I previously reviewed Christopher Woitach’s masterclass Environments for Jazz Guitar back in July 2022. It’s been awhile but Chris is back with a new masterclass that expands more on his approach to jazz guitar.
Firstly, a disclaimer: I received this masterclass as a birthday gift from Christopher Woitach recently. However, with all my reviews, this reflects my honest thoughts on the video.
This masterclass is divided into three sections with 9 videos:
2. Intro to Intros
3. Intros, Examples, & Discussion
Section II: Soundslice Examples
4. Intro 1 Swing – Key C
5. Intro 2
6. Intro Ex: 3
7. Intro 4 Section III
8. Accompanying Melody and Solo
9. Performance (with John Moak, Trombone)
This masterclass is great for guitar soloists and guitarists who play in duo, trio or other small group (or chamber jazz) type situations. This is the kind of video that I wish was available when I started playing jazz gigs 20 years ago. Lucky for guitarists now, you can learn from Chris’s vast experience in this compact masterclass.
I particularly love how he explains everything with a lot of love for the subject, making sure to mention different examples of songs and recordings. All this would be useful for the hardworking guitarist who will check out the examples mentioned.
In the discussion on turnarounds (video 3: Intros, Examples, & Discussion), Chris plays examples that remind me of the classic Joe Pass instructional video, Solo Jazz Guitar. In fact, that video might be a good one to check out in addition to this masterclass. Another video course that might be helpful is the Joe Pass Solo Guitar Style by Barry Greene video that I previously reviewed here.
The main difference is that Chris introduces useful labels to the different kinds of introduction options possible (playing a turnaround, common chord progressions for bossa nova tunes, one chord vamp introductions, single note introduction). Having a catalog of options is useful so that we can approach songs with more confidence.
In the second section of the masterclass, we get four written examples in the Soundslice player format (video + notation + tablature in sync, and with slowing down the speed options). The four introductions that Chris shares are good examples to get an idea of how we can use the concepts he taught in the first section.
In the final section, Chris explains how to accompany the melody and solo of a song. He talks about the classic Freddie Green four to the bar approach, an ukulele style approach and the classic Charleston rhythm. There is probably room for a follow up masterclass just explaining some of these approaches in more depth. Also, I believe that having a transcription of what Chris says on the video might be helpful to digest the concepts that Chris shares.
In addition to the instructional section, we also get a performance video with trombonist John Moak to demonstrate the concepts working in real life. This is one of my favorite parts of the masterclass. Perhaps having another 3 or 4 more performance videos (in different styles or tempos) might be useful to help us see how Chris applies this in a duo situation.
After watching the masterclass, I would recommend watching the video with a notebook to write down the concepts that he teaches so that you can try it out. I for one will be doing that when I rewatch the videos soon.
It’s kind wild to see that this kind of class can exist now (as with many of the specific Mike’s Masterclasses video) – it’s so niche and specific that back in the 1980s and 1990s, you wouldn’t possibly have seen a release like this available. I mean what company would release this on VHS tapes back then?
There would be a small audience of people interested in this topic and even smaller number of people who would consider buying this. Lucky for all of us now, because of the format (streaming video, digital, online), the cost of releasing a high quality educational product like this is possible. This benefits guitarists who need this information so that they can play better music at gigs!
All in all, I recommend this highly if you play solo, duo or trio jazz gigs and want to get even better ideas to approach standards. Your bandmates (soloists or singers) will appreciate the variety that you will bring to your next gig.
Pros: Great teaching, good topic and a useful one for performing jazz guitarists.
Cons: I wish there were even more written examples for us to try in the video. However since this masterclass is more for intermediate & advanced guitarists, the concepts are the real value in the course… and therefore application is on the responsibility of the student.
TLDR: For guitarists who play solo, duo or trio jazz gigs this video is a useful resource to help you play even better at your future gigs.
You can get the masterclass here: https://mikesmasterclasses.com/course/being-the-band/
Thanks again Chris for gifting me this video!
I wrote a lot of other book, course and video reviews too.
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