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Chris Grey BIO PAGE

A Guitarist

My father played trumpet as a boy, until his trumpet was stolen, and my mother played violin all through school. She developed a high shoulder and gave up some time after high school. My sister played folk songs on guitar, which I loved, so naturally I took the first opportunity presented to play also. I started in second grade with a four string Martin flat top. After a year or so, when my hands were bigger, I switched to a nylon six string. My mother made sure I took lessons at school during the school year, and didn't bother me during the summer break.

My parents listened to Jazz (Miles, Coltrane, Ellington etc), Classical, Broadway Shows, Bob Dylan, Pete Seger, Joan Baez, Woody Guthery. They also listened to Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross the famous vocal trio that wrote lyrics to big band arrangements and solos so they would have some words to sing while performing the original solos from recordings. LH&R did a tune called Jackie about a mouse that was hip. My sister Jackie loved it and it became a household joke. My parents and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross started it for me. I just didn't know it was Jazz yet.

I went to a small private school in Menlo Park California, Penninsula School. There were 15 to 21 students per class. It was started by Quakers and the theory of teaching was very free and independent; therefore it was run by Beatniks and there was a lot of American Folk Music.

The school also had a program to introduce students to music lessons and instruments in general. Two weeks on Violin, two weeks on Clarinet, and two weeks on Trumpet. I already played guitar, so I went through the intro program and went back to guitar. My brother picked Clarinet.

So there we were, a musical family of sorts. My brother practiced his and I mine. It didn't last long, like most young kids I lost interest at some point and was ready to quit. My mother insisted since I started it, I was now to stick with the lessons during the school year and take the summers off from practice and lessons until I was in High School. The lessons with the school teacher were small group lessons at first. We learned to read on the first few strings in open position, and simple open chords. The reading was real simple basic stuff, and chords were applied to folk song after folk song. I remember the magazine Sing Out and reprints from Sing Out. Sing Out was a main source of printed Folk Songs and still is to this day http://www.singout.org.

I remember faking being sick, and really being sick from time to time, to get out of guitar lessons just like a kid would. Once when I had been sick and hadn't worked on my lesson, my father brought home some 8 1/2X11 paperback books of scores by Beethoven - all 9 symphonies, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. My teacher showed up on schedule and showed me how to listen to the records and follow the themes that were marked with arrows. So my parents must have known my interest was dwindling and made some attempts to kindle more interest. At some point I got some score paper and colored pencils, and tried to imitate scoring in my own symphonies. I never tried to play any of them and don't know what happened to them.

So the folk songs continued until the Beatles came out. After that I was hooked again on music and guitar. I started lessons at the local guitar store with a good teacher that played Surf music like the Ventures and other instrumental stuff that was popular then. I got this Japanese electric at first with horrible action. Then for a short while I took blue grass banjo lessons from Gerry Garcia. The Dead, then a Jug band, were teaching at the same store, just Gerry and Bob Weir. After a little banjo I switched to lessons with Bob Weir to appease my interest in rock. I don't think my parents cared what the music was as long as I stuck with it. I was in seventh grade by now, almost in high school.

Bob Weir was really into Keith Richards, so he taught me all the rhythm and some leads from the first few Rolling Stones records. Almost right away Bob Weir told my father I would progress better and faster if I had a good electric, and that we could find deals in the pawn shops on 3rd street in San Francisco. So my father brought home a sunburst Gibson 335 that had been played by a Greek guy before. It was in great shape so off I went playing Rolling Stones stuff. Bob Weir worked right with the record and wrote out leads in tablature, and we played the songs together during the lessons. Then came the Electric Coolaid Acid Test, and the Dead put out there first record and left town for LA. Around this time I had a friend who had some ideas about music but didn't play. He told me the Beatles got there music from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly and took me across the freeway into East Menlo Park to Charm Records Store. It was in a divided building where half was Charm Beauty Shop and the other half was Charm Records. You could go in there and pick up anything on the Chess and Checker Labels, which were the labels Chuck Barry and Bo recorded on. We also got way into Soul music and Ray Charles.

After the Dead took off I started lessons with a Blues teacher, Rick Massina, just as I entered High School. He showed me the basic blues scales, worked with records showing me solo's by rote. We also just played blues progressions and took solos, and he did a repeat after him thing lick for lick. Rick was one of the mest teachers I every had. He just had a nack for teaching. He was very encouraging and told me I should improvise more.
For a little while my friends and I had a Blues band and played at High School dances. Every week the band used a different name.
Greg Segor sang the vocals. He sounded just like Paul Butterfield. Once I remember showing up at the high school gym and there was a big banner that said the Chris Grey Blues Band. Next week it had someone else's name on it.

