If you’re looking for inspiration but can’t decide between blues, rock or jazz, John Wheatcroft has the very player to answer your every need.
John Wheatcroft examines the playing of a jazzblues guitar titan, the great Scott Henderson.
I consider myself more of a blues-rock player, but I borrow from jazz and I like the colour It brings to music Scott Henderson
Scott Henderson combines the dynamic expression of Hendrix and SRV with the harmonic potential of Coltrane and Miles Davis. A typical performance could contain Jimi-like Pentatonic blazing, huge Albert King style bends and Beck-style whammy bar antics. We might also hear chromatically-embellished chord tone action that wouldn’t sound out of place from the sax of Michael Brecker. Not surprising really when you consider the time he spent with Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul, two of the most harmonically-advanced musicians of all time.
He first found fame in Corea’s 80s fusion project, The Elektric Band. After a stint with Mahavisnu violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, he continued to stake his claim as one of the most significant guitarists in fusion with his stellar contribution to Zawinul’s post Weather Report project, The Zawinul Syndicate. At the same time he achieved acclaim with his own progressive project, Tribal Tech, with virtuoso bassist Gary Willis. Since 1994 Scott has released a steady stream of solo albums, displaying his unique and uncompromising take on the blues. Henderson takes his musical development very seriously and has been a member of the teaching faculty at The Musician’s Institute in Hollywood for well over 20 years. He has also released instruction books, videos and online lessons, all of which are well worthy of your attention.
We’ve taken a slightly different route this month, so rather than the usual collection of short lines and phrases we find two full solos. The first is based on a swinging 6/8 feel, while the second is a funky 4/4. Both are two choruses long and orientated around a 12-bar blues sequence, with some slight deviations from the norm; so 24 bars each in total, chock full of Henderson-ism. There’s a huge amount to be gained from learning these solos in their entirety but you can always divide them up into bite-sized licks should you prefer – it’s good practice to identify the phrase structure of a solo. Are they four bars long? Just two? One? Do they move across the bar line? Imagine attempting to read this text with no punctuation and you’ll get some indication of just how significant these markers and musical divisions can be.
Scott is a master at creating an almost infinite amount of variation by toying with rhythm, note selection, dynamics and every other musical device in his improvisational toolbox. These solos could be viewed as just the beginning, so go on, jump in and enjoy.
NEXT MONTH John delves deeply into the playing of American jazz guitar legend Steve Khan
Scott Henderson playing one of his John Suhr guitars