stevie wonder

A live shot of the Producer Mondays jam session, at New York’s NuBlu.

Jamming is an essential part of American musical tradition, and should be part of yours. Here are some bass-centric tips.

Jam sessions have been an essential part of the history of American music, going back at least 120 years, to a time when “live in person” was the only way audiences could experience music. In those days, one might attend informal house parties, social clubs, or basement speakeasies, where liquor flowed plentifully as musicians provided entertainment. Sometimes, musicians would arrive with a preset show. But quite often, and especially in the case of jazz, the music would be completely spontaneous, and that was the whole point. There might be a house band, but what they’d play, how long they’d play for, how they’d play it, and who might show up and join would be completely unscripted. This gave birth to what many now regard as the beginnings of jazz.

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Ted Nugent: Motor City Mayhem; Lenny Breau & Brad Terry: Live at the Maine Festival; Adam Rafferty Teaches How to Play the Music of Stevie Wonder; John Pizzarelli Exploring Jazz Guitar; Folk Blues for Fingerstyle Guitar; A Guitar Lesson with David Bromberg; Confessions of a Record Producer; Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott; Battle of The Band Names: The Best and Worst Band Names Ever


Ted Nugent: Motor City Mayhem
Ted Nugent has never been a proponent of understatement. His flashy, expressive guitar playing is only overshadowed by his exuberant and boisterous personality. For the aptly-named Motor City Madman’s 6000th performance, he chose to pay tribute to both his hometown and his country by ripping through a classic set of tunes on July 4th, 2008, in Detroit. The Nuge pulls out all the stops, complete with a huge birthday cake featuring a bikini-clad woman dancing on it. Available as a Blu-ray or DVD, and also as a double-disc live CD, Nugent and his solid backing band tear through such classics as “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” “Cat Scratch Fever” and the epic “Stranglehold,” which might be the best performance of the night. It’s clear that Nugent intended the show to be just as much a dedication to the birth of the country he so deeply loves as it was to commemorate his 6000th performance. He frequently peppers the music with patriotic screams and shouts, screaming the word “freedom” at the sky with a ferocity that wouldn’t expect from your average 60-year-old.

The fact that most people know Nugent by his political and social views is a real shame, as evidenced by this impressive live performance. Love him or hate him, make no mistake: Ted Nugent is a very, very good guitarist, a fact that is, sadly, often upstaged by his political persona and pro-2nd Amendment ways. For those listeners who have never really given Nugent a chance because of his often polarizing qualities, Motor City Mayhem is a good place to start. The live performance of “Stranglehold” is worth the wait alone, accompanied with vocals by Nugent’s original rhythm guitarist, Derek St. Holmes. For those familiar with Nugent’s career, Motor City Mayhem is a must-buy. The flash, the spectacle, and most importantly the solid, fist-pumping rock ‘n’ roll that the man is known worldwide for is all here, and then some. For Nugent, it’s all part of the act. —JW

List $24.98

Lenny Breau & Brad Terry: Live at the Maine Festival
Lenny Breau is my all-time favorite guitar player. I knew him briefly and have listened to his music for 35 years. Breau has become as famous in music circles for his demons as he was for his unique and brilliant guitar picking. He was also a tenderhearted, witty human being who gave his life to music in ways few of us can imagine. His music could be spellbinding, and though some great solo jazz guitarists have come and gone, nobody played like Lenny Breau. His style so belongs to him that when someone else plays his licks, it’s obvious. So Breau has a small but very loyal following of guitar players who “get it,” and currently there are two record labels that are carrying the torch of Breau’s legacy: Randy Bachman’s Guitarchives and Paul Kohler’s Art of Life Records.

Art of Life has released several CDs of Breau’s music and now a DVD. Live at the Maine Festival is far from perfect: the video quality is poor, as it was taken from old video. And it’s too short at thirty minutes and only two songs: “Emily” and “Autumn Leaves.” But the audio is good, and as far as I know this is the only video released (so far) that shows Breau playing his Dauphin nylon seven string. Sadly, we only see Breau in profile, so you can’t really cop his licks either. The good news is that the music is sublime. Breau is relaxed and playing beautifully. The sound of his guitar is rich and full, and Brad Terry is a damn fine clarinet player. The two of them have a nice dynamic together and are obviously winging it in classic jazz fashion. It’s a terrific performance, but at two songs it’s over way too quickly. The DVD includes two audio-only tracks and an interview with Brad Terry that includes some nice clips of him playing. Flawed as it is, this is a must have DVD for any fan of great guitar (and clarinet) playing. —PS

