What would the perfect instructional book look like? An instructional book, for the sake of argument, that was based in Django’s playing rather than more contemporary practitioners of Gypsy Jazz.
I ask, because over the past year I’ve been trying to get started in this style, I’ve brought practically everything there is on the market. The most valuable lesson I’ve been taught is that there’s no golden bullet, and you have to work hard and practice often. Nonetheless, some books are better than others, so I’ve stitched together a Frankenstein’s monster of what I consider the best bits to offer an absolute beginner like me.
By the way -- I’m not trying to be controversial, only conversational, and I have the greatest respect for anyone who's putting their stuff out there, often for very small financial rewards.
Here’s what mine would look like.
Django in the place of jazz music. His legacy. Something like the introductory articles in Acoustic Guitar magazine’s ‘Private Lesson’ series, or a short piece by Michael Dregni. Includes abbreviated discography.
Part One: Chords and Accompaniment
i. ‘Basic’ Chords: Diagrams from Colin Cosimini’s 'The Gypsy Jazz Chord Book', and Charlton Johnson, 'Swing and Big Band Guitar' (Ok, not a GJG book, but someone recommended it on the Yahoo group, and it’s an excellent introduction to 4 to the bar comping, and three note chords that really clicked with me).
ii. ‘Advanced’ Chords: All those chords that use the thumb, or a painful little third-finger barres, taken from (amongst others) Romane’s 'L’Espirit Manouche', Angelo Debarre’s 'Gypsy Jazz: The Secrets', and Wrembel’s 'Getting Into Gypsy Jazz'. Discussion of the different applications and various merits of these two sets of chords.
iii. Pompe: What the world needs more than anything is a genius of technical prose to pen the definitive explanation of how to achieve this difficult but essential skill. In my opinion, none of the books have successfully nailed it, yet somehow most of us know we’re probably doing it wrong. This is where a PC enhanced cd would be useful featuring various clips.
Part Two: Solo
i. An essay on how Django approached his solos, similar to Stan Ayeroff’s at the back of his 'Jazz Masters' volume.
ii. An essay on Gypsy Picking by our own Michael Horowitz (the ones in 'Just Jazz Guitar' are ideal).
iii. A ‘toolkit’ for the soloist: All the arpeggios and diagrams from Wrembel’s book, and the studies that go with them .
iv. Licks from Robin Nolan's 'Gypsy Jazz Licks', that take the toolkit and turn it into something melodic. His stuff is superb for giving crystal-clear practical examples of how to sound ‘gypsy’ over changes.
v. Gypsy flash: A few examples of the kind of runs, licks, and tricks that come up again and again, and which may be used to impress one’s friends.
vi. Jam tracks on CD for practice.
Part Three: Tunes
The final section would have four or five complete transcriptions from http://www.fleche-dor.com/transcriptions/
in both notation and tab. That these are freely available is as generous as it is genius. I’d pick the kinds of tunes you’re most likely to find on your average Verve ‘Best of’ album that the beginner might have lying around the house. No book’s going to have everyone’s favourites, but for me it would include at least Minor Swing, Swing 42, J’Attendrai, I’ll See You in My Dreams, and a chord melody version of Nuages.
So that’s it. Anyone wanna to buy a copy?
More importantly, what would you put in?