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January 2021 TedGreene.com Newsletter

New Year’s Greetings!

We start off this new year with a continuation of the transcribed audio lesson that we posted in November. This excerpt contains only the parts of their discussion relating to Wes’ playing. The complete transcript is available as a PDF in Mark Levy’s “From Students” section. (See our “New Items” below).

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“All About Wes!”
(Part 2)

Private guitar lesson with Ted Greene and Mark Levy, October 18, 1993

Transcribed from the Audio Recording
[Starting at around: 23:50]

Mark: Would Wes use a chord stream on a minor?
Ted: Oh yeah. [he demonstrates…then they talk briefly about Wes’ “Bumping on Sunset”]
Mark: In certain degrees, does he [Wes] have certain sounds that he likes on certain degrees?
Ted: Yes, he surely does. That’s a very wonderful question. Let’s take all families: For major he certainly loves the I and the IV. He certainly is not afraid of a borrowed major 7 type – a major 9 or whatever – if the prior chord seems to suggest itself as a V, pulling you in there.

Like here’s one of his very favorites: bVI. [Ted demonstrates]. He just likes the bVI. So when he wrote….[he plays]
Mark: “West Coast Blues”?
Ted: There’s one of those cases: bvi minor – bII. It takes time to learn to hear the key center as all being there – as not changing keys. It’s so easy to think, “change of key.” But that would mean that this is really in that key….and it’s not; it’s all in Bb. So, you do better for your ears by thinking: I – bvii – bIII – bVI – bII – I. Which is a take-off on this progression: I – bIII – bVI – bII7 – I. So his lines… [he demonstrates]. Volume – volume difference.
Mark: All with the thumb? He never used…
Ted: All thumb.
Mark: See, I don’t play that way. I do a lot thumb, but mostly….
Ted: It’s the only way to get his sound right. It really is. If you try to do it this way, like on the octaves, if you try pinch them, it’s a nice sound, it really is. It’s very clean and focused. But you don’t get that [he demonstrates the octaves thumb brush]. It’s like a little drum. [Ted plays single-note lines and describes the progression he’s outlining.]
Mark: Flat two right there?
Ted: Sure was. Flat three – flat six – ….
Mark: Do you use that #11 on the bII?
Ted: Oh yeah. He loves that sound.
Mark: Yeah. I love that too.
Ted: So yeah, majors appear on I, IV, bVI. Not much bIII major for that man, from what I can remember. Some bII Lydians. Some. He’s not like “Lucy in the Sky” John Lennon using IIadd9. I don’t hear that sound in Wes. I just don’t associate it with him.

So, he’s fairly sparce in the major territory. Dominant: he plays all 12 dominants. He uses all 12.
Mark: Flat-Five, sharp-Five, flat-nine, sharp-nine….
Ted: Everywhere, everywhere. I mean he uses all 12 degrees.
Mark: Okay. On all 12 degrees he plays.
Ted: He plays dominants on all 12 degrees. On those as we’ve discussed before, there’s certain ones that love to have alters. Do you remember ever discussing? Or was it too many years ago?
Mark: I think it was a long time ago. I could sort of get some certain things, like I think I could…
Ted: Overtone dominants work great on everything except for — and they’ll even work on these in exceptional cases, but generally stay away from them on: III, and VII, and be careful on V.
Mark: Okay.
Ted: So, things we don’t hear in Wes Montgomery that we love in music would make a huge list. Maybe 500 things. He’s not---his palate is small, but what he does with it is fine and wonderful.

Harmony-wise, what else can I tell you, man? He’s going to play altered dominants on any degree where it pulls in by a fourth to the next chord. You know, like, if you’re on C7 going toward some kind of F?
Mark: Right.
Ted: He loves to throw in altered dominants. Just loves it!
Mark: Just the #5 for the b5 or what?
Ted: Well, there are a lot of altered dominants, but you can list them into categories. He doesn’t do that [Ted plays C7#9 and then moves the whole chord form down in half-steps] I don’t ever hear him doing what Kenny Burrell does. Kenny Burrell plays “White Christmas” and goes….[he demonstrates] But I bet you when Wes heard him do that, if he heard that record, he went, “Wow, that’s a nice use of that chord!” He doesn’t seem to play regular old #9’s that much. In fact, most guitar players who play jazz don’t.

