Archive for the ‘Jazz’ Category

Rio Lobo Guitar

I’ve written about Tommy Tedesco and jazz’s “unsung heroes” on this blog before.  It bears worth mentioning once again that many jazz musicians relied on their studio session work more than anything else to put food on their family’s table.  While Tommy Tedesco played guitar as a session musician on albums that garnered millions for well-known artists, he never had a successful recording career himself.

Sadly, Tedesco’s highly influential and often brilliant studio work mostly went unaccredited (cf. Denny Tedesco’s Wrecking Crew documentary and Guitar World‘s 2014 interview with him).  I recently discovered a powerful example of this when I watched the 1970 John Wayne western Rio Lobo.

The opening sequence was fascinating and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  William H. Clothier, cinematographer for countless westerns, including many John Wayne westerns, and main title designer Dan Perri, who for many years remained uncredited as the creator of the guitar sequence (Perri, along with George Lucas is best known for creating the famous “opening crawl” main title sequence for the very first Star Wars film:  Star Wars:  Episode IV – A New Hope, 1977) collaborated on the Rio Lobo opening sequence.

The Rio Lobo title sequence shows a Spanish style guitar being played from a variety of different angles, including an “inside” shot of the guitar from behind the strings. Composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the guitar instrumental itself is a rather run-of-the-mill sentimental Spanish melody.  The musician is filmed while he fingers the chords and notes, using standard Spanish sounding arpeggios.

Curiously, I discovered that the guitarist was Tommy Tedesco, though he goes uncredited for his work.  However, the musician shown playing in the film, according to Denny Tedesco, is not Tommy Tedesco.  Tedesco never played using only his fingers; he only played using a pick.

Here’s the main title sequence to Rio Lobo:

How Tommy Tedesco’s playing ended up on the opening title sequence of a John Wayne movie is probably the same way he ended up playing on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album:  as a dedicated studio musician willing to lend his virtuoso guitar talents to anyone who needed him.


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Learning Django

The following is a post I wrote last February, but got too sick to polish and publish.  Here it is now:

I’ve got a week’s relief from chemo, so neuropathy side effects, particularly in my hands, have all but disappeared, a good thing since I can now resume my guitar playing.  I’ve been wanting to get back to practicing the Django Reinhardt tune I’ve been working on for the past year—”Minor Blues.”  I’ve managed to get down the first 33 bars (out of 45) of an arrangement by David Blacker, a superb swing guitarist and instructor for TrueFire.com.  Blacker classifies his arrangement as “beginner,” but because of the timing and rhythm of this piece, which is swing time and relies heavily on flurries of 1/8th note triplets throughout the tune, I would place it in the “intermediate” level category.

There’s two versions of Django playing “Minor Blues” that I know of.  Blacker’s arrangement is one of them:

Hubert Rostaing (1918-1990) plays clarinet solo.  Rostaing is probably best known for his clarinet playing on Django’s “Nuages.”

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Jacky Terrasson with his trio at the Iridium jazz club, New York City, June 25, 2009

Jacky Terrasson with his trio at the Iridium jazz club, New York City, June 25, 2009

It’s jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson’s birthday today.  He is an enormously talented and gifted musician.

Born in Berlin in 1965, his mother was African-American and his father French.  Terrasson grew up in France, starting to learn the piano when he was five, studying, initially, classical piano, then jazz.  He studied music formally at the Berklee College of Music.  He won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Piano Competition in 1993 and started touring with Betty Carter.

Since then, Terrasson has toured widely and often in Europe as well as here in the states.  He makes his home in New York and his newest release, Mother, just came out this year on Impulse! with his long-time partner and friend, the trumpet player Stephane Belmondo.

I first heard of Jacky Terrasson because of my interest in the young and talented vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant.  I happened to come across some wonderful videos of Terrasson’s band accompanying Salvant in concert on youtube.  Here’s one in particular I like: “Gouache,” performed in 2012 at the Saint Emilion Jazz Festival—Jacky Terrasson, piano; Cécile McLorin, vocal; Minino Garay, percussion; Burniss Travis, bass; Justin Faulkner, drums:

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