique. His virtuosity was quite evident in the hour or so that I got to hear him.

Jimmy Bruno endorses Benedetto Guitars, (one of the finest jazz guitars one can buy at any price, anywhere) and had one of the new Guild Benedetto models with him. It was a beautifully constructed instrument. Jimmy said that Bob Benedetto is really now just building special order, one-of-a-kind instruments and has turned over the construction of his signature models to Guild. He has a small select group of expert luthiers that he has trained to build his guitars for Guild however he is still involved overseeing the work.

Jimmy has a new CD that has just been released called Midnight Blue. I highly recommend it.

Jimmy's website is packed with features. News, chat, tips, etc. and can be found at Jimmy Bruno's Home Page.

Sidenotes:

I got to see guitarist Steve Cotter play with John Pisano at Guitar Night at Spazio's here in LA this week. Steve is wonderful player with good melodic sense. I sat at the *guitar jury* table with Barry Zwieg, Ron Anthony, Pat Kelly and Sid Jacobs (quite an illustrious little group of Los Angeles jazz guitar players) and I am happy to report that Steve *aquitted* himself well.

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot in Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc plays Heritage guitars and endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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