Altered dominants consist of groupings: #5’s sound natural to the ear. You don’t have problems with those. [Ted plays G7#5 to Cmaj9] If you’re going to alter it [the dominant chord], they sound normal. If we add a b9, it still sounds normal. If we add a #9, sounds normal. If you add the natural 9, there better be a good reason because that note [the A note of the G9#5 chord] is less normal than the altered 9’s on the V.
Ray [Charles] and Joe Pass know because they go: [he demonstrates a blues lick using G9#5 to C9, then C9 to F7, etc.] It’s just a sweet sound, an altered V chord. [He continues….] That was iii, Lenny Breau style: the melody, then the bass, then the inside notes, while this is still ringing. Comp and sustain. Comp, meaning just let go of it. A9 while that’s still ringing. Very Lenny-ish, that texture. You don’t hear Wes do it. You don’t hear GV [George Van Eps] do it. No guitar player before Lenny did it. Lenny just put that piano texture on the map.

Back to Wes, though. So, he’s got all these [#5 dominant sounds] grouped in his mind. You can hear him. If you say, “How about the b5? Well, that’s a more pungent note. We notice them when they’re on the top especially. When you add an altered 9, a natural 9, #9, even the root, b7, 13 – these are all great top notes. But this note [the b5] take over the shading. It’s so powerful. Kind of like what that sus4 does to a dominant. [Ted plays a C7sus chord.] No matter what we put over this (within limits of sanity) it’s subservient to the fact that this note [F, the 4th or 11th] is in the chord now, coloring every one. The top notes are just little “window dressing.”

Say, “We’ll, that’s a 11th chord, and that’s an 11th with a 17; that’s a 13 with an 11.” Doesn’t change. You’d think all those would sound drastically different, but they don’t. They all sound like variations on, “frosting” on this big, big, big cake. I mean, it just has so much influence. The frosting is a second thought, or an afterthought, or less important.

So, the natural 9 and the raised 5 is completely different from the others. When you voice those from the 5th string root…. Let’s say we’re in G now. And you put b9 [on the V chord, or C7b9], we know that people associate #9 with b9. We all do it. They sound like they’re friends. We could put raised 5 on top of either of those…. [he demonstrates] Those are pretty similar.
Mark: I gottcha on that one.
Ted: A b5 again is more pungent. It jumps out differently than the other do.
Mark: Does it want to be sort of an appoggiatura sound?
Ted: Yeah, it does. Either down or especially up in jazz. It loves to come up. When guys go…[he plays Am9 (B on top) to D7b9b5 (Ab on top) to Gmaj9 (A on top) and other examples.]

So, Wes has got all that stored away. He uses all those chords. He even occasionally will use a raised 9 with the b5, but less than the other three.
When you say 13b9, that’s real diatonic, and real smooth and easy and pretty.
Mark: 13b9 on any degree?
Ted: Watch: “Misty” key of G: Am7 (with the melody way up high) – D13 (b9 with a 13) to [G major 9]
Mark: Yes.
Ted: The melody if you never heard “Misty” could probably go…[he demonstrates]. That’s a song called “Poinciana”
Mark: I used to play that song.
Ted: “Ebbtide” just like “Misty” [he demonstrates].
13b9’s to Wes often involve not playing the root. He likes those little dark ones, instead of… He likes both. 13#9 I don’t hear him using. I don’t hear almost any guitar player. I hear big bands use it. I just don’t know any guitar players that made a career out of it. Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow used the wildest chords at one point, because they both played at least two strings on demand with their thumb. So they have chords like that, and they can use them.
Mark: Wow.
Ted: But that’s another era. Most of us aren’t as influenced by their chord style as Wes. He just kind of took over for our ears on how to play chords. And Lenny [Breau] for the other way. And George Van Eps for the solo guitar way. Between the three of them, you just get three massively different approaches to textures, and voicings, and general approach; rhythmically, and everything – it’s different, between those three giants. I keep them all separate in my mind. I know that they’re all tremendously easy to love at their best, and they’re all doing completely different things. It’s incredible!

