Mike Longo, my teacher and mentor once told me something very important and perplexing after a big band rehearsal many years ago.
I played guitar in his 17 piece band for a while, and finding the “crack” in which to put a guitar “comp” chord or fill was challenging. The “chug chug” Freddie Green style comping on every beat totally was not what he wanted – and I already knew that.
So at this rehearsal, I played what seemed right and was very self satisfied at the time.
He says to me afterward “You weren’t listening”.
HUH? Did he just say that? I was with them the whole time! This had me scratching my head.
He then assured me that what he meant was extremely subtle, and that Dizzy Gillespie once told him the same thing after a gig.
Last night I did a duo gig here in New York with a friend – and it was really a relief to play a gig and let loose in the midst of all my uber focused recording activity on my Michael Jackson fingerstyle guitar project.
Same guitar, same amp…but I heard new detail and nuances in the sound that I had never heard on that gig, and naturally exercised ‘restraint’ in ways I had never done before. It was more musical, focused and relaxed. Even whispery quiet songs had people grooving in their seats.
Imagine a camera lens coming into focus – but on a sonic level.
It’s so common to think that to “improve” one needs to simply “practice” guitar with the hands and get bigger, faster, louder and stronger. Macho Man!!!
Once you (and I) listen deeply – very deeply – the guitar playing changes.
I need to carry thins listening over into all areas of my life. If there is as much joy and delicacy available to me in all of life as there was last night on the guitar, it’s me that needs to quiet down and listen. The world can stay as it is.
Something nice to think about on a ‘quiet’ January Sunday morning.