List $11.99

Adam Rafferty Teaches How to Play the Music of Stevie Wonder
When we heard Adam Rafferty playing his arrangements of these tunes at the Cole Clark booth at NAMM in Nashville, we knew we had to look deeper. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones who were won over by his interpretations. This DVD, he informed us, was motivated by the tidal wave of requests for notation, tab and instruction he received after he began posting videos of the songs on YouTube. Stevie Wonder probably never knew he was writing songs for solo guitar performance, but Rafferty’s arrangements make it seem like that’s what he meant all along. It’s a joy just to watch him play the four Wonder songs offered here (“Overjoyed,” “Superstition,” “Sir Duke” and “I Wish”), but the instruction sections are also jam packed with performance and arranging tips, and pure inspiration. With split-screen and step-by-step instruction that ranges from guitar performance to syncopation and music theory that is instantly applied to the fretboard, as well as an accompanying booklet with complete music and tab, it’s a master class in a box (and Rafferty’s Cole-Clark FL2AC sounds gorgeous, too). —CB

List $34.97

Exploring Jazz Guitar
John Pizzarelli carries the jazz guitar torch direct from the old school. His dad is the great Bucky Pizzarelli, and Bucky played with all the old jazz guys you can think of, as well as doing a ton of studio work. John grew up surrounded by jazz and obviously soaked it right up. He is a darn fine picker and a good jazz singer as well. If you haven’t heard John, check out his public radio show called Radio Deluxe. He also has a pretty vast catalog of CDs, too. So now imagine getting to hang with John and have him show you a bunch of cool jazz guitar stuff—but wait! You don’t have to imagine it ‘cause here it is on this DVD.

John is an engaging guy; he is excited about this music and it shows. His tone is lovely, woody and rich on his signature Moll 7-string. He starts by showing you the gear he uses, which is always fun for us PG folks. Then he moves through various comping styles and tells you not just what to play, but gives some pointers on using the material tastefully. He covers reharmonizing the blues in one chapter, and the DVD is worth getting just for that. Both Pizzarellis play great rhythm guitar, and John gives you a lot of information here. There is also a nice chapter on single line playing. This is a must have DVD for any student of jazz guitar. —PS

List $29.99

Folk Blues for Fingerstyle Guitar with Stefan Grossman and A Guitar Lesson with David Bromberg
Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop has been around for as long as I can remember, offering players of traditional music unprecedented opportunities to learn from acoustic guitar masters. Grossman and Bromberg are part of that early pantheon of fingerstylists that players of my generation tried to emulate, so I was excited to check out their new instructional DVDs.

Grossman is a wonderfully supportive and reassuring presence throughout the lessons, which start with some basic folk blues and progress fairly quickly to more advanced left- and righthand chops. I love the fact the Grossman courses contain “homework”—audio tracks of these traditional blues songs from recordings made in the ‘20s and ‘30s that Grossman urges the student to spend some time with before attempting to play. He also gives a little historical perspective on the tune, and talks about some of the additional recordings, to give you a real sense of connection to a tune before he plays a note of it. Disc One covers universal playing ideas like economy of movement, chord substitutions and additional voicings, damping and muting, slides, bends, and hammer-ons/ pull-offs, in addition to teaching these blues arrangements step-by-step with instruction, and slowed down in split screen so you can play along. Disc Two covers altered tunings including Drop-D, DADGAD, Open D and Open C, right-hand rolls and double-stopping, and gives helpful tricks and ideas for expanding your playing and arranging your own tunes. Notation and tab for each of the tunes are available in an included booklet and as PDFs on the disc.

Bromberg’s lesson covers some of his most popular arrangements, from traditional folk blues to early folk rock. He covers concepts like parallel and contrary motion between bass lines and melodies, the intricacies of Rev. Gary Davis-style right-hand, single-finger rolls, use of diminished chords in traditional blues and the challenge of playing under a talking blues that doesn’t necessarily follow the groove your hands are laying down. This is not easy, beginner stuff. It’s tough and meaty, and Bromberg does a great job slowing everything down and showing you many possible variations of a lot of licks. He also tells you if he got a lick from somebody else, like the Rev. Gary, so you can do some additional listening. The format is the same as the Grossman discs, with separate audio tracks of the tunes, step-by-step instruction and slow split-screen with the entire tune. Audio and video quality on both discs is top notch. Notation and tab are once again available in the included booklet and as PDFs on the disc.

