Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop Instructional and Historical DVDs Books and Materials

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Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals

  • Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals
    Hard Copy    $15.00  Item Number:  sggw156

    Artist: John James Publisher: SGGW CD Collection

    Product Details


    “This is one of those albums that excited me from the word go. When John and I first discussed the possibilities of his recording I was very pleased. You see, John James is one of the most creative and important acoustic guitar players performing and living in Europe today. His music owes little to the days of Davey Graham and Bert Jansch. These were the English guitar heroes of ten years ago. Instead John's music has travelled a path derived from folk music, ragtime and jazz sounds. From these sources he has developed a very unique and beautiful style of playing as well as composing.

    Once we had recorded all the material for this album I knew we had a proverbial 'hot platter' on our hands. Finally, the complete talents of John James seemed to have been captured on record. All of his skills as a guitarist, arranger, and composer were clearly present. Plus, John was happy to transcribed his solos into tablature and we have prepared a PDF booklet, that accompanies this CD. This will certainly bring joy to guitarists who have struggled to learn John's intricate instrumentals.” – 1977, Stefan Grossman

    Track Listing: (click on tracks for mp3 sound samples)
    1. Trio*
    2. New Nothynge
    with John Renbourn
    3. Rumble*
    4. First Meeting
    with Duck Baker
    5. Hanna's Skipping Song*
    6. From The Bridge
    with John Renbourn
    7. Of Days Gone By*
    8. Guitar Jump
    with John Renbourn
    9. Feet On The Ground*
    10. Bumpass Stomp
    with Duck Baker
    11. Gazing High*
    12. You And I Across The Water
    13. When I Was Young And Easy*

    Those tunes marked with a star ( * ) are included in the tab/music PDF booklet on this CD.
    You will need Adobe Acrobat (a free download) to open and print this file from your computer.

    Review: Welsh musician John James is an enigma. After becoming established in the British folk scene in the late 1960s and seventies, he gained wider attention with an album of guitar duets with Pete Berryman titled "Sky in My Pie." He recorded "Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals" in 1977 for Kicking Mule Records, which also offered a tablature book presenting seven of the solo pieces on the disc. This CD re-release includes the original audio program and booklet. Although James was certainly exposed to Davey Graham, Martin Carthy, and other guitarists who came to exemplify the British school of fingerstyle guitar, the music on this album shows little influence from those artists. Instead, James offered listeners three aspects of his musical interests, each very listenable and entertaining. First, there is a selection of well-crafted originals, including "Trio", "Gazing High", and "You and I Across the Water." James's compositions reveal a strong lyricism and interest in jazz, emphasizing separate, precisely articulated treble, bass, and middle voicings. It seems he was most interested in presenting these solo works as compositions, rather than guitar showcases. But if you want some flash, check out his two duets with Duck Baker, "First Meeting" and "Bumpass Stomp." Both tunes are improvisational vehicles which show off James's reed-like phrasing as he and Baker trade single string lines. Of course, Duck's no slouch when it comes to hot playing, either. The third group of tunes are duets with John Renbourn. James had been playing with Renbourn around this time (there's a fine duet on Renbourn's album, "The Hermit"), and their collaboration is represented here by three very special pieces. The first of these, "New Nothynge" is actually Renbourn's "Lady Nothynge's Toye Puff" with an added high melody (James plays Renbourn's original part, while Renbourn plays the "new" part). "From the Bridge" is a slow, jazzy meditation, and "Guitar Jump" is a short, up-tempo piece featuring some nice two-bar tradeoffs between the two guitarists. While it's a shame that so few of the James/Renbourn collaborations are available, these tunes are absolute gems. John James still performs in Britain, but has rarely recorded in recent years. "Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals" remains his definitive work as an instrumentalist. I'm thrilled that it's available again and recommend it to all guitarists. – Patrick Ragains/Minor 7th

    Review: While "John James in Concert" stands as the live definition of this solo guitarist's powers of acoustic performance during the 1970s, "Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals" still offers the best panoramic view of his all-around creativity at that time. Here, James' fingers do every bit of the speaking, the clarity of their diction being the product of disciplined precision. Yet the rightfully crowned "Welsh Ragtime Wizard" is likewise fluent in swinging "Bumpass Stomp" the same bubbly way Django might have done when thinking on his improvisational feet. He's wise to many a cool trick too, like the one that keeps "Of Days Gone By" cyclically collapsing on itself with an unhurried, yet formal, grace. Plus, he proves expert at aptly naming songs based on their given means of six-string motion, be that twinkle-toed "Hanna's Skipping Song," the immaculately hopping "Guitar Jump," or "Feet on the Ground" which methodically marches past in Dropped D tuning. But it's not all alone time for James. England's John Renbourn and Yankee picker Duck Baker briefly drop by, helping tag-team a piece or four. The softly hypnotic Baroque beauty of "New Nothygne" is included, as is the jazzy recreation of corn popping for "First Meeting." A crisp set that remains just as organically fresh now as when first picked in 1977. – Dennis Rozaski/Bluesrag

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