Introduction: Modern Jazz Guitar - Max Frankl

Max Frankl, the new AMA author and composer (publications of 5 albums, e.g. ‘Fernweh’ (2015) and ‘Home’ (2012)), is one of the most versatile and skilful jazz guitarists today. In 2012 he was awarded the ECHO Jazz award for best guitarist nationally and in 2014 won the European Music Author’s Grant. He has been a member of the European Jazz Orchestra since 2009 (and was their first ever German guitarist). While on a study visit to New York, he was inspired by jazz virtuosos like Ben Monder, Chris Cheek and Aaron Parks. These contacts contributed to his wide sonic palette - he works with reverb, guitar distortion, as well as delays and loops using a tape machine.

His one-of-a-kind musicality carries the listener away which the guitarist Max Frankl proves time and again at club and festival concerts. Countless tours with his various bands (whether as a duo, trio, quartet or sextet) and with other jazz greats (Lee Konitz, Benny Golson, Nils Wogram and Johannes Enders, among others) have taken him all over Europe (Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, France, the Czech Republic and Ukraine) and even to Africa (Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia).

In his first work, ‘Introduction: Modern Jazz Guitar’, Max Frankl concentrates on the topic of improvisation on the jazz guitar. The author looks in detail at the different chord progressions in different keys and reinforces all of the theory with a lot of playing practice. This means that, for every style, there are examples from other jazz musicians and their songs (e.g. ‘So What’ by Miles Davis for the Dorian scale, ‘Inner Urge’ by Joe Henderson for the Lydian scale or Wayne Shorter’s ‘Ana Maria’ for the Phrygian scale).

The book begins by looking at the harmonic basis of many jazz compositions, namely the Dorian scale, and the Dorian chords which are built upon it. In these consecutive chapters, the foundations will be laid in order to be able to use the theory later in other keys. There are further chapters about the Lydian scale, the Phrygian scale and the pentatonic scale. All of these chapters about theory end with a composition by the author or the piece ‘Sounds like Dorian’, which the guitarist can use to implement what they have learned. In doing so, they learn how different one and the same piece can sound when different scales accompany it.

The theory is broken up with a chapter dedicated to practical tips about playing and practicing techniques. The author uses his preferred exercises to memorise the fingering on the frets in every chapter and requires the guitarist to improvise with these using different scales. The chapter about equipment presents different types of guitar which are responsible for different jazz sounds: the solid body model (for example, those played by artists like Bill Frisell or Nir Felder) sound fresh and whirly, and the rich, dark and acoustic jazz tone of the hollow body model is known because of Wes Montgomery or Pat Metheny, for example. The semi-hollow body models are the most versatile, because their sound produces an acoustic tone, yet offers sufficient clout in a band context. With this book, the guitarist gets a comprehensive background knowledge about the metier of jazz and is encouraged again and again by the author to compose their own small practicing sequences and to practice these in a band setting.

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