I purchased lots of instructional books at that time. Matter of fact, I was obsessed with instructional material. VHS tapes, books, music magazines… anything to help me get to grips with the mysteries of music. The book puzzled me. What do I mean? All of my other instructional books presented some sort of solution.
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The foundation was still Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery, but the times called for different aesthetics.
Through studies at Berklee and gigs on the Boston and Cambridge jazz scene, these players would reshape the landscape. And they shared the same mentor, Mick Goodrick. Now 72 and thousands of students later including this writer , Goodrick has been an eminence in jazz education for half a century. He is beloved by pupils and colleagues in ways that few jazz-guitar teachers have ever been. I owe an enormous part of my way of looking at the instrument to him.
The person who is comping has the best job. That person is really the head of the rhythm section, the liaison between bass and drums and the soloist. Plus we also get to solo. A well-known drummer was on the bandstand with a bassist who displeased him. The music felt locked-in, tepid. All of a sudden Chick Corea, a master accompanist, showed up and asked if he could sit in.
The moment Corea started playing the music caught fire; his comping lit the rhythm section up. He has also applied his meticulous attention to rhythmic cells and strategies for opening up the fretboard in soloing.
The answers are rooted in the childhood he spent in Sharon, Pa. The first is that his father was an accountant and pianist, who instilled in him an early affinity not only for music but also for numbers, math and detailed research.
The second is one he is a bit reluctant to share. Goodrick discovered about eight years ago that he had a condition commonly referred to as Einstein syndrome, sometimes mistaken for autism and most often associated with children who begin speaking late. They make dictionaries and encyclopedias. Walk through a page a day, and in days your playing will have changed without you realizing it.
From Classroom to Bandstand Also a storied performer, Goodrick downplays his career on the bandstand. He joined notes together in ways I never heard before. He was the link from bebop to what lay ahead. His lyricism and gorgeous chord movement can bring an almost classical sound to a jazz tune, with long legato phrases full of hammer-ons and pull-offs.
There is a singing quality to his phrasing, and he admits that his goal as a player has always been to emulate the human voice, from his moment as a boy when he was bowled over by Elvis. It just seemed like we could both do anything we wanted. Hearing him craft his magnificent solos was inspiring and illuminating in so many ways. And two guitars [with vibes! In their duo playing, as heard on the release Live at the Jazz Standard, it can be difficult to tell who is playing what, as the lines crisscross in an endless contrapuntal stream.
And yet he retired from performing around 10 years ago. They did standards and free improv, and the music went extremely well. When it was done he felt like he was waking from a dream, as if the audience had disappeared. What is a lesson with Mick Goodrick like?
The first thing a student might notice is his sly, dry sense of humor. Though encouraging and patient with students, Goodrick is not the warm-and-fuzzy type, not a hand-holder. Enigmatic and prone to silence, he suggests but does not demand. Recently he has focused on finding ways to quiet the part of the brain that interferes with the creative process, asking students to use drawing as a tool towards that end. Drawing, he says, helps us get past our creative filters, allowing us to be more present; these exercises trick the mind into letting go of inhibitions and analytical mental structures.
Now as interested in neurology as he is in music, Goodrick asks for a drawing a day. He also recommends that his students take Zembrin, the patented, over-the-counter version of an ancient herbal supplement indigenous to South Africa that helps calm the mind. But also deep. I was curious if he remembered some of the more anarchical, arcane advice he offered this writer in And yet I sensed he had very much the same concerns 40 years ago as he does now.
As for his own practice routine, Goodrick continues to explore endlessly. His practicing often becomes research, and a new book is born. Sadly, many of the books are out of print, but the diligent seeker can still find copies. He barely moves. You feel his presence, both strong and subtle. It seems we always take up right where we left off. So when Gary asked me to join it was an important moment of mentoring. It may be harder to get that now. We gigged all the time. On the other hand the instrument is still evolving.
So there are still all these possibilities that are being explored. Catch a lesson with him while you still can. Joel Harrison is a guitarist, composer and concert producer whose most recent album is The Other River Whirlwind.
The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick
Mick Goodrick: Six-String Theorist