First Jazz
By the end of my second year in High School I leaned away from rock and blues looking for something else. My teacher Rick told me to take lessons from his old teacher, Vern Older, and learn something about Jazz. Vern didn't teach improvisation, but he had me reading violin studies on guitar, teaching me to read by position in different keys, and taught me an approach to chord melody. Each week I had to play the violin study I had worked on for him. He then commented on technique and added another study as needed. He also had me write out in standard notation one chord melody a week of some standard. He taught me the chords by giving me a chart of each chord tone harmonized on the first and second strings, with a few choices of voicing. I also worked on learning big band style rhythm chords and reading charts from a Mel Bay book that was very good. At some point the store owner invited me to play in a Wednesday night kicks band playing Basie and other swing charts. So I learned to read big band charts.

More Jazz
By this time I was about 16. I had learned basic chord melody, lots of reading by position in most keys using movable scale fingerings (a basic version of the five fingerings). I was taking a recommended correspondence course in big band arranging from the Berklee School of music, that is unfortunately no long offered. I think the course was about $135 for the whole course. My parents paid for it. I still had no idea how to improvise through changes, but I was buying records almost every week. Wes Montgomery, Chuck Wain, Johnny Smith etc. I was taking simple solos off the records and trying to sound just like the record. I listened to everything I had heard of. Benny Goodman, Django Rhinehart, Buddy Franco, Zoot Sims. I bought a Columbia collection of just about everything Billie Holiday every recorded. This brought me in touch with many standards. I was always striving to figure out what the newer Jazz was, but I didn't really have a clue. I discovered Jim Hall and Pat Martino, Grant Green and many others. Wes Montgomery was always my favorite.

Then Bill Courtial came to town and bought the guitar store from the owner. So I started lessons with him and after a year he asked me and two other students to teach in the store. Bill grew up musically, so to speak, with George Benson and Pat Martino. Bill said they were always comparing notes and watching each others gigs when they were in town. Bill said if Pat was standing up while playing on the gig, then George would stand on his. If one was sitting then they had to sit etc.

By this time I was starting get into Miles, Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson etc.

Teaching and Bill
Bill wanted me to teach what ever I could and I knew theory so I could teach scales etc. He wanted me to teach mostly beginning students, unless they were Jazz students, and he said basic beginning classical guitar was something we could offer students. I said I don't know any classical guitar technique or anything and that I couldn't do it. So Bill showed me a few finger style techniques, he had a degree in performance on classical guitar. He gave me the first Arron Shear classical guitar book and said I could sell each student a book, while he rented them a guitar, and all I had to do was stay a few pages ahead of the student in the book. I didn't think it would work but I stayed ahead of them and took some pointers from another teach in the store who played classical. It worked fine.

Bill taught me more chord melody, but more from an arranging point of view with repeat after me sessions and I tried to learn one standard a week.
Bill used a lot of reharmonization techniques. I knew some ideas of substituting chords so it seemed natural to me. I followed his concepts by ear and learned to stretch my ears looking for moving voice opportunities and ways to lead the tonality often changing many sections of the changes by ear. A constant search for the perfect change (chord).

He also showed me scale fingerings adding diminished and whole tone (augmented sounds) to what I knew. He showed me how to block out progressions by key and solo in that major scale for each key center that you block into a given key. [This is a horizontal approach to playing changes. A vertical approach is where you use a different scales for each chord.] So this was really cool until I resolved on a I chord. The major scales for the key centers worked well but it didn't really come together completely. So he gave me a copy of The Lydain Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization by George Russell and said this is "The Book". This is where I learned what to do with I chords using the #11 instead of the 4th. Bill taught me fingerings that he had for all the Lydian Scales in the Concept.
I listened to Wes real close and heard what he was doing with the extensions. For some reason I got it. Maybe I was just young and it went in easy, but I got it and I read the rest of the Lydain Concept starting a life long effort in hearing and exploring, and an intellectual pursuit of music.

At this time I was about 17 and a half. I had a Johnny Smith Gibson guitar. I went to the West Coast Jazz Band Camps two years in a row. They were run by Leon Breadon from North Texas State, Berklee School of Music faculty, and William Fowler director from Utah State and Brigham Young. I think they told me one day everyone in the music department walked out of Brigham Young and went down the street to Utah State. I don't really remember. I met William Fowler's sons Tom, Bruce, Walt, and Steve at the camps. They are great players to this day. William Fowler played Jazz guitar and had an old archtop with a D'Armond floating pickup on it. I think it was an L5. He showed me his concepts of Major scale fingerings by tetra-chord, all block chords on three different sets of strings in all inversions and how to work them out, same on two different sets of string for drop 2 chords (a more open voicing) in all inversions, and a chart of altered notes to apply to 7th chords with root on the sixth string and 5th string. Invaluable information. The cool part was not memorizing them but knowing how to work them out systematically.

I played in strip clubs with an organ player who had a B-3 named Tippy Jackson. He was a High School drop out who played by ear only. He used to show me the structure of a Soul tune or Jazz tune by Richard Goove Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff etc., by playing the bass line and a few inner voices. We did Green Onions, Goin' Out of My Head, I heard it though the grape vine etc.

