Overlooked But Incredible Guitarist
Whenever the topic of “real jazz guitars” and “jazz tone” comes up, then I always have to think of this guy.
There is almost nobody I can think of who:
#1 Has a great tone using a bit unusual and sort of cheap equipment.
#2 Plays This Melodic, both with chord solos and single note lines.
#3 Gets Recommended By Jim Hall.
Of course, I am talking about Ed Bickert, who is certainly one of my favorite guitarists, and this solo demonstrates why in quite a few ways with him playing a lot of Blues on a standard, using amazing chord voicings in chord solos, and also being really creative with the melody in the solo. I don’t know if it is because he is from Canada that he is a little overlooked, but if you don’t know his playing then you are really missing out! I have REALLY been looking forward to making this video.
The fact that he is not using a large hollow body guitar is something we will return to later, but if you feel tempted to comment about Real Jazz guitars with natural resonance and vintage wood air, then you might want to wait until you have listened to Ed Bickerts playing!
The Song And The Blues
The Solo is on Just Squeeze me off the Paul Desmond Album “Pure Desmond” with Paul Desmond on sax, Ron Carter on bass and Connie Kay on drums, and of course, Ed Bickert on guitar.
There are 3 things that this solo illustrates very well about Ed Bickerts playing, but a part of what is genius about this specific solo is also that it is an incredibly simple song in a medium tempo.
They play the song in Eb and it is an AABA
with an A-part that mostly stays around the tonic, just moving up and down in diatonic chords. You’ll see Ed Bickert interpret the harmony very freely here.
The B-part is what is usually called an Ellington bridge, so a II V to IV and then V of V continuing to a II V back to I.
Something you’ll find in lots of songs like Honeysuckle Rose, So Danco Samba, Sunny Side Of The Street. It is a very common bridge progression, and therefore good to know.
Ed starts out his solo with a chord and then immediately goes for some solid blues licks:
So really basic Eb major pentatonic and blues with a motif that is first stated,
and then developedÆ
Then he rounds off with another blues phrase and a really nice polyphonic turnaround:
And you can tell that he is really thinking of two independent layers in the turnaround: Having the sustained Eb in the melody and then the chords moving from C7 to F7 to Bb7, where the Eb is of course really clashing with the Bb7 chord.
The Melody But Now With Blues
There are two places where Ed Bickert references the melody in the solo, this first one is a really creative way to add a bit of Blues sound to the melody and then let that flow into another Jazz blues lick:
It is pretty simple, first harmonizing the melody with a 3rd above, but sliding into the G and then moving up and using a Db above the Bb to create more of a Bluesy Eb7 sound.
A nice detail is how he then keeps that idea in there by playing a single note line but still emphasizing the Db in the 2nd of the two bars which sort of works like an echo of the 3rd interval idea.
Later, there is also an example where he uses the melody of the song, but with some unusual but really beautiful open chord-voicings. They remind me a bit of Bill Evans, but first let’s look at a really nice line that isn’t Bebop and sort of reminds me of Jim Hall.
Did He Get This From Jim Hall?
This example is an 8th note line, but it is not a Bebop line, it is another logic behind the melody, and it continues into a really beautiful II V with an altered dominant and a lot of offbeats which is also quite typical for Ed Bickerts playing. After that, I’ll talk a bit about his guitar and amp.
You have probably heard me talk about Bebop lines and how they flow and move through the harmony and have a lot of direction and forward motion, and this line starts off like that with essentially another blues line, but then goes into a line with a Pedal G note and then moving from the #11 of the F7 down to the 3rd in half steps.
From there he goes into an Fm7 Bb7 line that is pretty much all off beats, first an Fm7 arpeggio and then an E major pentatonic lick, that really works well to get the Bb7alt across.
And this is a great example of creating rhythmic tension just before the end of a section of the song, so that you really feel when it goes back to the A-part.
The Telephant In The Room
What, I think, often is a topic with Ed Bickert, even to the point of it overshadowing his playing, is that he primarily played a Telecaster and was one of the earliest mainstream Jazz guitarists to have that as his main instrument. In interviews, he said that he got it because he needed it for studio work and kept using it because it was in tune and easier to travel with. Ironically, he also said in an interview with Guitar Player, that he found it difficult to get a useful tone out of it and that he disliked how it quickly became muddy comparing it to what he considered the ideal tone with players like Jim Hall or George Benson.
By now, with Bill Frisell, Ted Greene, and Julian Lage we are used to telecasters as Jazz guitars.
What is maybe a bit more surprising is his choice of amp. From what I have been able to find then he often used a Roland Cube 60 as an amp. These old orange amps are solid-state amps, and while they have a sound pretty similar to a polytone they do sound really good. I have an older video on amps where I tested one together with Joram Pinxteren if you want to hear one. They do sound great, they don’t weigh a lot and they are also not super directional which is actually very nice when you play live.
Fender amps are often very directional and throw a lot of low frequencies out of the open back of the amp which just gets in the way of the bass and drums, I love the sound of Fender tube amps, but that aspect of the design is really horrible to me. Let’s get t some chord soloing!
Beautiful But Unusual Voicings
These voicings are really beautiful, and I don’t think I have heard others do this in a chord solo, it is pretty unique and sounds amazing, and after this, I’ll show you how he uses dominant voicings from the diminished scale as a practical way to sound bluesy! Ed Bickert is in this example again quoting the theme. This time quite high on the neck, probably an example of one of the advantages of a telecaster because it can stay in tune this high. But it is pretty amazing:
The voicings here are pretty open and very high register, my guitar is struggling to be in tune so far up the neck. The Gm/C bass note voicing is used over an Ebmaj7 and gives you an Ebmaj7(13) it just sounds so great. He is harmonizing the G in the melody and uses the same voicing for the Ab and then this voicing for the Bb. This is pretty practical and not too difficult to play while also sounding great and a lot more open compared to most chord solos which use Drop2 or triad-based chords most of the time. This somehow reminds me of Bill Evans but I can’t really give you a specific example of where I heard it. Let me know if you have any idea about who he checked out for this.
He also uses more standard chord voicings but then creates a different more bluesy sound.
Beautiful But Unusual Sounds
Notice how he relies on the same 3-note quartal voicing and the same rhythm to tie this together while playing some pretty out-there sounds,
and still getting some Blues in there:
So the rhythm makes this a riff, and makes it all fit together.
He is sort of going Eb7 Bb7 most of the time going from this Eb7(#9) to this Bb7(13),
This is what creates the Blues sound and still sort of fits with the original chords that move up and down the scale in steps(play),
but then he is also adding notes on top and then shifting to other variations of the 3-note voicing to get a D7(13#9) that moves to a G7(13#9) and finally a C7#9 to Fm7. It is actually pretty easy to play, and if I remember correctly then Lorne Lofsky does something very similar in his solo on “It Could Happen To You”, I am guessing he got that from Ed.
A Personal Way Interpretation Of Harmony
I really love how Ed Bickert is working with the harmony and improvising by changing chords as well as the solo lines he is playing, and this is just a 2-chorus solo on a very medium swing jazz standard. Even if this is not what most beginners are working on then it is an important part of playing Jazz, and something that you want to explore. Another guitarist that has a beautiful and personal take on harmony is a guitarist who also plays a solid-body guitar, and has a beautiful version of Days of Wine and Roses with a lot of amazing sounds.
Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:
You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:
Get the PDF!
You can also download the PDF of my examples here:
Get a free E-book
If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:
Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group
Join 15000+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.