American Fingerstyle Guitarist

Modern Jazz

Souareba

Sheet Music – PDF Download 3 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Salif Keita is one of the most recognizable names in contemporary African music, with a recording career that stretches back nearly fifty years. Originally from Mali, Keita rose to international prominence after moving to Paris in 1984, and he recorded the song “Souareba” for the LP Soro, which was a major success in 1987. In Keita’s hands, the song is intelligent Afro-Pop at its best, and a showcase for the leader’s brilliant vocals, but nearly hidden under the layers of sound is a simple, stunning melody that is carried by the backup singers. This arrangement adds a bass line and B section not heard in Keita’s version, played in D in drop-D tuning (D-A-D-G-B-E).

Price: £3.00

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Peace

Sheet Music – PDF Download 1 page, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Ornette Coleman’s recording career began with two excellent dates for the Contemporary label, but it was only on his first date for Atlantic in 1959 that he got to lead his own working quartet, and the results were stunning. Every track on that record, The Shape of Jazz to Come, is a ringer, but the only two that have gained much currency with jazz musicians are “Lonely Woman” and “Peace.” And even these famous tunes are not performed very often, probably because they suggest a style of improvisation that is lyrical but not tonal, free but not completely abstract. In any case, this remains one of Coleman’s strongest melodies, and it adopts well to solo guitar.

Price: £3.00

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One For Myrtle

Sheet Music – PDF Download 1 page, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Tina Brooks was one of a dozen of so tenor players from the hard-bop era who were a step or two behind John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, and who all seem to get short shrift. Even within this under-appreciated group, Brooks is a lesser-known. He only managed to lead one record date that was released during his lifetime, and though he did appear on numerous dates as a sideman, was never a member of one of the really visible working bands of the era (as was the case with, for instance, Harold Land, Clifford Jordan, or Hank Mobley), and he never had the blinding technique of Coltrane, Rollins, or Johnny Griffin. But he did have a soulful, vulnerable tone that was arresting even when he was stating melodies, and quite an individual way of building his solos. Brooks was not especially known as a composer, but the minor-to-major blues line “One For Myrtle” is a great little tune, which he recorded on his last date, in 1961, but which only appeared on record in 1985. Guitarists who have worked with the traditional blues repertoire may note that this number utilizes basically the same chord progression as Blind Blake’s “Rope Stretchin’ Blues,” which is very similar to Gary Davis’s “Hesitation Blues.”

Price: £3.00

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Jackie-ing

Sheet Music – PDF Download 1 page, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

When another tune was needed to complete Thelonious Monk’s 5 By Monk By 5 record in 1959, he practically wrote “Jackie-ing” on the spot. But he obviously enjoyed performing it, as he recorded it on ten further occasions, mostly live. Monk named the new tune after his niece, and based it on “When The Saints Go Marching In,” though the last detail is anything but obvious! This one sits well on guitar in its original key of Bb, and is a great example of how complex vertical harmony can obscure what is basically a simple chord progression.

Price: £3.00

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The Happenings

Sheet Music – PDF Download 2 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

“The Happenings” was the only blues tune written by the great pianist/composer Herbie Nichols, and though his only recording of it is lost, it has become a fairly popular piece to cover for the growing number of musicians interested in performing Nichols’ work. This probably owes to it being less challenging than most of his other compositions, though the progression is by no means standard. But people like to play “The Happenings” because it has an engaging character, humorous and quirky. Nichols took inspiration for this one from Prokofiev’s march from the Love For Three Oranges Suite, and often quoted it in performing the tune. (Indeed, another instrument can play this little theme over the first four bars of the “Pretty Baby” variation here, to good effect.)

Price: £3.00

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Mistersioso

Sheet music – PDF download, 3 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

I have used a different approach to this great Thelonious Monk blues line, since the basic tune is only 12 bars long. I decided to transcribe two of the four choruses I improvised on the performance released on my 2016 LP Duck Baker Plays Monk. Having done that I released that the midi version sounded so strange that it would be better to just edit the version I recorded, so the MP3 here is about half of what was on the record, beginning with the improvised choruses. As will be obvious, immediately, the timing of the performance is very free and fluid. The basic tune is not difficult to play, and students are of course free to make up their own variations or improvisations.

Price: £4.00

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Like Someone in Love

Sheet music – PDF download, 3 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This Jimmy Van Heusen song was written in 1944 for the film Belle of the Yukon, and quickly became a standard for pop singers and jazz musicians alike. I was inspired to arrange it in about 1980 after hearing Bud Powell’s very different take on the song, but didn’t get around to recording it until much later, on The Roots And Branches of American Music. That record is available on this site, either as a CD or as a download, and the individual track can be bought separately.

Price: £4.00

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Someday My Prince Will Come

Sheet music – PDF download, 3 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This great song was of course written for the 1937 Walt Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and though it has not been covered very often by pop singers really came into it’s own when modern jazz musicians adopted it 20 years later. Many people associate it with Miles Davis, but while the Davis version is certainly a classic, Dave Brubeck made the first jazz recording, on Dave Digs Disney. I made this arrangement in about 1983 but still haven’t got around to recording it. Some of the chord shapes involve big stretches, and the shape in measure 27 involving the thumb and a partial barre is a real bear.

