Book Review: Jazz Guitar Etudes by Greg Fishman

jazz-guitar-etudes-fishmanJazz Guitar Etudes by Greg Fishman contains 12 jazz etudes and a CD with three practice tracks for each piece: one with the etude played on guitar, another with the etude played on tenor sax, and another with only a rhythm section. The book sells for $19.95.

Jazz Guitar Etudes is the first of two books I’m going to be reviewing that is NOT written by a guitarist. It turns out that Jazz Guitar Etudes was originally written by Chicago-based saxophonist Greg Fishman as a collection of saxophone etudes that has recently been adapted for guitar. Fortunately for us guitarists, Fishman did not simply transpose his sax studies for C instruments and leave it at that. Instead, he brought a guitarist on board. The guitar edition relies heavily on contributions from guitarist Mike Allemana who provides guitar tablature and relevant ideas of fingering and articulation options. The book also contains detailed notes from both Fishman and Allemana on how intermediate, advanced, and professional level students can use the etudes to further their improvisational skills.

Beyond these few pages of text the book gets right down to business with 12 etudes based on a variety of familiar chord progressions including blues, rhythm changes, and the changes to standard tunes such as “Alone Together”, “Body and Soul”, and “Have You Met Miss Jones”. The melodic lines in each etude are fantastic examples of classic bebop phrasing. Fishman makes the etudes thematic to a point, but doesn’t go so far as to make them sound like sound like tunes so much as really well-constructed solos that are hip and fun without ever straying from the underlying harmonies. There was obviously enough thought put into each etude that you could do an analysis of the material identifying common elements in bebop phrasing. However, just playing through the etudes will provide guitar players with a lot of great ideas to add to their vocabulary.

Once players get the etudes under their fingers they can play along with the included CD. Probably the most useful tracks to play along with are the tenor sax tracks. Playing along with Greg on the sax is a really fun and satisfying experience that will challenge your timing, tone, and articulation. Guitarists who are working to get that horn-style phrasing into their playing will especially benefit from this feature and this is the only book on the market that offers this option.

Below are videos of guitarist Mike Allemana demonstrating this feature with the etudes “Halsted Street” and “State Street”:

I really enjoyed working with this book and I hope that Greg Fishman will eventually make some of his other books available for guitarists as well. I think his books Jazz Saxophone Duets and Jazz Phrasing for Beginners would also translate particularly well for guitarists.

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