In the altered dominant arena, you have suspended types with lowered 9’s — that’s a unique sound too. Now we come over to something that Wes Montgomery is fond of: he’s one of the only guitar players to play sounds like that, that I’ve ever heard. That’s A11 (key of D): he’s got A11 with a b9. [A, G, Bb, D, A] There’s the 11; there’s the b9. So here’s a tune [Ted demonstrate using the A11b9 chord] …[end of tape side 1] So, expect a blue tone on occasion.

Here’s a real unusual chord you never see in the charts: A11#5. [A, G, B, D, E#] I’m putting it on A in case you want to use the open strings. Where might you use that? [Ted plays some blues using the A11#5 chord]. It’s got a blues sound because of that [#5].
Mark: It sure does.
Ted: Instead of… [he plays a A13sus chord]. “Milestones” That’s that other vibe. So…[C13sus] not [C11#5].
Don’t look for that in Wes Montgomery, that 11#5.
So, that about---for now, that’s about all about altered dominants. He uses them on so many degrees. Again, if the next chord is a fourth higher, expect---don’t be surprised if he’s using them.
Mark: Rhythmically, how does he put that in? Is it like, an off-beat that he throws that stuff….?
Ted: He might push it in the last half of a bar, or he just plays the whole bar of it.

So, we have some loose ends on Mr. Montgomery to patch up this evening. Mark, we’re going to do that, clearly, okay? But if you have questions, I want you to ask.
Mark: Right.
Ted: Let’s go back. Single-lines: loose ends on that: he loves triplets, man. Just loves, loves, loves to deliver triplets. Much more than any guitar player I’ve ever heard. Closest thing is Freddie King, believe it or not, with triplets. They both love triplets. Most guitar players…[he demonstrates]. Wes is… [he demonstrates same tempo but with triplets].
Mark: I love that. I love that too!
Ted: Yeah, man. He just loves to play triplets.
Mark: Just like arpeggiating them, or…?
Ted: Well, when you say, “arpeggiating them” – who doesn’t play arpeggios? He plays off of arpeggios, okay. He’ll make a melody, always it seems, out of an arpeggio. He just doesn’t go…
Mark: Right. It’s not straight; square.
Ted: Seldom. He’ll just try to come back where he’s just been, and go lower than that, maybe, in kind of semi-pattern ideas. But he never carries it far enough to where you’re upset.

What else with his lines? He’s the most “half-step slide guy.” He’s always doing that. Tal Farlow was famous for it too. His top notes are almost always vocal-like. He’s not above a little vibrato every now and then. Not real often, though. No reverb; no tremolo. No wang-bar.
Mark: Would you consider him basically not a real chromatic type of guy?
Ted: Correct. He’s not real chromatic. Not at all. George Benson is really chromatic. At his best George is an extremely chromatic player. But Wes wasn’t. But he’s piquant, spicy. Those are spicy notes. But it’s not chromatic music. And it’s not diatonic. Chromatic music is… [he demonstrates.] All those chromatic effects, where it starts to even lose the key if you’re not careful. But when Wes goes…. [he demonstrates]
Mark: You still hear a key.
Ted: Yeah. Like if he’s playing [he plays and hums “’Round Midnight”] On that One [i]…if he… [he plays single-line]
Mark: What kind of sound was that?
Ted: Melodic minor. [he plays] The two most important arpeggios in melodic minor have to do with… [he demonstrates] You know, minor-major 7 with or without more color after that. And the minor 6.

