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Joey DeFrancesco's Concepts for Improvisation (Piano with online audio) Paperback – January 1, 1999
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When I first received this book, I flipped through it and was initially disappointed. There was very little text or explanation and what was written wasn't written by Joey D. However after listening to the CD and working through it, I really dig it. The part that Joey contributes is the only part that really matters.
Here is the deal, this book is basically a baby step on the way to transcribing solos and analyzing them. What you get is a CD with containing two versions of each track. The first is Joey playing both the bass line and solo/lead with a light sounding drum machine and the second features just the drum track and Joey's left hand bass line, like a play along track. The book features a transcription of Joey's playing for each full track.
You get four two-chorus solos for the blues (plus three versions of each solo in different keys so you end up with recordings and transcriptions for the blues in all 12 keys). You get 10 tracks of bebop style licks over II-V, II-V-I, III-VI-II-V-I progressions (each track moves through all twelve keys). And finally you get two full songs recorded and transcribed, one blues and one bebop style tune.
Now here is the good Baby Step part. For the blues, Joey gives you a two chorus blues solo built on Dorian Scales. The next version Joey adds in use of the whole tone scale. The next he uses the Half diminished and the last one he uses the blues scale. Each one is progressive and incorporates material from the prior solos. Culminating in the full blues tune which contains extensive use of all of the stuff, Dorian, Whole-Tone, Half diminished and Blues... On the tracks it is real easy to hear what Joey is doing on the organ since there is only a light cymbal track mixed in and the tempos are nice and easy at around 1/4 note = 120 so you can hear everything Joey is doing without having to slow it down or anything. Note that for each solo Dorian, Whole-Tone, etc. there are three versions recorded in different keys. They are basically the same solo transposed. In the book they are the same but Joey recorded three different versions for each solo because there is a note or two different that the book doesn't pick up. The book says that Joey wants you to be proficient in all keys which is why they recorded and wrote out all of the solos in different a different key. They say most books just publish one and tell you to transpose it on your own but most people won't do it unless it is already transposed.
Now for the real baby step... Having the solos written out takes the work out of transcribing, but it means that you can go right in and easily learn the solo, getting it under your fingers and also you can go right in and start analyzing the solo. What makes it even easier is that you have an idea of what he is doing. For example the first solo is all Dorian, the second is Dorian plus WholeTone, the third all that plus half diminished, etc. So you have a great hint at what he is doing and the solos are simple but good, making it easy to analyze especially compared to transcribing a solo on your own where you have no idea what the guy is trying to do and you have to figure it all out.
This book will help you get started by making it easy and helping you because of the straight forward solo style and after getting these solos under your fingers and doing the analysis you'll see how rewarding and great transcribing can be and how much faster you learn stuff, plus you'll have a good foundation to either transcribing on your own or getting a book of transcriptions, say like the Charlie Parker Omnibook, and analyzing on your own.
With the bebop section, Joey starts out with a two bar II-V lick and each track expands a bit going to II-V-I, III-VI-II-V etc... There aren't a lot of licks here but working though all twelve keys will take some time and really get you feeling it in your fingers.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for something on how to improvise. The text consists of only a paragraph or two for each section and doesn't really describe how to do much, the real meat of this book is the CD and the transcriptions. The solos sound good and are rhythmically good too. Once you start learning the short solos in different keys you'll start to assimilate the phrasing. Also one obvious thing not really mentioned anywhere in the book, but not only is Joey's solo transcribed but also his bassline. So you can also learn some stuff about left hand walking bass and constructing bass lines from the CD and transcriptions. The book doesn't mention anything about it but it is all written out and plus you have bassline only tracks to listen to where you can hear what Joey's doing loud and clear. Don't be discouraged by the text which is really basic and you can find better detailed info for free on the web. The easy to follow solos on the CD and transcriptions are where it is really at. Highly Recommended.
One last thing just an FYI, this book really only covers soloing and doesn't have any info on chord voicing or anything. They show you how to make basic root position chords in the Bebop section to describe II-V's and stuff but no real info on voicing. Also this book is great for pianists to not just organ lovers...
I'm kind of embarrassed that Joey signed off on this project as it is, because I hold him in the highest of esteem. I think the serious student would be better off transcribing a portion of one solo of Joey's they particularly admire. I think you'd get the licks and a more accurate understanding of what's he's doing than this book can give you.
I bought this hoping for the fast lane to Joey-land. The transcriptions are just too computer-cheesy. The motivated student could (and should) correct the computer's work, but caveat emptor. But, if you think buying this book will in some way support Joey, then it's worth sending some $ his way. Jazz cannot be a very easy way to make a living...