The nice New Jersey girl who changed jazz guitar forever.
Photo by Frans Schellekens / Redferns / Getty.
In 1935, Benny Goodman hired Teddy Wilson as his pianist. That was a big deal: Benny Goodman was white, and Teddy Wilson was black. In those days, jazz, like everything else, was segregated. Goodman was a pioneer who felt racism had no place in music, and his integrated band was a first. It launched the careers of Lionel Hampton and Charlie Christian. It changed music in America. And while it wasn’t the end of racism in jazz, it was a beginning.
Sexism was a different story. Women were accepted as singers—Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan—but not as instrumentalists. It just wasn’t done. Many musicians, fans, record labels, critics, and others didn’t take female musicians seriously. This attitude was prevalent in the 1970s and ’80s and—let’s face it—it hasn’t entirely gone away.
But no one told that to Emily Remler.
Remler was a guitarist. She was a great jazz artist. She was fearless and assertive. And she was gaining acceptance and prominence when she died in 1990. She was only 32.
Remler grew up in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. She started playing the guitar at age 10 on her older brother’s cherry-red Gibson ES-330, the guitar she would use for most of her professional career. She learned simple folk tunes, Beatles songs, and Johnny Winter solos note-for-note, but it was just a hobby. She wasn’t serious yet and had other interests, like sculpture and drawing. Remler was sent to a private boarding school in Massachusetts to finish high school. She graduated young, at 16, and applied to music and art schools. She got accepted to one of each: the Berklee College of Music and the Rhode Island School of Design. She had to decide: music or art?
She chose music.
She told an interviewer for Down Beat magazine in 1985, “I was so frustrated with art. I couldn’t get it the way I wanted it. Music, at least you get more chances and a little more time and have the companionship of the other musicians.”
She wasn’t that good when she got to Berklee, and jazz was an alien art form. Miles Davis and John Coltrane were not on her radar. But Berklee was a diverse place, and jazz was more than Coltrane and Miles. She heard Paul Desmond, Pat Martino, and Wes Montgomery. That was more her speed—she loved it and became hooked.
Remler finished a two-year degree and graduated at age 18. She still wasn’t much of a guitarist (at least that’s what she said in interviews) but she’d learned a lot about music, including harmony, reading, and keeping time.
“[My] teacher told me that I had bad time. I rushed. I went home crying. Crying. But I bought a metronome. I worked with the metronome on two and four. I practiced with that thing and nothing else behind me,” she said in the same 1985 Down Beat interview. She worked hard at it, and eventually great time—her ability to swing—became a hallmark of her playing.
Her boyfriend at the time, Steve Masakowski, was from New Orleans, and they decided to move there. But she wanted to spend the summer practicing in New Jersey first, so she rented a room on Long Beach Island for eight weeks and worked on chord theory and soloing. She quit smoking. She lost weight. That’s where she learned how to play.
The Big Easy
When Remler moved to New Orleans, she got to work. Reading music got her a lot of gigs: hotel shows, weddings, anniversary parties, rhythm and blues gigs, jazz gigs, and all-night jams with the old-timers on Bourbon Street. She gigged with Wynton Marsalis and Bobby McFerrin. She backed up singers. She supported big names when they came to town: Robert Goulet, Rosemary Clooney, Nancy Wilson. Wilson took her on the road and brought her to the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Remler was a big fish in a small pond, and because she could play and read, she was a first-call player in New Orleans.
Then Herb Ellis came to town, and Remler had to meet him. She had guts and ambition and was able to finagle a meeting. They played all afternoon. He was impressed.
Hallmarks of Emily Remler’s Style: Keeping Time
Jazz writer Gene Lees said, “[Emily Remler] was an extraordinarily daring player, edging close to the avant-garde, and she swung ferociously.”
Remler’s incredible sense of time became a hallmark of her style, but it wasn’t “natural.” When she was a student at Berklee, her teacher told her she rushed (pushed the tempo). It broke her heart, but she got the message and bought a metronome. Metronome games became a cornerstone of her practice routine. How she used the metronome varied depending on style, but for the most part, she set the metronome to click on the second and fourth beat of each bar. Two and four, the backbeat, are usually played on the high hat in jazz or the snare drum in rock. Internalizing the backbeat is key to developing a solid rhythmic sense.
To mimic Remler’s method, set your metronome to a slow setting—for example, 60 beats per minute. It is important to start with a slow setting because each click represents two beats. (At a setting of 60 beats per minute, you’re really playing at 120.)
Once the metronome starts its click, your ear may hear it as the downbeat—that’s natural. Start counting, but start with two, and make sure your count is in double time, with two numbers per click.