Continuing Jazz
After High School I went to the College of San Mateo and took every music class I could for 5 semesters. I played in the big band under Dick Crest, Guss Gustison, and Fred Barry.
I studied guitar with David Bradley a graduate from the Berklee School of Music in Boston. From David I learned more about imitating Piano voicings, complex altered voicings, improvise with scales the way they taught at Berklee. It was a simple system. Dorian, Mixolydian for II V's. Didn't really address the I chord too much, only adding the #11. Used Melodic minor for the V chord starting on the fifth of the chord to get the #11, and melodic minor starting on the b9th of the chord to get the altered V7 chord, or the tri-tone substitution bII7,9,#11,13. At the Jazz band camps I had learned about applying extensions to chords and supper imposing major and minor triads to get different altered chords and altered sounds. I also learned this from the Berklee School correspondence course. There was a Jerry Cooker book out on supper imposing triads and altered chords at that time as well.
David also should me how to play arrangements of Chick Corea tunes using piano like voicings and altered voicings. David was really into Zen at the time and his arrangements sounded a lot like Chick on guitar. David could play Now He Sings Now He Sobs by Chick. It was really impressive. David also played complex arrangements of standards using all of the voicings like in a big band arrangement or as a piano player would voice chords.

I went on to Studied with another guy in SF named Dave Smith that did a lot of gigs in the SF bay area. He taught me sight reading from Sax books, and techniques in creating chord melody arrangements in block chords when sight reading the melody to standards. He emphasized voice leading. So he had a method for keeping it simple, and in block voicings, so you can sight read the melody and harmonize it at the same time.

Then I went on to the great Don Haas and learned his 15 rules of chord substitution that he was into at the time. He also taught acquired perfect pitch. Don had a theory that the human ear can either hear of not hear. There is nothing that has to do with the ability to hear pitch. It's all conditioning. So I had to practice all chord progressions in all 12 keys on the the piano. Using four voices and six voices and sing the missing note leaving out one voice at a time. So I ended up doing this four hours a day for two years. I had to play all 12 scales major and minor, melodic and harmonic minor scales every day.
We also did arrangements using the chord substitutions and bebop tunes with melody in the right hand and grip voicings in the left.

Then I studied with Art Lande. His main emphasis was how you view yourself in the music. Playing entire tunes with bass line the 3rd and the 7th and the melody on top (just 4 voices), on your own instrument or piano if you liked. In a cycle of fifths, the 7th had to resolve to the 3rd of the next chord and the 3rd stayed common to the chord following that etc. Following all the basic rules of voicing leading. He also taught concepts of how to internalize the time and pulse by doing physical exercises in tempo. He taught concepts of improve with no tune at all, turn out the lights and play the house at night, a group thing.

I cannot forget about Jackie King. He was a real intuitive teacher. I studied with him briefly right before he went to LA to teach at the Howard Roberts school. From Jackie King I learned what to do with fingerings and how to get around the neck. How to link fingerings through chord changes in ways that made it easier. How to associate scale fingerings with chord fingerings. I realized he was doing the convert to minor thing. He taught me directional fingerings and minor scale riff's that merged into whole tone and out again. I knew the fingerings, but he just had a way about presenting the information that rubbed off. I met Bruce Forman hanging out at Jackie's studio when he was 19. Bruce was awesome then. For some reason, it was just Jackie Kings way, it all came together for me all at once. Maybe I was just ready.

After nine years of teaching guitar and playing music I decided to do something else. I was young and felt I had spent most of my time on music and wanted a break. So I stopped playing for 15 years and created a career in data processing.
Pat Metheny came out the year I stopped playing. I regretted quitting later and thought I might go back some day, but we don't always choose the right thing at the right time or it is or isn't right. It doesn't mater now except that working 40 hours a week takes up a lot of my time.

Fifteen years later I started a road back to playing music, and although I don't have a lot of time for it, it develops every year and shows progress. George Russell finally finished the first volume of his rewrite of the Lydian Concept, so I am studying it all over again. In the 15 years I didn't play music I put a lot of thought into the Lydian Concept and other musical ideas, and there was this lick... Dadl ladl ladl... I always said if I start playing again I'm going to play that. When I started playing again I did some things differently than I had in the past with study and practice, and my practical approach to music.

After 3 years I almost gave up and then discovered Toninho Horta. Listening to his music saved me and showed me a road I had always seen but it just never was the way I did things. I don't sound anything like him but he showed me the road to my music in his. It was the voice leading. Thanks Toniho you are truly a great guitarist, one of the great players that plays from the heart. Check my Jazz links page for his web site and read everything you can that you find there. Listen to every recording you can of Toninho Horta.

One of the main reasons I started playing again was nightmares. During the last 3 years, before I started playing again, they got worse and worse. I dreamed and relived failures and just found myself playing. After 3 years I just had to start playing again I didn't choose. I don't know if I wanted to, I am sure I did, but that is not why I started again. I was compelled to play. I have no intention of ever stopping again unless it is just not possible, and then I believe I would arrange if I couldn't play. Playing is facing yourself and all your weaknesses, self discovery, and facing your fears. It gets easier and better.

Page Last Updated: January 9, 2012 | Email: cgrey0224@comcast.net

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