Music Education Monday: Soloing and comping with guitarist Herb Ellis


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The late guitarist Herb Ellis was known as a master of blues-inflected mainstream swing, and today for Music Education Monday, you can get a video lesson from him in jazz soloing and comping.

Ellis, who died in 2010, started his career in the 1940s as a big band guitarist, playing with Glen Gray and Jimmy Dorsey, but first gained wide notice as a member of pianist Oscar Peterson's trio from 1953 to 1958.

After that, he spent three years performing with Ella Fitzgerald, and during the 1950s also recorded and/or gigged with many other jazz greats, including saxophonists Ben Webster and Stan Getz, trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, and Sweets Edison, drummer Buddy Rich, bassist Ray Brown, and more.

In the 1960s, Ellis did studio sessions for film, TV, and commercials, and played in the live bands accompanying television hosts Steve Allen, Merv Griffin and Regis Philbin. He eventually returned to jazz and to touring, notably teaming up with fellow guitarist Joe Pass, and later joining forces with Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd under the name “The Great Guitars".

In this video, recorded in 1989, Ellis (with some help from Ray Brown on bass, plus rhythm guitarist Terry Holmes) uses a 12- bar blues progression to demonstrate some of his favorite licks, and discusses a variety of topics including tuning, chord formations, scales, comping, melodic ideas, and more.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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