Even if you’re counting the right numbers, it may take a while to feel it correctly. Try putting an accent on one. Either say it louder, or tap your foot on that beat only. Do that until you feel the one as one and the two as two.
Practice everything with your metronome clicking on two and four: scales, funk grooves, changes. It will change your playing and do wonders for your time.
One note: Make sure you use a boring, old-fashioned metronome that makes the same sound for every click. Metronomes that make a different sound to indicate “one” are useless when trying to develop your time. (The irony.) Here’s a link to a free online metronome: http://www.metronomeonline.com
Photo by Joel Marion.
In 1978 he invited her to play the Concord Jazz Festival along with Barney Kessel, Cal Collins, Howard Roberts, Tal Farlow, and Remo Palmier (the group was called “Great Guitars”). A few years later Ellis told People Magazine, “I’ve been asked many times who I think is coming up on the guitar to carry on the tradition and my unqualified choice is Emily.”
Remler was only 21, but the opportunity launched her career, and she was now in the big leagues. She impressed Carl Jefferson, president of the Concord jazz label, at that gig, too. He didn’t offer her a recording contract on the spot, but she was on the map.
She went back to New Orleans, put together a quartet, and worked. She only lasted another year there before moving back to New York, but she always valued her New Orleans time—it made her into a musician and helped her find her voice. “In New York, it’s very serious. In New Orleans everybody jumps up and down,” she told Down Beat in a 1982 interview. “There’s an R&B kind of feeling. I sort of stole that rich culture and applied it to my own music. If I had stayed in Boston, I’d be playing ‘Giant Steps’ like a madman—like everybody else.”
She returned to New York with earned confidence. She called up John Scofield and invited herself over. They jammed. Scofield introduced her to John Clayton. That introduction led to her first recording date: a session with the Clayton Brothers for Concord. That was enough for Carl Jefferson. He offered her a four-record deal.
She also met pianist Monty Alexander, who hired her to play guitar with his group. A romance ignited, and they were married. But the marriage only lasted two and a half years. “It was hard to be married and on the road,” she told Jazz Times in 1988. “We had haphazard meetings. We had to get used to each other again.” Their divorce was amicable, but it was still hard.
She told jazz writer Gene Lees, “After Monty and I were divorced I played great for a while on that pain. I really did. I also tried to destroy myself as fast as I could.”
Remler couldn’t escape gender bias. On one hand it helped her career—she was a novelty. Women didn’t play instruments. Some people were fascinated. In a way, it opened doors and got her gigs.
Photo by Marc Norberg.
But often the mere fact that she was a woman was a handicap. The jazz world was rife with sexism. Critical fans sat in front of her, arms folded, waiting for mistakes—proof she didn’t belong. Other musicians didn’t take her seriously. She wouldn’t get called up at jam sessions. She couldn’t land pit gigs for Broadway shows. Drummers assumed her time was weak. Some of them treated her like a kid, as if they had to hold her hand. Other drummers bore a bad attitude, and she had to win them over. It was a never-ending battle.
“I still have to prove myself every single time,” she told Down Beat. “The only thing is that I’m not intimidated anymore.” She had an incredible attitude though—nothing was going to break her. She continued: “You don’t get angry, you don’t get bitter, you don’t get feminist about the thing. You don't try to make a statement for women. You just get so damn good that they’ll forget about all that crap.”
She practiced what she preached and got good—real good. Dismissing her wasn’t an option. Remler recorded her first album, a set of jazz standards, in 1981. Concord wanted it to be conservative, so it only featured one original composition. Her next album, Take Two, featured more original music, but was still straight-ahead. As she grew more confident, each subsequent record featured more original music. Her label gave her more leeway. Her recordings started to sound more like her live shows, and she didn’t hold back.
Drummer Bob Moses (who now goes by Ra-Kalam) worked with Remler at that time. He told Premier Guitar, “Emily had that loose, relaxed feel. She swung harder and simpler.” In other words: She knew how to groove. Plus, she wasn't a showoff. “She didn't have to let you know that she was a virtuoso in the first five seconds,” he said.
Catwalk, her fourth album, was her pride and joy—or at least it was in 1988, when she spoke to the magazine Jazz Journal International. It featured only original music and emphasized what she considered her ability to write catchy, singable melodies.
As her tastes and influences evolved, Remler’s musical lexicon grew. She didn’t think John Coltrane was alien anymore. She explained her transformation on Swiss television, “I was so obsessed with Wes Montgomery that I had a picture of him on my wall. And for two years I learned a new Wes song every day. Now my idol is John Coltrane. Last year it was Egberto Gismonti. I give my loyalty and love to someone else each year. But Wes lasted two years.”
