Talk Jazz Guitar

September 19, 2005

A refreshing alternative to boring compendiums of scales, modes, or chord voicings, Talk Jazz Guitar is a bona fide method for soloing over chord changes. In this 80-page book and CD package, Roni Ben-Hur presents several techniques originally codified by pianist Barry Harris, and uses jazzy phrases to illustrate the underlying principles.

For starters, we learn why, how, when, and where to add chromatic passing tones in descending major and dominant scales to align chord tones with strong beats. Ben-Hur lays out a set of rules—based on your starting tone—that govern the placement of these chromatic stepping stones and ensure harmonically focused lines. He also explains how to use basic arpeggios to imply more complex voicings, how to enhance arpeggios with neighbor tones, how to superimpose diminished structures over other types of chords, and how to create new scales by combining major- or minor-6th arpeggios with diminished arpeggios. Additional topics include working with tritone substitutions, handling secondary dominants, and spinning dominant 79 arpeggios into cool turnarounds.

Enhanced with fretboard grids (there’s no TAB), the book’s detailed music notation is accompanied by reasonably clear text explanations. The CD is very helpful: Backed by a swinging jazz trio (piano, upright bass, and drums), Ben-Hur demonstrates the techniques, often playing examples in all 12 keys. With his warm archtop panned hard right and the ensemble panned hard left, you have the option of listening to guitar only, or soloing over just the backing tracks. Inspiring and challenging, Talk Jazz Guitar will thrust you deep into the world of bebop improv. Mel Bay.

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