Price: £4.00

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Sweet And Lovely

Sheet music – PDF download, 3 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

The well loved standard appeared in 1931, and like many another pop song of that period, it only really entered the jazz repertoire during the modern era. This version is based on Thelonious Monk’s arrangement, which he first recorded with a trio in 1952, and returned to many times throughout his career. In fact Monk’s trio version may have been the first modern jazz recording, and it is certainly unique, with those chromatically descending 7th’s all through the first four bars.

Price: £4.00

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The Third World

Sheet Music – PDF download, 3 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

“The Third World” is one of the most celebrated compositions by Herbie Nichols, the great by tragically neglected pianist who only manage to make 4 records in his lifetime, and was known at the time of his death in 1963 only as the composer of Billie Holiday’s theme, “Lady Sings The Blues”. But Nichols was one of the most harmonically advanced jazz composers of his era, one of the very few who can be compared to Thelonious Monk, even though other jazz musicians did not catch up with Nichols until long after they were trying to deal with me. My own arrangements of Nichols’ music can be heard on Spinning Song, which is available on CD and as limited-edition LP. The chord progression is something else, so even after learning the arrangement, improvising on this presents real challenges. It was also a challenge for me to notate, especially the tremolo effect I usually use for the first and fifth measures of B. This looked bad in the score and and the midi version sounded awful, so I rewrote it in a way that much easier to play, and included those two measures at the end of the arrangement To hear them, I’m afraid one needs to buy the record, though most people do think it is one of my best. It was certainly the most ambitious.

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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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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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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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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Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols bundle

Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols bundle (5 titles):

Bemsha Swing
Light Blue
Round About Midnight
Portrait Of Ucha
2300 Skiddoo

Price: £15.00

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0033 – Straight No Chaser

Sheet Music – PDF Download 2 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Thelonious Monk first recorded “Straight, No Chaser” in 1951, and kept in in his book for the rest of his career, which lead to a couple of dozen further recordings, mostly live. It’s popularity among jazz musicians was greatly enhanced when Miles Davis recorded it in 1958; any time Miles covered Monk, the rest of the jazz world soon followed. Obviously, since it’s a 12-bar blues tune, it is not one of Monk’s more challenging progressions in any case.

I learned the melody of “Straight, No Chaser” from Davy Graham in about 1980, but didn’t really come up with this arrangement until 10 or 12 years later. It lies well in the key of A, always a great blues key, especially for getting those recurring middle voicing notes on the 4th string.

Price: £3.00

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0031 – St Thomas

Sheet Music – PDF Download 2 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This traditional tune was made famous in the jazz world under the title “St. Thomas” by Sonny Rollins, in 1956, but while he usually gets’ composer credit, Rollins always said that he learned it from his mother. The song was well known as a nursery song called “Fire Down There” in her native Virgin Islands, and the first jazz version of it was recorded under this title by pianist Randy Weston, in 1955. 

The idea of playing this lively tune in drop-D tuning in a style reminiscent of Joseph Spence has suggested itself to many guitarists. John Miller seems to have been the first to record an arrangement along these lines, on his 1974 LP How About Me.

Price: £3.00

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0029 – Out of the Past

Sheet Music – PDF Download 2 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

“Out Of The Past” is one of the prettiest of all Benny Golson compositions, which is why it quickly became a jazz standard after Golson and Dizzy Gillespie both waxed versions of it in 1957. The spare interpretation of the melody heard here was inspired by the version Art Farmer recorded with Tommy Flanagan in 1960.

Price: £3.00

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0024 – In Walked Bud

Sheet Music – PDF Download 2 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

One of Monk’s earliest composition, “In Walked Bud” was based on Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” changes, and dedicated to Monk’s close friend, Bud Powell. Monk recorded it several times over the years, and was joined on the last occasion by vocalist Jon Hendricks, who added a memorable set of lyrics that only boosted the piece’s popularity among performing jazz musicians.

This version is in Em/G, and employs a quirky bass line for the A part that was inspired by the intro Eric Dolphy added to his version of “Green Dolphin Street.” The B shifts back to standard alternating bass lines.

Price: £3.00

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0018 – Giant Steps

Sheet Music – PDF Download 1 page, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

“Giant Steps” is John Coltrane’s most famous composition, and one that quickly became a test piece for modern jazz musicians owing to its challenging chord progression, which moves by major thirds through three tonal centers, very quickly. In fact, one could say very quickly indeed, when referring to Coltrane’s classic 1960 recording, but fortunately this guitar arrangement sounds nice even at a much more relaxed tempo. Interestingly, it lies well on the instrument in the key of E. Though there are only 16 bars of music here, there is an awful lot of harmonic information to digest. Still, the most impressive thing about “Giant Steps” may be the fact that it is such a strong, simple melody, one that casual listeners would never identify as difficult.

Price: £3.00

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