A Lesson in Cool
Emily Remler had a deep and intense harmonic sense. She had advanced knowledge of chords and how they worked. That, combined with years of listening and transcribing, gave her formidable ears and chops, particularly when playing changes.
One tool in her arsenal was using the jazz minor scale starting from the fifth of a related dominant seventh chord.
There are three basic types of minor scales:
· Natural minor (in D it would be: D–E–F–G–A–Bb–C)
· Harmonic minor (a minor scale with a raised 7th: D–E–F–G–A–Bb–C#)
· Melodic minor (D–E–F–G–A–B–C#)
In classical music, the melodic minor scale is different ascending and descending (the 6th and 7th notes are only raised on the ascent). In the jazz minor scale the notes are raised both ascending and descending. Here are the notes of the D jazz minor in relation to the chord tones in a G7 chord:
D (5th) E (13th) F (7th) G (root) A (9th) B (3rd) C# (#11) D (5th)
Notice that you get the primary chord tones (root, third, fifth, and seventh), the basic tensions (ninth and 13th), plus the #11, which provides what Remler called, “that Lydian spice.” Plus, because you are thinking in D, you’re not tempted to resolve to the root.
Photo by Ed Deasy.
Guitarist of the Year
Remler was on the move and making noise. In 1985, Down Beat named her Guitarist of the Year. She recorded Together, an album of duets with Larry Coryell, and toured with him. Coryell had a positive influence on Remler: He jogged every day and took vitamins. He was the epitome of the modern musician. “The jazz musician in the dark barroom–that image is gone,” Remler said of him in an 1988 Jazz Times interview.
Remler didn’t rest on her laurels. She expanded her pallet. She learned different styles and grooves. She dove deep into Latin rhythms. Her incredible work ethic was evident early on and remained a constant. In a 1981 Guitar Player interview, Remler told writer Arnie Berle how she prepared for her first gigs with Herb Ellis: “When I worked with Great Guitars (Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd) I bought their records and learned all three parts, because I wasn't sure which one I would have to play.”
She wasn’t just learning tunes either. She developed a way to transcribe solos that worked for her. She didn’t transcribe every single note, but learned phrases and fragments that captured the solo’s essence. For the rest, she used her imagination. “My brain is like a computer,” she told Down Beat in 1985. “You put some data in and you get 500 variations.”
Her practice regimen wasn’t a regimen per se. Jamming worked best. She made a habit of recording backgrounds and working with a metronome. (These were the days before looper pedals. She would have eaten a looper pedal for breakfast.)
In 1988, she recorded a Montgomery tribute, East To Wes, a collection of standards and bop classics. She was established and mature. She had found her voice. Critic Leonard Feather noted in a concert review for the Los Angeles Times: “Remler at 31 has entered a plectrum pantheon that numbers only a few of her most talented elders: Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell.”
But perhaps her mastery was most apparent in a series of instructional videos she recorded. Her depth of knowledge was astounding, and even more impressive was her ability to explain difficult concepts in simple, easy-to-understand language. She was clear and articulate. The videos showcased her low-key, self-deprecating, North Jersey sense of humor. “Unfortunately I grew up in New Jersey and country music wasn’t in my blood. I really can't give that my all,” she quipped in one video. “I still have problems playing country music in a serious manner. But I did see Coal Miner’s Daughter and I liked that. But…”
Few talked about Remler’s drug use, though Gene Lees mentioned it in his book, Waiting for Dizzy, “The backs [of her hands] bore tracks—the scars left by needles, those wrinkled lines looking like tiny railroad tracks that I knew all too well from seeing them on Bill Evans.” She called it a chemical shield: “[It] makes you not care if the guy in the front row doesn’t like you.”
Whatever the reason, drugs were something Remler did. There were periods when she was clean and periods when she wasn’t. At one point she was addicted to dilaudid—she sweet-talked jazz-loving doctors into writing her prescriptions.
In 1990 she was on tour in Australia. She took something—probably an opiate like heroin or dilaudid—and died. The New York Times obituary called it a heart attack. She was only 32.
“I may look like a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey, but inside I’m a 50-year-old, heavyset black man with a big thumb, like Wes Montgomery,” Remler told People Magazine. She was talking about an aesthetic, a sound and style she aspired to. It was funny. But in reality, Remler was a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey.
