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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Albert Ayler, Horn Players
Category: Inspiration
From: Jazz Online (sf, ca)

I read somewhere that one of your early bands (as a teenager) featured five saxes and covered some of Albert Ayler's music. Is this true? If so, what do you now think of Ayler and other "free jazz" sax players? I often hear guitarists talk of listening to horn players for ideas, especially phrasing. Any other thoughts you have about the relationship of your work to horn players would be interesting.

By the way, don't most teens in the midwest settle for a rock and roll garage band instead of an Ayler ensemble?

Pat’s Answer:

yeah, it's true, although we never actually played a gig! albert ayler was one of my early favorites. his conception of how to make a trio work fascinated me then and it still does. there was also an almost orchestral dramatic "scale" to the way he soloed that i always liked. i've always been interested in the way different improvisors implied a sense of "scale" to their sound that created an illusion that was almost larger than life. to me albert had that quality. it's always been hard to get anything approaching that kind of dynamic thing on a guitar without using a fuzztone or some kind of amplifier distortion, which is really only an illusion. actually what i've been finding recently, is that it may even be more possible to get something like what albert was suggesting on an acoustic guitar than on an electric. it's just that you couldn't really do it with drums cause they would wipe you out. the thing is, to do what i'm talking about, it would have to be REALLY acoustic, no mikes, no pickups. (this, by the way, is something that does not exist in jazz despite the silly thing of magazines having a category in their polls called "acoustic guitar"). no one could hear it but you! i often wish there was the technical possibility of some sort of a viable acoustic guitar role in jazz with the same kind of dynamic range as a saxophone or trumpet. i'm hoping that the next step in the evolution of musical instrument technology will be when engineers reexamine the potentials of already existing instruments in an enhanced acoustic way (no speakers or electronic "amplification").

the issue of phrasing on the electric guitar is an important one. for me, it's the issue that has kept the guitar as a second class citizen in jazz. it's the thing that, in my opinion, separates the really exceptional players in jazz from the rest. it is very difficult to make the guitar have the kind of vocal and expressive phrasing that almost any average horn player will easily be able to achieve.

for me, the model of how to articulate a line will always be clifford brown. i used to sing his solos over and over again, and because my first instrument was trumpet, i kept trying to figure out how to get my pick to do what his tongue was doing. the result was finding a way NOT to pick every note the same way a trumpet player would NEVER tongue every note. this is still the main thing on my mind while i'm trying to hear something to play in my head, this phrasing thing.

in terms of the guitar itself, to me the great guitar phrasing models would be : wes montgomery :the absolute, undisputed champion of how the make the guitar speak a line. i don't care what anyone says about the superficial stuff like octaves, playing with his thumb, etc. etc. this, and his melodic depth, were the great contributions wes made. he was my hero!

billy bean and jimmy raney- the two guys in the 50's that really figured out how to get inside a modern rhythm section and make it feel as good as any of a hundred horn players of the day could do. they were also (not coincidentally) the two guys who were really dealing with bebop in a non-pattern, truly improvised kind of way on the guitar.

django reindhardt- absolutely unique, totally successful, and all his own.

jim hall- the father of modern jazz guitar phrasing. sco, frisell, mick goodrick, john abercrombie, myself and countless others should probably be sending him regular checks!!!!!!! he made the guitar sing and speak and breathe.

pat martino and george benson- the two guys who somehow make the "pick every note" thing ( which i generally can't stand) not only work, but they make a strong case that that's the way it should be done. when i hear either of them i go home and practice my picking!!!!!!