Firstly, an origin story: this book is actually a collection of three videos that was originally released on three separate VHS tapes in 1996-1999 by New Media Video Concepts Ltd. Later it was collected and rereleased as this book/DVD set by Mel Bay, and now it is still in print (lucky us!) as an eBook and online video set.
Recently I revisited this John Stowell instructional video because I was staring at the book on top of my pile of books in the living room. Even though this was released 25 years ago, I still feel like this is a great introduction to John’s approach.
John Stowell is one of my favorite jazz guitarists and I’m a huge fan of his teaching style, playing and instructional material. I’ve studied with John in masterclasses, private lessons and via his many courses and instructional video content… but this still is one of my favorite videos that he has ever released.
And now, years later, it makes even more sense than when I first watched it. Probably because I know the fingerings better and can hear these sounds better now lol.
The format is simple. The book has transcriptions in both standard notation and tablature for the examples that John played in the video. The material is organized by topic and goes though each video: part 1, 2 & 3 of the original Jazz Guitar Mastery releases.
The topics are:
John Stowell – Jazz Mastery Volume I
- Pentatonics and Arpeggios
- Substitution Using Triads
- Pick and Fingers Technique
John Stowell – Jazz Mastery Volume II
- C7 + C# Melodic Minor
- One Whole Tone Below
- C7 – F Melodic Minor a 4th Above > b6 added
- C7 – G Melodic Minor a 5th Above > 9 #11 added
John Stowell – Jazz Mastery Volume III
- Using Major Triads to Extend Dominant 7th Chord
- Dominant 7th chords
- Major 7th Chords
The first volume has good tips and steps to understand inside sounds that are available for a major 7th chord and related triads that can be used to improvise on a major7th chords. He also show how combining the different triads allows him to access more harmonically advanced sounds. In addition to that, John also explains his picking technique and hybrid pick and fingers technique.
The second volume begins with his approach to using a melodic minor scale in conjunction with the available sounds in a minor7 chord or Dorian. He then explains the different tensions available on a dominant chord and possible melodic minor substitutions that he uses to access different harmonic colors. This is a core part of his approach, using a single scale (melodic minor) but depending on the context, he get different tensions over a dominant chord. All these examples are shown relative to a C7 chord. John is passionate about this topic so it’s really fun to hear John explain all this. You see John playing examples of 4 different melodic minor substitutions for a C7. He also does include an optional major7th sound that helps to make one of the substitutions more interesting. The sounds begins from the most dissonant option and goes to the less dissonant sounds. John also gives practical practice tips so you can get these into your playing.
The third volume begins with a recap of the sounds he taught in the previous video. Then, John introduces his approach using the harmonic minor scale as possible substitutions over a dominant chord. He then goes into how different major triads work over a dominant chord. The final section of the video goes into chords and how to get different voicings and inversions across the fingerboard. John also explains his way of thinking to get the tensions for each of the five chord qualities that he explains.
All in all this book/video is a great instructional resource to help you get these sounds into your improvisation. Although the video is at 480p resolution since the source video was originally on VHS tapes, everything is professionally recorded and edited. This is good stuff and is well made. Furthermore, since all three volumes are in one book, this is really a no-brainer purchase for the intermediate and advanced guitarist interested in learning this topic.
Pros: Great instruction and wonderful playing from John Stowell.
Cons: Material might be advanced for beginning jazz guitarists.
TLDR: For intermediate and more advanced jazz guitarists, this is a great book/video release from John Stowell. Strongly recommended for players who want to get into more modern jazz guitar sounds.
Get the eBook & online video set here: https://www.melbay.com/Products/20770MEB/john-stowell-jazz-guitar-mastery.aspx
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