She was positive. She loved music. Her appreciation for other musicians and styles was genuine. She heard a musician’s personality in their playing. And she wasn’t self-righteous—not about her art, not about her audience, and not about other musicians. According to Ra-Kalam Moses, “Humility and openness, that was her core.”
Her focus was music. She had to deal with prejudice and stupidity, but she wasn’t bitter. She just got good. She lived in a world that made gender an issue, so she proved that it wasn’t. Emily Remler’s legacy is not that she was a great woman in jazz. She was simply a remarkable musician.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Recreating the preamp in Silvertone’ssignature ’60s amp results in a surprisingly multifaceted overdrive.
Great drive sounds, ranging from characterful boost to low-gain overdrive. Unique personality. Powerful, flexible EQ.
Arguably a bit expensive for what it does.
Jackson Audio Silvertone 1484 Twin Twelve
Once harvested for peanuts at garage sales and pawn shops—or free for lucky dumpster divers—the Silvertone Model 1484 Twin Twelve amplifier of 1963-’67 graduated to legend status over the past couple decades. Like a lot of ’60s gear with department store catalog origins, Silvertone amps and guitars provided great bang for the buck when they were new. But perhaps no Silvertone product—apart from the company’s Danelectro-built guitars—is as revered as the Twin Twelve. Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner discovered their charms early in their career, and Twin Twelves and their siblings remained backline fixtures for punks, garage rockers, and indie kids. But once the likes of Jack White and Dan Auerbach got on board, the market heated up considerably.
Now a collaboration between the revived Silvertone Guitars and Jackson Audio brings us the Twin Twelve pedal, an overdrive/EQ/booster designed to replicate the tone of the original 1484 piggyback tube amp. To accomplish this, Jackson essentially recreated the topology of the 1484’s preamp, effectively replacing vacuum tubes with JFETs. This method is common for many amp-in-a-box-style pedals. But the result here is a drive of many personalities.
Listen to the demo: https://soundcloud.com/premierguitar/sets/twin-twelve-review
The 1484 pedal does a beautiful job of evoking the look of the original 1484 amplifier, including the silver control panel, simple and elegant black lettering, black knobs with silver insets and red indicator lines, red amp-style jewel light, and even the humorous “Foot Switch” legend over the footswitch. What’s more, this pedal seems built to fend off home invaders and stage divers. It’s notably hefty in its heavy-duty folded-steel chassis, which measures 5" x 4" x 2".
Controls include treble, bass, volume, and gain—the latter of which never appeared on the original amp. A look inside the enclosure reveals a lot of space and few components. Juice comes from 9V DC that hits an internal voltage-doubler to improve headroom.
I tested the Twin Twelve pedal with a Fender Princeton combo and a 65amps London head and 2x12 cab as well as a Gibson Les Paul with humbuckers and a ’50s-style Fender Telecaster, and the first impressions were surprising. Expecting a characterfully sludgy mud machine and grungy pawnshop sonics, I experienced instead a toothsome and impressively versatile overdrive that works in a broad range of genres and playing styles. Fundamentally speaking, the Twin Twelve adds lots of character via a combination of thickness and edgy harmonic content. There’s a barky midrange bite that calls to mind the voice of many catalog amps. But it also has a lot in common with low-gain overdrives, like the Klon and Tube Screamer. Those similarities aside, it has a flavor and sound all its own.
Expecting a characterfully sludgy mud machine and grungy pawnshop sonics, I experienced instead a toothsome and impressively versatile overdrive that works in a broad range of genres and playing styles.
Silvertone may talk a lot about the 1484 as an exact recreation of the Twin Twelve circuit. But in some ways that might sell this pedal short. It’s a great-sounding overdrive by any measure. And, interestingly, it is better at generating American-toned twang, bite, crunch, and lead tones than just about any pedal I’ve played in a while. Clarity and articulation are good, and it makes a great clean boost at lower drive settings while retaining amp-like personality and sensitivity. The pedal is made even more flexible thanks to the 2-band EQ, which provides a lot of room for cutting and boosting the low- and high-frequency bands to taste. It means you have a very flexible boost before you even push your amp into overdrive. It pays similar dividends in overdriven settings, enabling players to explore both the dirtier, thicker side of the American amp tone spectrum or more sparkling variations.
The 1484 Twin Twelve is a great overdrive pedal. And the fact that it doesn’t simply clone one of the already popular drive circuits is a major bonus. The EQ is a great asset, too. But while the 1484 excels at capturing the spirit of the amp that inspired it, I’d argue that with most decent tube amps it sounds better than many real Twin Twelves I’ve played. Certainly, it’s more versatile. And that combination of tone and flexibility make it a very appealing overdrive alternative.
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About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.