Getting a Thrill From Harmony and Arrangers – Ed Bickert Interviews Part 2

Here are some more insights into Ed Bickert‘s legendary playing. Some musical thoughts that are extremely relevant in understanding his genius and approach to jazz guitar chords. Ed talks about what he finds exciting in nice, surprising harmonies (on the guitar or otherwise) when they’re done with “the right approach, the right sound”. And in the second video, the master mentions arrangers (such as Gil Evans) and some of his personal unsung heroes. Let’s watch, shall we? 🙂

Harmony: in Music … and on the Guitar

It is fascinating to hear Ed Bickert discuss harmony openly like that. I don’t know about you, but a huge crowd of fans consider Ed the reason why harmony is now “possible” on the guitar, in this day and age. With his subtle tone from a Telecaster, he single-handedly redefined jazz guitar comping like no other jazz guy in history. His approach to jazz harmony is extremely subtle and refined.

Ed is saying that he purposely tried to keep searching and finding new ways to play chords “beyond the basics”. He was trying to “get away from the basic stuff, to make harmony more interesting”. Furthermore, he discusses how early into the learning guitarists usually get tired of all the guitar method stuff. The “basic chord formations” as Ed Bickert says. As the interviewer adds, we are looking for richer and more complex chords. No surprise here!

“A lot of the ideas I got for chords come from listening to bands. Well, Duke Ellington has always been one of my very favorite, but there’s a whole bunch of others over the years. Like Gil Evans, and people like that. They were making harmony much richer. And sometimes, we hear whole areas sounding dissonant for a nice change of color.”

And for dessert, the master mentioned how getting our ears accustomed to rather simply harmonized classical music (i.e. Mozart) was great listening to. So, for Ed, it’s all back to basics, after hearing some of the “best” and most advanced harmony of the second part of the 20th century. Including creating some of it!


On Arrangers and a Secret Unsung Hero

In this clip, we hear Ed Bickert talking about arrangers, and those people who, in fact, really got that “right sound for harmony” as mentioned in the previous video. Not much guitar talk, but fascinating to get the man’s perspective!

“Gil Evans is definitely one of the most important, well … composers, orchestrators, arrangers (or something) of quite a few decades. I really love the things that he has done.”  And, not only was Gil Evans great, he was also Canadian. If you’re still unfamiliar with his work, I recommend checking out the Miles Davis album “Porgy and Bess”. 🙂

Ed Bickert adds: “Gil’s writing, he definitely did a wonderful job of, you know, the arrangements he did for some of these outstanding soloists [Miles Davis, Kenny Burrell]. He’s very original. He was this good, that’s all!” Almost as if Gil Evans’ greatness is just assumed, and that it will stand the test of time in Ed Bickert’s ears.

Then, he proceeds to discuss an unsung hero of his. Freddy GrofĂ© wrote “The Grand Canyon Suite” probably in the late 1930’s. Ed’s perspective on this in that a great “behind the scenes” guy like GrofĂ© was an invaluable asset to make good music sound great. “All these wonderful things the Gershwin brothers did, I wonder how they would have sounded without someone like Freddy GrofĂ©. I mean, he was so good at filling all the right notes.”

There are more Ed Bickert interviews on Jeff Bickert’s Vimeo channel here.

Thanks for reading. See you the next blog post. 🙂

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