Rolly Brown – Where Blues Meets Jazz
Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop
Guitar players of all skill level, from campfire amateurs through to spider fingered professionals, need to be taught how to play and can benefit from new ideas. Freshening up one’s six-string technique is the most important part of being a professional slinger. Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop is one of the places that pilgrim players of all levels can go to get some education. Grossman is one of the great intellectual folkies and a talented artist and teacher in his own right. But, the genius of his line of instructional videos is that he has found kindred spirits, master technicians who make beautiful music and are empathetic and organized enough to be master teachers. None is better than the enigmatic Rolly Brown. An acupuncturist and T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructor, Brown is the soft spoken Bob Ross of guitar instruction whose “nuts and bolts” approach to teaching primarily finger-picked Blues and Jazz guitar is accessible and entertaining.
Your humble reviewer has been playing guitar professionally for the past 25 years and I learned a number of cool tricks and techniques from Where Blues Meets Jazz. Using the songs “Route 66,” “Drown In My Own Tears” and “Lover Man,” Brown offers a primer in common tricks used by Blues and Jazz musicians that will make you say “Oh, crap that’s how that’s played!” Rolly breaks down these techniques and adds some music theory into it. But, the instruction is never bogged down by the academic. In fact Rolly clearly shares his at times decidedly non-academic philosophy. This makes Rolly all the more endearing.
Warning: this video is an intermediate to advanced hardcore guitar nerd lesson. It is recommended that you do not watch this with loved ones who do not share your passion for guitar learning, it might be grounds for divorce, (it certainly would have been in my case). The video is plainly shot, straight ahead, and Rolly works through the 3 sections of this lesson with methodical slowness and clarity. There is no flashy arena rock-god shredding or sexy fiery string breaking. What is taught is beautiful and pastoral passes through some of the most common Swing Blues chord substitutions such as the flatted 5th chord and the cycle of 5ths turnaround and solo finger picked Jazz techniques such as bass and harmony complementary lines and arpeggiated chord based soloing verses minor pentatonic scales. If that last sentence left you a little lost, you want to find a more beginner video, Rolly and the Guitar Workshop have them. But, if you have a certain facility and are looking to add a little more zip and spice to your 12 bar Blues game while also challenging yourself to impress your friends and family with some seemingly complicated, but actually quite easy, solo Jazz standards, then get into this video.