American Fingerstyle Guitarist

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2300 Skiddoo

Sheet Music, PDF Download, 3 pages, advanced level
MP3 is included with purchase

This is one of Herbie Nichols’ most delicious compositions, and one of the most perplexing in a way, because the harmonic structure is so much more complex than one would suppose from just listening to it. One thing that’s serendipitous about arranging it for guitar is the fact that the last repeated phrase we find at bars 31-33 works well in the key of E on the high string, and playing it in E also gives us the E7#9 shape familiar not only the jazz guitarists but blues and rock players, who associate it with Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. Much of the rest of the arrangement works out of shapes familiar to jazz guitarists as well. The passage at the end of A3 noted above is probably the one that requires the most attention, along with bar 30, just before it. Duck Baker would definitely use the thumb to fret the low F we see in the repeated passage, as using the index finger is impossible as the passage is written; it is being used for the pull-off on the high string. Players who really can’t use the thumb should probably change the pull-off from the second fret of the high string to the first to a slide so that the last pull-off to the open-high string is made with the middle finger, thus allowing time for the index finger to get over for the F on the bass string.

The midi mp3 generated by Sibelius was insufficient for a guide track here, so we are including an edited version of the performance on Baker’s recording of Nichols tunes, Spinning Song.

Price: £4.00

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Portrait Of Ucha

Sheet Music, PDF Download, 3 1/4 pages, advanced level
A midi MP3 guide track is included with purchase

Herbie Nichols recorded this compelling tune on his Bethlehem record Love, Gloom, Cash, Love. When Duck Baker arranged it for guitar, he asked Roswell Rudd, who had played with Nichols and studied his music at depth, who or what “Ucha” was. Roswell laughed and replied that she was “a really crazy lady” whom Herbie “never really got over”. Armed with that information and the knowledge that Nichols was deeply into the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Duck Baker decided to use a bass line to bring what Morton called “the Spanish tinge” into Herbie’s portrait of his crazy lady. This is an advanced arrangement but the most difficult passages probably come in the first few measures, and do at least involve stretches from a familiar shape, the basic G minor barre chord.

Price: £4.00

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Round About Midnight

Sheet Music, PDF Download, 4 pages, advanced level
A midi MP3 guide track is included with purchase

Monk’s most famous composition, “Round Midnight” was first recorded by Cootie Williams’ Orchestra in 1944, with Monk’s close friend Bud Powell on piano. A private recording made later that year of a solo version by the composer was issued in 2015, and Monk recorded it for Blue Note with a quintet in 1947. It is been recorded thousands of times since, and many guitarists have transposed it from Eb minor to E minor, as Duck Baker does in this arrangement. This is a demanding arrangement in many ways, involving some tricky bends and challenging stretches, but at least the slow tempo gives students plenty of time to change hand positions. One chord shape that definitely requires attention if students don’t already know it the complex E minor chord at the end of the coda, which includes the 6th, 9th, and major 7th. This involves making a half-barre on the 4th fret of 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings with the middle finger and putting the ring finger next to it on the 4th fret of the 2nd string. Meanwhile the index finger holds the 2nd fret of the high string and the little finger is on the 5th fret of the 4th.

We also need to give attention to bar 36, in the B section, not because it’s very difficult but just to be sure that the 12th fret harmonic notes on the 2nd and 3rd strings ring through when we play the note voiced under them on the 5th and 6th strings. And do note that, in bar 41, we want to hold G on the 5th fret of the 4th string as part of the Am13 chord that follows, and also, if possible, the G# on the 11th fret of the A string as part of the the G#M7th chord that follows that (this would involve fretting with the thumb). Another passage that is not difficult is also worth mentioning, because it requires a technique some students may not have used before. This comes at measure 44. After playing the notes we find with the common B7 barre chord on the 7th fret, we need to tap the fret that’s 12 frets higher on the bass string with our right index finger to sound the harmonic there. As is always true with harmonics, we are not pushing the string down into the fretboard there, but tapping the string right above the fret itself. 

The mp3 accompanying this transcription is a midi version generated by Sibelius, and allowances should be made for the weird way that program interprets the sound of bends.

Price: £4.00

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Light Blue

Sheet Music, PDF Download, 3 pages, advanced level
A midi MP3 guide track is included with purchase

A curious fact about this fascinating composition is that Monk’s only studio version of it was not released until 2017 (on Les Liaisons Dangereuses), though at least ten live versions have been appeared on record over the years. Probably the best known version remains the first to be released, which was recorded at the Five Spot in New York with the great Johnny Griffin on tenor. The tune represents an odd challenge for improvisers in seeming at first to be in the key of F and then in C. Duck Baker based his version on an arrangement by his friend Michele Calgaro. Because it is a short tune, he decided to transcribe two improvised choruses, but rather than use his recorded version opted to transcribe the first two choruses from the live performance at The Bop Shop in Rochester, NY in 2018 (which can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlO1YspDhn0, the transcribed part beginning at the 2:02 mark). These choruses are much easier and more useful for students than the more abstract solo on Duck Baker Plays Monk. A few very minor changes were made for the transcription, just to make it more approachable for students.

Price: £4.00

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Bemsha Swing

Sheet Music, PDF Download, 2 1/4 pages, advanced level
MP3 guide track is included with purchase

Monk’s first recording of this great little tune was on a 1952 trio date for Prestige, which was followed by two more classic studio versions, the Miles Davis Jazz Giants 1954 session, and the his own 1956 quintet recording for Riverside, Brilliant Corners. Duck Baker has written out three ways to play the melody, all of which keep the original bass line going (tranposing the piece to the key of A was basic for this). The first has the melody pitched low, starting on A on the 3rd string, 2nd fret, and the second is an octave higher. The third pass adds middle voicings, including a nice bend up to the major 3rd. Because the Sibelius midi rendering of this gave no idea of what it actually sounds like, the MP3 guide track included here splices the midi version to a short excerpt of Baker’s recording on Duck Baker Plays Monk. It wasn’t possible to use an edited version of that track for the first two versions of the melody because the interpretation of the first section was so free on the record.

That bend, which first appears at bar 33, may represent the biggest technical challenge in this arrangement, though there are a few other stretches and odd shapes along the way as way. Baker himself uses the thumb to fret all the F and F# bass notes except for the F in the Bb chord (bars 31-32, 47-48), and this certainly simplifies things greatly, especially the F# just after the bend. Another passage to give attention to comes at the transition from bar 35 to bar 36, where the index finger must hold the A on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string while the middle finger moves to the 2nd fret of the 5th string and the ring finger goes to the 3rd fret of the 4th.

Price: £4.00

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