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Rodney Jones: The Art of Jazz & The Craft of Guitar



Rodney Jones Reflections

Dizzy Gillespie:

Dizzy taught me about playing yourself.

I asked Dizzy why he still played the same lines that he had played for years. Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said, “Why mess with perfection”. I got it and never asked him again. LOL.

Lena Horne

Lena taught me about deep listening and the importance of knowing the lyrics and story of a song.

While rehearsing the standard, “I’m Glad There Is You”, Lena kept asking me to play the intro over and over. Each time she got more and more frustrated. I was playing it perfectly, I thought. Finally she asked me, “Are the chords that you are playing for the intro reflect the meaning of the lyric? Do they led me into my first breath? Do they express the heart of the song. Or are they just chords?”

I got it. She was hearing a whole other level into the music. I closed my eyes and played with as much heart and soul as I could. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Now you’ve got it.”

I never forgot that lesson.

Rodney Jones at Zinc
Rodney at Zinc Bar

Bucky Pizzarelli

Always another step

Was in the recording studio with a bunch of jazz legends. I was playing Freddie Green style. I thought that I had done great.

Afterwards, I went into the control room and asked the engineer, Jim Czak, how did it sound?

He said, “You sounded good. It wasn’t Bucky, but it was good.” I laughed. He was right.

Kenny Burrell


We I was a member of Kenny Burrell’s Jazz Guitar Band with Kenny and Bobby Broom, we were reading a difficult arrangement. Kenny read it really well, I was struggling. Afterwards I remarked to Kenny that he read really well. He said, “Thank you. I read OK, but not good enough to mess up my playing!”

 Music first, Reading second.

James Brown

Context is everything

While recording with James Brown I played a funky solo over one of the songs. Out of habit, I played a couple of Octaves. Later, I asked the Musical Director if Mr. Brown liked my playing, He told me that Mr. Brown said, “He plays good funk, for a smooth jazz guitar player.”

The octaves were smooth jazz to him.

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