Grossman and Bromberg’s laid-back attitudes and relaxed mastery make the lessons engaging, and the format makes them immediately applicable to the fretboard. —GDP

List $39.95 – Stefan Grossman DVD
List $29.95 – David Bromberg DVD


Confessions of a Record Producer: 10th Anniversary Edition, Revised and Updated
A decade ago, Moses Avalon wrote the groundbreaking and slightly terrifying Confessions of a Record Producer, in which he turned the music industry inside out to give outsiders a real taste of its inner workings. Since then, the music business has undergone some dramatic transformations wrought by the expansion of internet marketing, music downloads and the indie revolution, and Avalon decided it was time to bring his no-bullshit rough guide to the underbelly of the music biz up-to-date. This time, he includes a DVD-ROM with lessons from Avalon’s Workshop and bonus reference materials for those who want to dive in deep.

By looking at a model first recording contract of a fictitious artist from three angles—the artist,the producer and the label—he gives us a very clear picture of the way this game is played, who the various players are, what everybody’s real role is, how they’re all trying to rip everybody else off—and why the artist is usually playing to lose from the start. He shows us the math, too. How many albums have to sell before the artist stops hemorrhaging money and breaks even? How many years will an aspiring engineer/producer have to work as an unpaid intern until they can catch a break and start making a subsistence living, and how long until they can actually start producing anything at all? What percentage of new artists in one year is a label really willing to get behind, and how many will end up cutting tracks that will never, ever see the light of day? And just how do digital downloads impact artist royalties?

Perhaps most importantly, Avalon tells us how artists can protect themselves from the worst of it, what labels will slip into contracts hoping the artist won’t understand or notice, and what smart artists may be able to negotiate away. If you have any aspirations of playing the major-label game, this book should be on your bookshelf. —GDP

List $24.99

Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
With a nickname like “Dimebag” and reputation for blurring the lines between one party and the next, Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott has a spot reserved for only the most legendary rock ‘n’ roll party animals. And with a title like Black Tooth Grin (a cocktail preferred by Abbott, which is Crown with a splash of Coke) you’d expect nothing but tour bus and backstage tales of excess and debauchery.

While author Zac Crain does include such stories from bundles of sources, the book’s heart lies in a message that doesn’t glorify Abbott’s well-known antics, but instead humanizes the prolific partier and shredder. When stripped to his core, he was just a music fan who loved to play his guitar.

Crain uses a loose chronological timeline to direct the narrative about Abbott’s beginnings to his time on top of the metal world in the mid ‘90s and his eventual murder. After forming Pantera in ‘81 and spending years on the Texas club circuit—Abbott’s parents often had to be attendance just to get Darrell inside—the planets aligned for Pantera and their fifth studio release, Cowboys From Hell, as it launched them into the metal spotlight. Building off this success well into the ‘90s, Pantera continued to dominate metal playlists, but one thing remained unchanged: Abbott’s status as fan first, rock star second. Whether it meant signing autographs for hours, doing free guitar clinics with fans or waiting in line with the general public at guitar stores, he still kept the same demeanor as the kid who first played air guitar to KISS albums.

Black Tooth Grin provides a well-rounded, introspective look into Abbott’s world as music fan, guitarist, party ambassador and mama’s boy—Abbott never lived farther than 10 minutes from his mother. But as his celebrated story unfolds, the fact that Abbott was nothing more than a lucky fan becomes more evident. A quote from original Pantera lead-singer Terry Glaze says it all, “if you would have told Darrell that, when you die, Van Halen is going to put the guitar from Van Halen II in your casket, Darrell would have said, ‘Kill me now.’” And that’s something nearly every fan can agree with. —CK

List $15.95

Battle of The Band Names: The Best and Worst Band Names Ever (and All the Brilliant, Colorful, Stupid Ones in Between)
Does a band name really matter? Ever wonder if Joe Strummer and company would’ve been as successful without a name like the Clash? Likely. Would U2 have the cultural significance and popularity with a different name? Probably. Then again, why haven’t acts like Milk Robber, Kannivalism or the Mountain Playboys taken off? Maybe there’s something to be said for a first impression… even when it comes to band names.

In Battle of the Band Names, author Bart Bull, former editor of Spin and DETAILS, compiles a huge list of band names in 35 wacky chapters to show what happens when language, music, pop culture and egotism converge. The chapters are broken down categories such as musical genre, mythical creatures, metallurgy, the color pink, tribute bands and Japan-based names. Not only does Bull do a great job adding snarky commentary at the beginning of each chapter to set the stage, but the book is colorfully designed and laid out in a way that’s as entertaining for the eyes as the text is for the temporal lobe.

While Bull covers the known bands and genres over the past 50 years, the real treat of this tongue-in-cheek book is in the chapters dedicated to the not-so-familiar band names like Bald Guys in Bow Ties. He guides you along the path of musical history that’s evenly sprinkled with band names from the outrageous and idiotic to the thoughtful and brilliant. So next time you’re brainstorming for names, check Bull’s book so you know that names like Papaya Paranoia or Kiiiiiii have already been tried. —CK

List $15.95