Triplet’s, rhythmically. Start-and-stop stutters: the true sign of Bop phrasing. [he demonstrates] Because a lot of those bop heads are stuttering. Yeah. Wes is---he’s a heavy stutterer, man. His solo on “Caravan” is full of those stutters.
Mark: That’s a good analogy. I’ve never…I mean, I’ve known it. I’ve heard Bird… [Mark sings]…you know, start-and-stop-stuttering” – that’s really great, Ted.
Ted: Yeah, thank you. There’s a little stuttering in there.
Now, harmony-wise let’s see if there are any loose ends. Hallmarks: his V inserts. When he’s on the Two minor [ii] one of his very favorite things is to go backwards in the cycle and insert its own V. Of all the sounds he does, that’s to me the most identifiable – other than that “co-minor” thing – as a Wes thing. If I’m listening to a record and I hear a guy go…say he’s already on the Two [ii] chord, you know, like the song goes…[he demonstrates…] And later it’s just on the ii, and he’s going to improvise, he goes…[he demonstrates]
Mark: You’re doing a b9 or…on the VI?
Ted: Just b9s. Usually almost always just as on b9s. That’s his sound for when he moves around on the VI – exactly – which is the V of that ii.
Mark: Like you said, he didn’t have a large palate, but he was very sophisticated with the use of it.
Ted: Yeah, very musical. Yeah, it’s semi-sophisticated. It’s sophisticated enough that’s it’s interesting intellectually, but especially it’s just so musical.
Mark: Musical – that’s sure!
Ted: He’s got a warm approach to that sound.
So, that’s---. For minor keys he definitely is a “Dorian man” – he loves to go forward – the opposite of “co-minor.” You know, associate with the Four dominant [IV7]? [he demonstrates]. He’s got a million tunes like that.
Mark: Yeah, “Unit Seven.”
Ted: Just a lot of them. Here’s….[he plays]
Mark: He seems to fade out chromatically. Is that chromatic sort of…?
Ted: Yeah, that’s more chromatic when he goes…[Ted plays and sings] if he wrote a tune….
It’s that flat-5 relationship.

So, anything else about Wes? Let me think: Timing, Harmony, Sense of Form – we’ll save that for another time. That’s a big subject: Form.
Mark: Octaves?
Ted: Yeah, of course. I was going to talk about the octaves. I’m not 100% convinced, but I tend to think he’s watching the lowest note because his brother’s bass thing. Hand is free when he does octaves. For lines he plants the fingertips down; touches the [pick]guard and pushes on it, kind of. But for octaves he lets go of everything. Does backstrokes sometimes. When he wants the real fast thing that he does, he uses the nails – the back of the nails, not the fingers, surprisingly. I thought for sure he was using the thumb. If he wants an occasional one of those, he’ll use the thumb. But when he does that real fast thing, like when he goes…. [he demonstrates] I thought he was going to use the thumb, but he’ll use the nails.
Mark: That’s cool.
Ted: It’s hard to get it just right with nails, though. I’m using one finger to do it. I find that’s more controllable.
Mark: Was he a guy you think that practiced 8, 10 hours a day when he was growing up, or what?
Ted: You see, he couldn’t. And when you read the bio, as a young boy he had a guitar. The myth that he started at 19 is a myth, because he did fool around on the axe from about age 10, 11, whatever. But he just fooled around; didn’t make the serious strides he felt he made later. But other people thought he was really good already, including when he was a young boy, so. That came out later. But when he was---really got deep into that Charlie Christian thing, remember....
Mark: Right. He bought an album and he learned all the licks, or something.
Ted: You know the story: he was a newlywed, he was working a gig in the day and playing afterhours at night, late. (No, what I was going to say.) He was working a gig in the day, and he’d come home and practice after dinner. He might have gotten 5 or 10 [hours of practice] in those day, huh? Because he got awful good in a couple of years. He went out on the road with Lionel Hampton. Did it for a while, about a year. Missed his family, came back.
Mark: Right.
Ted: That’s when he started performing live, just doing [Charlie] Christian solos, and started to jam afterhours. Then he got a gig working afterhours, too, as a musician. So, there’s a long story in the Wes Montgomery biography book about a typical day: how he’d go to work, he’d do the welding. He’d get off at, say, 4:00; he’d come home, take a nap. He’d eat and take a nap, and then go to the second gig. And then he’d come home at 6:00 in the morning and sleep for maybe an hour, and get up and go to work again.
Mark: Wow! Hard.
Ted: Yeah, he had two jobs, and then later he had two jobs and he would sit in at other clubs. So, he barely would sleep in those days. In other words, he was making the rounds besides gigging at night.
Mark: Yeah. He didn’t drink either.
Ted: Wasn’t a drinker. Heavy smoker.
Mark: Big smoker.
Ted: Coffee drinker, so I think the caffeine and the nicotine, man, both… Well, they may have got him, but they also gave him all that energy a little bit too, I would think. They say he was a quick study, though. He would listen to a song, and just after hearing it once he could join in and play.
Mark: He had great ears. Wow!
Ted: That’s a remarkable study, man.
Mark: So, he had great ears.
Ted: They say he had perfect pitch. So, he was one of those genius cats.

