Louis ste­wart

The in­cred­i­ble Louis Ste­wart as­tounded the jazz world with his dex­ter­ity. pays due trib­ute to an Ir­ish jazz gui­tar leg­end.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON - John Wheatcroft

We were sad­dened to hear of the re­cent pass­ing of one of Ire­land’s best and most-loved mu­si­cians, jazz gui­tarist Louis Ste­wart. Born in Water­ford in 1944, Louis was one of the greats. He toured the world with many of jazz’s big­gest names, in­clud­ing Benny Good­man, Ge­orge Shear­ing and Stephane Grap­pelli. His be­bop-in­spired style bal­anced tech­ni­cal vir­tu­os­ity with grace and beauty, with con­sid­er­able com­mand but equally im­pres­sive taste and re­straint when the mu­sic called for it. His lines were in­volved, ar­tic­u­late and in­tel­li­gent and his comp­ing skills sec­ond to none. While Ste­wart’s play­ing was steeped in the tra­di­tions of jazz gui­tar, there was also a strong Char­lie Parker in­flu­ence, along with a healthy dol­lop of blues for good mea­sure.

Louis was pre­sented with nu­mer­ous awards and ac­co­lades over the years, in­clud­ing Out­stand­ing Euro­pean Soloist at the Mon­treux Jazz Fes­ti­val, an hon­orary doc­tor­ate from Trin­ity Col­lege, Dublin and in 2009 he gained mem­ber­ship to Aos­dána, a pres­ti­gious Ir­ish award granted to those con­sid­ered to have made an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the arts. I had the good for­tune to wit­ness Louis live many times and I also got the plea­sure of shar­ing the stage with him. On ev­ery oc­ca­sion he never ceased to in­spire and ter­rify me in equal mea­sure. The sheer breadth of his ideas, the beauty of his sound and the com­plete sense of calm but self-as­sured au­thor­ity were sim­ply stag­ger­ing. He had a glo­ri­ous full-bod­ied tone, amaz­ing tech­nique and he swung like the clap­pers. He was a class act and he’ll be sorely missed.

There are nine ex­am­ples pre­sented here, all typ­i­cal of the lines that Louis might play when im­pro­vis­ing. While it’s a great idea to learn these licks as writ­ten, don’t be too con­cerned about com­mit­ting them to mem­ory. The point of learn­ing each ex­am­ple is that each will leave a trace that will in­spire you when im­pro­vis­ing. It’s un­likely that you’ll ever re­gur­gi­tate the same phrase ver­ba­tim, but you might cre­ate some­thing sim­i­lar, us­ing el­e­ments of rhythm, melody, dy­nam­ics or har­mony but con­structed to fit the mu­sic in the mo­ment. So try play­ing trans­for­ma­tional games with each lick when prac­tic­ing. How might each idea sound with dif­fer­ent-end­ing notes? How about tak­ing some notes out? What af­fect does chang­ing the rhythm have? We need to think about other keys, too, and dif­fer­ent har­monic pos­si­bil­i­ties. Great im­pro­vis­ers are the best at re­cy­cling ideas and are ex­perts at ma­nip­u­lat­ing the mu­sic to cre­ate an in­fi­nite num­ber of vari­a­tions and it’s ab­so­lutely un­de­ni­able that Louis was clearly one of the finest play­ers in this cat­e­gory.

Louis ste­wart was one of the great­est jazz gui­tarists of all time Martin Tay­lor

The late, great Louis Ste­wart

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