Book Review: The Outside Sounds and Substitutions of Modern Saxophonists for Jazz Guitar by Kevin Miller

I recently discovered this book from Kevin Miller via different jazz & guitar Facebook groups. It had a very specific and intriguing title that made it very attractive to the specific niche audience that is interested in playing outside within a jazz context. (Boy, wasn’t that a long sentence?)

Anyhow, if you’re reading this – you’re probably curious whether this book has cool stuff in it and whether it’s worth the 10 bucks. My take on this – if you’re into modern jazz sounds and have been playing jazz guitar for awhile but wanna get out from straight ahead swing or bop sounds, then this is a good book for you. If you’re very new into jazz and can’t really hear standard jazz changes (not able to somewhat manage improvise single note lines coherently i.e. play inside) – then this book may be something hard to digest.

This is kind of a very practical version of David Liebman’s A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody. Liebman’s text is more outside and explores a lot more sounds. Kevin Miller’s book is very player centric. This comes from someone who digs these sounds, plays these and has studied them. I’ve found certain jazz books to be heavy on theory side and contains very generic, almost public domain type phrases. This book is not that. Nope!

This is the kind of book that would be good to read a bit, play some of the examples, maybe loop or play the lines over a backing track and digest the sounds. From more common substitutions like playing a melodic minor scale instead of a dorian scale over the II chord in a II-V to adding a V chord to create dominant-tonic resolution over static modal harmony – Miller gives enough stuff to play with.

As I go through the book, I am reminded of the lessons I had in Berklee with Ed Tomassi and later with John Stowell after I graduated. Both of these guys taught me a lot about using more outside sounds in a simple practical way. Miller’s book has a lot of the kinds of sounds I dig. So many subs that I could hear & many more than I haven’t used in my playing. The cool thing is that each concept comes with a number of good examples written in both standard notation and tab.

Practice Tip:
In my personal experience working with this book so far, I would recommend going through the book once to scan through the concepts. Then, pick a few sounds, try out the lines (notated with the tab/articulation) and then start writing and improvising your own lines. I find that doing this is great way to internalise the sounds. Alongside listening to the great players mentioned in the text, this book can be a good practice resource for those interested beyond standard bebop and inside playing types of sound.

Pros: Good subs, lots of examples, very easy to use!
Cons: Layout is not as tight as I would have liked it in the PDF version. There’s a lot of space (Miles influence? Haha!)
TLDR: If you’re a jazzer and dig modern sounds but aren’t sure how some of it works, get this book. If you’re a beginner, maybe get something more inside first. My personal recommendation would be getting a Sid Jacobs book, perhaps Complete Book of Jazz Guitar Lines & Phrases or if you can locate a copy, Garrison Fewell’s 1986 self published Jazz Improvisation book (not the new ones by Berklee Press).

How to Buy:
To buy & check out samples of The Outside Sounds and Substitutions of Modern Saxophonists for Jazz Guitar, go to the Amazon page.
You can also contact the author at kevinkjm24 at gmail dot com to purchase the PDF version.

A review copy of this book was provided by the author. Thanks Kevin!

[Read More Book Reviews]

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[Submissions for Review Consideration]

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NOTE: All reviews reflect my honest personal opinion so be aware that I will point out both cool Pros and Cons that I see in the work. You dig? 🙂

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