Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bluegrass - The Swing And Jazz Influence

Adding Flavor To Your Style...

Bluegrass isn't the the only musical vehicle for flatpickers. Actually, Gypsy Jazz guitarists were flatpicking long before Doc Watson brought it to the forefront of Bluegrass music.

Most of the great modern pickers like Tony Rice, David Grier, and Bryan Sutton incorporate elements of jazz and swing into their styles. Clarence White was probably the first prominent Bluegrass picker to showcase and express the aspect. It adds innovative elements to their sound that are enchanting. It's a large part of how modern progressive bluegrass flatpicking presents itself today.

The legendary Django Reinhardt revolutionized jazz, and empowered the guitar as a lead instrument in the genre with his virtuoso technique, and innovative melodic improvisation. What is just as astonishing is that he did this with the handicap of using only two fingers for playing lead, and three and his thumb when playing rhythm, having lost the full use of the others in an accident. This YouTube video shows him actually playing. It is one of the few live video recordings which aren’t dubbed.

Take note of Stephan Grapelli, just as influential as a jazz/swing violinist, and a legend in his own right. Together they advanced jazz/swing to a new level. They were at least 20 years ahead of their time.

Next is a great example of David Grier’s diversity. When you hear him playing Bluegrass, you can feel the influence this type of music has on his play. Listen to his great rhythm backup with all the passing tones when he's not on lead

Here's an interesting example of the swing influence on an old Bluegrass tune by 2011 National Flatpick Champion Andy Hatfield.

If you intend to flatpick in a progressive style, consider adding swing to your listening and play-along lists.

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