John Williamson -- an Introduction to Blues Improvisation plus a Playlist, March 16, 2009

Monday evening—March 16 at the Mez— the usual array of enthusiastic Rochester amateur guitarists. It would be hard to find a more congenial, dedicated or interesting group! This is what we enjoyed:

Richard Taglieri, Baca (Richard Pick)
Deb Ross, Sunflower River Blues (John Fahey)
John Williamson, Slinkey (Chet Atkins)
Andreas Pankewytch, Ma Tristesse (Maria Linneman)
Kinloch Nelson, Jackie Mourning Gomez (Stanley Watson)
Bernie Lehmann, Irish medley:
Star of the County Down (Traditional)
Planxty George Brabazon (Turlough O’Carolan)
Loftus Jones (Turlough O’Carolan)
Paul DiMiero, Luayne (Craig Dobbins)
Jeremy Carter, O Danny Boy (Traditional)
Vern Lindberg, Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Porter Grainger & Everett Robbins)
Ted Peck, Moonlight in Vermont, (John Blackburn & Karl Suessdorf)
Jeff Love, Here, There and Everywhere (Beatles)
Chuck Dye, Salute to Basie (George Van Eps)
Jeremiah Hickey, Devil’s Cakewalk
Mark Grover, August on the Island (Don Ross)
Von Martt, Sinuous (Original)


During the second hour, John Williamson treated us to an introduction to blues improvisation. He approached this task with enthusiasm and humor, sharing with us his own experience at learning to improvise. He began with three players, John, (himself) Richard (me) & Deb. We were each assigned a task; chords, offbeat accents or improvised melody line. We also were given a printed chord progression to follow using A7, D7 and E7. We began with one person playing through the chord sequence; then the other two joined in. This was followed by rotating roles. The other caveat was that, besides the chords, only certain notes could be used. Our experience was that we did not always stick to the assigned notes. We also realized that you could usually tell which notes fit into the chord progression by listening. I’m sure we made a lot of mistakes, but we had a great deal of fun and learned something new, besides.

When the sequence was completed John introduced a new person into the trio replacing one of the original three. This continued until everyone who was interested had a chance to participate. For many of us the entire experience was breaking new ground. Hopefully, we will have a chance to expand on this new-found knowledge in the future. Thanks, John, for getting us started!

Thanks, too, to James Rowe for the venue; Jerry Carter for setting up the sound system and to everyone who participated, as well as those who listened. If you couldn’t make it, we are looking forward to seeing you next time on April 20.

—R. Taglieri

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