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Forgotten Heroes: Jimmy Wyble

Forgotten Heroes: Jimmy Wyble

Hallmarks of Wyble’s Style: "Jigsaw"
By David Oakes

“Jigsaw” is another great composition by Jimmy Wyble. As with many of his etudes, Jimmy recorded this work several different times. The first recording was in 1977, as you hear it here in this transcription, as a trio. The second recording came shortly thereafter from the Etudes record where Jimmy made a solo work out of this piece. He then added the number 23 to the title as in “Etude 21 and 22” as well as moving the title “Jigsaw” down to a subtitle. That version is published in the book The Art of Two-Line Improvisation. When Jimmy recorded the solo version, he added a rubato introduction and filled it in a bit more because he didn’t have the rhythm section. He also recorded it slightly slower and added a different melody on the bridge. This version is recorded at a burning tempo and has several improvised choruses.

Right- and Left-Hand Fingerings
The head to the song is very challenging to play at the tempo of the recording. The secret is in the right-hand fingerings. If you are unsure of the right-hand fingerings, they are spelled out in The Art of Two-Line Improvisation, published by Mel Bay. If you are familiar with that version, take some time to study those fingerings. However, my fingerings have evolved as I have been editing other transcriptions and also had the chance to learn directly from Jimmy. I like the way the left-hand fingerings are laid out in this transcription better than the version in the book. This version also adds a few more notes in the low register that gives the song a fuller sound. Jimmy would probably have said that he likes both versions. He did explain that “Jigsaw” was an effort to use the Van Eps right-hand fingering “team” concept. He was referring to the team concept of alternating p and m and then i and a on any double-stop lines. If you look at measures 1, 3, and 5, he is alternating his fingers this way in the right hand on those two-note lines. Most guitarists would use their thumb exclusively on the bass line but that is not the way this was intended or recorded.

The Improvised Solo
Even though the solos sound like they are being played with a pick, Jimmy assured me that this record was recorded entirely fingerstyle. Jimmy alternated the thumb and index finger all the way through this solo. One exception would be the picked triplets. Jimmy often use a right-hand fingering of p–m–i for those kinds of figures. I would use that fingering on the triplets in measures 38 in the solo section. It will take some practice to get the tempo of the recording. Take advantage of any and all places to add legatos and slides to keep it swinging. Jimmy would never want you to copy this as much as he would want you to improve on it.

Jimmy went old-school on this solo, playing more in a tonal center than on the changes. He primarily used a C Mixolydian mode with an added %3 to get a bluesy sound on the A sections. He also used some chromatic approaches to strong chord tones. On the bridge, he tended to play more on the changes. This solo takes me back to Charlie Christian and Lester Young, where we would hear bebop musicians of that period improvise in a very similar way over fast rhythm changes. This solo really swings as well.

I spoke to Jimmy several months before his passing about this tune and he remembered several things about the solo. First he said that he was scared to death when he recorded this song and he remembers wanting to play something in the last bridge, but in his words “I chickened out!” I told him that if it was any consolation, the space that he left sounded good as well. I remember that same idea from the recording “Two Lines For Barney.”

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