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Jazz Guitar Today Talks To The Incomparable Howard Alden

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In this exclusive video podcast, guitarist Howard Alden talks to JGT’s Bob Bakert about playing and enjoying the music you like and live with.

Introduction by guitarist Ted Ludwig: “When I decided to switch to 7-string guitar, I started checking out Howard Alden’s playing. I was blown away!! His ability to accompany other players, his use of contrapuntal voice leading, and his unique way of delivering a melody has always fascinated me. He also possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of tunes and changes that is unsurpassed. Howard is undoubtedly one of the finest to ever pick up a 7 string guitar.”


Excerpt from Howard Alden interview with JGT’s Bob Bakert

Bob: Looking back at your experiences of working with the best of the best – what gives you the most enjoyment in your music today?

Howard: I appreciate getting together with people (whether I’ve played with them a little bit before or not have played with them ever). Having everybody be in the moment and making music and listen. Things are starting to pick up here again in Phoenix. I had a couple recent gigs in town with a great bass player and drummer that really felt like everybody was hooking up and making good music – it was exciting for both the band and the audience. So, just being on the band stand again and making music together. That’s what gets me off.

Bob: What kind of tunes are you playing at these gigs?

Howard: Well, I draw from a lot of things. Again, I’ve been a little, I’ve enjoyed playing a wide span of music. I like a plan, a lot of more traditional, jazz, more pre bop, pre bop, even pre swing. And I’ve always liked some of the main, you know, since the twenties, I’ve been fascinated with like felonious Monk’s music or duke Ellington’s music. So I usually try to pick up a variety of things out of that, whether it’s some classic songs by Cole Porter that I like, whether it’s a monk tune or two, whether it’s attuned by one of the guitar players that I admire, whether it’s Joe pass or Django Reinhardt, I always try to include a couple of George van EPCIS pieces just to show what he brought to the seven string guitar. So it’s, it’s really, and also for years, I’ve been fascinated by the traditional Brazilian music called So I always try to include one or two of those just because it’s my personal passion. And even if I find people that aren’t that familiar with the style, I have the music and I introduced them to it.

Bob: Is there anything you would like to share with the JGT audience?

Howard: I was doing a guitar workshop in Germany – on the first day, people were introducing themselves and playing something so I could get to know them. People were saying, yes, well, I’m so-and-so and I’ve been playing for a while. I play mostly folk and jazz. I’m sorry… And then someone else says, yes, I’m I really want to play jazz, but I play mostly play folk music. And then finally, I said, wait a minute, what are you talking about ‘Jazz is Folk music’. You know, where people are in the world are playing “All the things you are” right now, probably than ever played, “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley”.

Howard: Jazz is Folk music. And then someone else says, oh, I’d like to play something I learned. And he starts playing “As Time Goes By” – singing along. I said, see, that’s folk music! You guys all know that one too. And that’s a tune that you’ve been playing and living for 60 years. Anyhow, I guess the point is –

…the music you like and you live with – play that on your instrument, make it your own and enjoy it.

And there’s so many things to be created from your common knowledge and your background. And don’t feel that you have to artificially create something from some mathematical formulas or scale books or pattern books – draw upon what you’ve heard and what you know, and make that part of your existence.


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