I’ve been following Cecil Alexander’s work for awhile now from his awesome Instagram feed to his more recent lesson video on his YouTube channel. Hs was the 1st place winner of the 2017 Wilson Center Jazz Guitar Competition and the 2018 Lee Ritenour Six String Theory Competition. Most recently, Cecil was one of 3 finalists in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition.
So yeah, he’s definitely someone to look out for if you’re into the next generation of jazz guitarists.
I love his playing a lot especially the way he mixes lyrical phrases to his very fluid up-tempo bop and modern jazz single note improvising. When he launched his new website, it also marked the arrival of some of his first instructional materials. These two set of ‘musical exercises’ are PDF files with notated lines from Cecil.
The first one called, “Assorted Licks” contains “8 licks/lines to study. 4 “inside” lines, and 4 “outside” lines.”
The second one is simply called, “Minor II-V Lines” has “5 licks/lines over a Minor II-V-I. Includes TAB and picking directions to accompany the study of “Benson Picking,” or picking technique that relies on the use of rest strokes.”
Each of these are available for US$8 each.
I first worked on his Minor II-V Lines PDF which is 2 pages worth of material in PDF format. You might ask, are the lines good? Are they worth it?
Well, the lines are pretty interesting as they evoke bebop vibes, have interesting superimpositions and chromatic embellishments. The highlight in this one are basically the notated pick directions that Cecil uses here in the “Benson Picking” style or rest stroke. Some of the lines were quite unusual for me (fingering wise, on the left hand) and that made it worthwhile it for me. I enjoyed the lines more as I understood the logic of the melodic shapes. It did help to open up new ideas in my playing.
In the second set called “Assorted Licks”, I got to try out 4 inside lines and 4 outside lines. The inside lines are pretty much bebop lines and the outside one use different substitutions to create a more chromatic outside sound. In the “Assorted Licks” set, there are no picking indications included so it’s up to you to figure it out.
In both cases, no additional instructions, directions, MP3 files or video are provided. For both of the set of exercises, it’s US$16 for 13 jazz lines.
In conclusion, I think these are actually great material for the right kind of guitarist who is looking for new ideas in improvisation. For newbies to jazz guitar, you might need to look elsewhere since there is no instruction included. These are strictly notated musical exercises (in both standard notation & TAB).
Pros: Great lines from a really great player, some of these are pretty challenging to get them fluid and played at faster tempos.
Cons: No audio or video examples given, no explanations for the exercises.
TLDR: If you’re a fan of Cecil’s playing style, this might give you some insights into his playing style. Recommended for fans of his playing and more experienced jazzers.
You can get these musical exercises (PDF files) from: https://www.cecilalexander.com/shop
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