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Interviews

Guitarist Fred Fried on 'When Winter Comes'

By Published: October 28, 2003
FF: Actually, the seven string is getting very popular, though I’ve been playing it for years. George Van Eps invented it. The first one was built in 1938. What it is, is the low A string tuned an octave lower than the regular A string on a guitar... Basically it just gives you deeper range. You can get way down there in the bass register, not quite as far down as a real bass, but not too far from it, and I have found...I can voice chords in ways that you wouldn’t think you could voice them. Meaning, I can put—I don’t want to get too technical here—but I can come up with chords a standard player might not think of. Well, he might think of them, but there are two strings on a guitar where you might usually put the roots, and I can put my root on the seventh string and use the other two for other intervals of the chord. But anyway, it’s just an extended range. Some people just use it to play bass lines, and don’t use it to that great an extent, but others, like George van Eps, obviously do. I think it’s most effectively used when playing the right hand finger style, as opposed to pick, because playing with your fingers you can choose exactly when and which strings, and what notes to hit at what time... If you want to play with blazing speed, maybe the pick is the way to go, although I’ve always said you can do anything with anything as long as you have a mind to do it.

AAJ: In your notes, and just listening to your work, you can hear the influence of the piano.

FF: Right.

AAJ: We hear that a lot, the phrase “playing pianistically”. Could you explain a little what that means, to play pianistically on the guitar?

FF: That’s a good question. What that means to me is that, well, when you listen to a pianist he has two independent hands, and when you’re hearing the chord you’re hearing a line, and the chord’s not stopping because he’s playing a line, or both hands are playing together, or they’re playing harmony together, parallel harmony, any kind of contrapuntal harmony, as opposed to when I hear most guitar players, even when they play solo guitar, what I hear mainly is a chord and then a line, then a kind of punctuation chord, or something like that. It’s not one seamlessly flowing thing that you would hear with a two-handed pianist. And to me I would always rather listen to that... What pianistically means to me is that you have your melody, and harmony, and maybe your bass notes going on simultaneously, and not even always simultaneously, when you listen to a jazz pianist, the left hand is comping chords here and there, but the right hand line does not have to wait for it...the two hands are of one piece. Which is what I strive for, especially on solo guitar.

AAJ: That’s been a development even within jazz piano right? Which brings up the influence of Bill Evans.

FF: Right, right. You listen to him and you hear how he not only plays his harmony but how with his right hand, he’ll harmonize with his right. It’s layered almost. More dimensional.

AAJ: It’s my understanding that that is something that didn’t really develop until later in jazz piano because they were still emulating horn lines.

FF: That horn line concept was so influential, and rightly so, when you heard guys like Lester Young and Charlie Parker playing those lines. Let’s face it, the improvised line is one of the cornerstones of jazz. It’s the horn player. And I think people are more attuned—the audience—to the actual line, and rhythm actually, than harmony. So it’s no wonder, and even if you are going to play like a piano you better be aware of those horn players who played such great lines because that doesn’t mean that you should be playing boring lines because you can harmonize.

AAJ: Which is what Evans was capable of doing.

FF: That’s right. He played wonderful lines with wonderful harmony. So he had it going on all fronts, from all angles. He was quite remarkable.

AAJ: To me the deepest connection I can hear between your playing and Evans’ is the use of space.

FF: That may be true, in that I’m not trying to cram in a lot of lines. To me harmony is what moves me in music, obviously when you talk about harmony, melody, and rhythm in music you’re kind of making academic distinctions here. They’re all part of one another. But for purposes of discussion you have to talk about them. And since I was a little kid, since before I knew what harmony meant, chords moved me, including rock and roll, or even old songs, but they sounded new to me, they just got to me. I think I kinda never lost that. Sure, I get bored with certain harmonic progressions, and I have to go look for something new, but I am always looking for something that touches me emotionally.


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