Rock musicians sometimes carry this ethos around that they don't need to know their craft, just bang it out. "All you need are three chords and some balls" as the saying goes. Or when you're tuning up "close enough for rock n roll". But realistically that gets pretty boring, pretty damn fast. And so you're left with the same old slog of rock that is as worn out as 12 bar blues in a south side Chicago bar on a Tuesday "jam" night. In my opinion musicians should always strive to understand and integrate other forms of music genres and bring what you learn back to your plate. In Jazz music, I feel that you find the widest range of palate, color and nuance. You can hear how jazz was brought back to blues and rock and funk and so much more. From Gershwin’s to Kenny Burrell, BB king to Les Paul, Duke Ellington to Stevie Wonder and so much more. Jazz in its purest form is like surfing to me. And it’s almost as dangerous because if you crash and burn riding the B locrian mode it can be as ugly as a wave spanking your ass on ocean beach. But I digress. The thing I've learned when working primarily in rock n roll as a genre, is that even if you are only using three chords, you can make them more interesting. Play inside of them, depending on which mode your in, and when you start to take that risk, you're stepping squarely into a space that is greatly informed by some flavor of jazz.
My music coach and teacher Dave Bloom (Bloom School of Jazz) was a huge help in giving me new colors for my musical palate. While I was in various studios in Chicago, LA, NYC and Vegas last year finishing my new band's debut recording, (The Ex Senators on HeatShield Records Ltd, release June 2012), I would go through these exercises from Dave that leverage so much of the soul food found in jazz music. Some of them were difficult, forcing you to rethink how you play, and think about music; writing the same song in every mode and every key, playing solos against changes that shifted through modes and around the circle of 5ths; breaking down chord structures, and hearing the subtle shift in sub5, melodic or harmonic minor. And then being back in with my band working on a new song, I'd find these colors on the palate that weren't there before. Hearing changes that could slide and slither and still rock but giving more twists for a guitar lead or a vocal melody. Kyle Woodring was a world class drummer who took also took lessons from Bloom School many years ago and had worked with everyone from John Mellencamp, Dennis DeYoung and Styx to George Jones, Deanna Carter and Willie Nelson. He was also my best friend and taught me one huge lesson about music. You're never done learning. Whatever you're listening to there's something to learn from it. Something you can pack up and take with you. Its a gift to play music for a living or for your own enjoyment and each time you listen to someone or learn something, it grows and becomes something brand new. Once you've learned it and its time to play, then play with reckless abandon. Cause THAT is ROCK AND ROLL!
The Ex Senators
February 21, 2012, Chicago