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~ Your Friends on the TedGreene.com Team


* bVII7 - VI7 - bVI7 - V7, 1977-10-02. [Twenty-eight examples of turnarounds using this descending progression, broken into “root in the bass” and “3rd in the bass” variations. Examples given in the keys of Eb, G, E, Ab, F, and Db. Notation combined with Ted’s original grids.]

* III7 (or I) - VI7 - II7 - V7, 1977-10-02. [Thirty examples of this often-used progression, all in root position, and all given in the key of G. Newly drawn grids provided for easy reading.]

* I - IV’s with Melodizing and Bell-like Rings, 1988-06-15. [This is a fun lesson wherein Ted shares some chord “moves” that emphasize sustaining a note between chords. He wrote here: “…Please let all voices ring and sing as much as is possible and musically sensible. Naturally this means you’ll have to choose good fingerings that may be a little off from what you’d normally do. Everything should flow and sound rich. Some of this won’t be easy, but a real listener will hear (and appreciate) the difference when ‘things ring.’” We’ve combined standard notation and chord names with Ted’s original grids.]

* I - VI7 - ii7 - V7 and Friends on Top 4 Strings, 1984-02-22. [There are very few progressions in jazz more commonly used than this one. Ted gives us 19 examples for the top 4 strings, some with a moving line (the X notes). We have added an “answers” page with the chord names added in blue, and some of the text typed out for easy reading.]

* I’m in the Mood for Love (bass line), 1978-12-08. [Ted wrote a walking bass line for this standard with “double-time changes,” but he didn’t include the melody. We created new notation and added the melody. At the end he asks the player to D.C. (to go back to the beginning), but in a new key. You’ll need to work that one out for yourself.]

* Arpeggios with Extensions, 2001-03-21. [This is a small collection of some extended arpeggios that Ted gave to a student during a private lesson. Some of them he indicated as “Wes,” “Trane,” “3-note post-bop or ultra-jazz,” “rows of 3rds,” or “couplets.” New notation with TAB (can you believe it? !]

* The Little Drummer Boy, transcription by Mike Simonelli. [Taken from a private lesson with Nick Stasinos that was video tapped. Ted doesn’t play the song straight thru, but stops and starts, discusses, shows alternate ways to harmonize, etc. “Big Mike” Simonelli pieced the segments together to create a complete version (with some alternatives). Times stamps are provided to aid in seeing where the various parts occur in the video. Notation with Ted-style grids provided. Thanks Mike!

* All About Wes - Ted Greene Lesson with Mark Levy, 1993-10-18 [This is the full transcript of Mark’s lesson with Ted wherein he spoke about Wes Montgomery. Excerpts of this was shared in our November 2020 and this current January 2021 Newsletter. The initial reason for transcribing this recording was to provide some text of Ted’s insights about Wes for a book that is being written about Wes. This book will be in Italian, and it’ll have an entire chapter featuring Ted’s thoughts on Wes. We look forward to sharing more about this once the book is published. For now, you can read this unabridged portion in English, which can be found in our “From Students” section under the header, “Contributions by Mark Levy.” Be sure to listen to the audio recording!]

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