It's been more than a week since I finished my job as RA at the 2010 National Guitar Workshop in Los Angeles. I was able to sit in on a few classes and clinics, and I took copious notes the whole time. See Day 1 and Day 2. Day 3 was Tuesday, July 13.

Tom Dempsey's Class

In the morning, I joined Tom Dempsey's class, Giants of Jazz Guitar. Tom has been involved with NGW since the beginning, as student, instructor, and administrator. He now lives and works in New York, and his knowledge of the various historical jazz guitar styles is impeccable. We were selling his book, The Jazz Guitar Experience, in the NGW office, and I almost bought it myself (stopped only by the 20 books already queued up at home). It's a short trip through all the major styles and players, and it looks really helpful.

When I dropped in, the class had been looking at a few of Charlie Parker's guitarists, Tiny Grimes the day before and currently Barney Kessel. The first activity was a note-for-note rundown of Kessel's solo on "Relaxin' at Camarillo." Tom handed out his transcription, we listened, then we played through it one phrase at a time, stopping for questions and explanations. We did the same thing with "Minor Mood." This was a long process, but really cool to pick through complete solos in a group of about 12 people, all capable of keeping up.

Someone asked a critical question about melodic minor application in one of the solos, so Tom went on a 20-minute theory excursion. He first harmonized the scale into 7th chords, then related each mode to its parent 7th chord. Then he demonstrated some applications for the more common modes, and how to think of each one either as its own scale or as the melodic minor starting on a different note.

After a short break, we worked through a Jimmy Raney solo on a Stan Getz tune. I don't remember what it was, but recognized it as a Cherokee contrafact. (So did the shredder from Costa Rica sitting in front of me.) Next was Tal Farlow's solo on "I Remember You," focusing on his long 8th-note lines. That took us to lunchtime. I didn't get to stick around, but afternoon plans included Johnny Smith and George Van Eps.

Driving Pat Martino

And here's why I didn't get to see more of Tom's class: I got to pick up Pat Martino from the airport. He was one of the guest artists for the week (along with Paul Gilbert, Duke Robillard, and William Kanengiser), scheduled to give a clinic the following day. I made a sign for him, but of course didn't need it. I met him at baggage claim and his calm but vibrant personality instantly struck me, and I was no longer nervous about meeting the man. His guitar flight case was enormous, as big as a surfboard and about eight inches thick, covered in stickers. Pat said he'd been using it since the '70s. As I drove him down the street to his hotel, we talked about the workshop, the weather, his hometown Philadelphia, and inevitably guitar (I let him bring it up). He asked if I play, what styles I'm studying, etc. He was really excited to give his clinic, which I'm sure he'd done many times before, and started talking about the geometry of guitar shapes, noting that the tuning of the guitar forms a pentagram when all twelve chromatic notes are arranged in a circle. All in a five-minute car ride. He loves this stuff.