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Learn From 5 Jazz Fusion Legends



Carlos Rios on Gino Vannelli’s “Brother to Brother” (Video Start 16:40)

Besides the absolutely monstrous playing, I wanted to highlight this track because Gino Vannelli and Carlos Rios are probably not the first names you’d think of, or even know, when it comes to stellar fusion-adjacent music. Gino is a serious master singer, writer, arranger and educator. His albums range from a blistering meld of sophisticated pop with jazz fusion studio musicians (Jimmy Haslip, Vinnie Colaiuta) to collaborations with big bands and orchestras. Carlos Rios may not be a household studio guitarist name like Nile Rodgers or Steve Lukather, but he’s one of the baddest out there. For decades he’s established himself with the upper-echelon of artists like the Chick Corea Elektric Band, Lionel Richie and Boz Scaggs.

This insane solo shows Carlos at his finest, blending screaming rock guitar with bebop lines to die for. This transcription has the most underlying harmonic movement, and I analyze it from the key of D major in my video.

  • In this segment, he immediately dives into jazz language throughout the entire 1st measure. Harmonically he is implying D7alt, (Eb melodic Minor)
  • Note that he treats the entire measure as this altered dominant tonality, instead of playing explicitly Am7 then D7 material. It’s pretty common to “lose” the ii chord, and just play V material which is a consistent practice of bop playing.
  • He resolves the V to I just slightly early, actually resolving to the G on the “and” of 4, again harkening to Charlie Parker type language by subtly anticipating a resolution. 
  • Over the Gma7 he uses a combination of arpeggios (Gma7 and also Bm7) mixed with scalar phrases all within a G lydian (D major) general tonality. 
  • He sticks with the same general range and location of the instrument in the 3rd full measure, but instead of explicitly outlining the C#m7b5 and F#7, he opts for more of the general D major material that we saw before, which generally fits pretty well and at that tempo doesn’t clash or seem broad.
  • Check out when he uses chromatic passing tones like in the end of the 1st full measure, end of the 2nd full measure and the middle of the 3rd full measure. These devices, coupled with scalar playing and arpeggiations really propel his lines forward with minimal effort.
  • This is another example where even though the underlying rhythmic value is the same (16th notes), he is able to use extended harmonies and over the barline phrasing to create energy and momentum. 
  • Carlos clearly ends this long continuous line by addressing the sudden harmonic change and playing longer rhythms with a clear triadic harmony and ending (Eb major). 

Listen to more of Carlos!

Dancing on the Ceiling (Lionel Richie)

Cool Weasel Boogie (Chick Corea Elektric Band)

Appaloosa (Gino Vannelli)

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