Shawn Purcell – 5 Desert Island Album Picks

Regardless if you’re a beginning student of Jazz Guitar or an established player, we all have at least five albums that we cannot be without! With that said, Jazz Guitar Life has asked Jazz Guitarist Shawn Purcell what his five would be (assuming that he knew before hand that he was going to be stuck on a desert island and that said island had electricity and a full component stereo system) 🙂

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Wow, picking 5 desert albums is quite a challenging, yet fun, endeavor!  I could easily pick 5 important albums from every important period of my musical career, each album playing an important role in some aspect of my development as a musician and guitarist.  So, I’ve decided to pick 5 albums that I discovered at the beginning of my jazz guitar journey.  All of these records found their way into my life between my senior year in high school and sophomore year in college!  I hope you enjoy these picks!

Shawn Purcell

1) Pat Martino – Footprints (Originally released as “The Visit” 1972 Cobblestone):  What can I say, Pat Martino is my all-time favorite jazz guitarist.  An absolute guitar hero to me!  This was actually my first Pat LP, and it completely blew my mind as a teenager, and it still does!  I’ve transcribed many of the solos off of this record to assimilate Pat’s amazing lines and jazz language, but I have to admit I was initially taken in by his tone on this album.  So dark and thick, but with a wonderful clarity and attack to it!  I’ve been chasing this tone my entire life!  The warmth of Pat’s tone is also matched by “rhythm guitarist” Bobby Rose.  A quartet with 2 guitars, bass and drums is a rare occurrence, and this record not only affected me in a linear way as an improvising musician, but also had a profound impact on my conception of comping!  Pat is other worldly on this record, but Bobby Rose arguably plays a nearly equal role in the overall “sound” of this record.  The tunes are great as well from Pat’s original “The Visit,” dedicated to his hero, Wes Montgomery, to compositions ranging from Wayne Shorter to Antonio Carlos Jobim.  “What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” is perhaps one of the most powerful tracks, and is a masterclass on ballad playing.

2) Mike Stern – Time in Place (1988 – Atlantic Records):  Mike Stern was “IT” when I first arrived at Duquesne University for my undergraduate degree!  I found this LP scouring a local record shop in downtown Pittsburgh, and I had no idea how important this find would be!  I was a “metal-head” in high school, so to hear this ridiculously heavy-weight jazz guitarist playing a telecaster with overdrive, delay and octave effects spoke to me immediately!  This record has it all; world-class band, virtuosic guitar playing, masterful bebop lines, killing blues/rock bends and language and the tunes are great!  No matter what genres you’re into, “Chromazone” is a must hear for any guitarist, or musician.  Wes Montgomery pioneered the “three-tier” solo concept with single notes, octaves and block-chord style playing.  Stern pioneered a more modern, sonic approach to this technique by going from clean to slightly gritty to full-on overdrive with loads of great “rock-isms.”  I think “Upside Downside” was a pivotal record for a lot of folks, but for me “Time in Place” was THE record!  It showed us up and coming jazz guitarists that we could incorporate all of the effects and textures of our rock heroes while staying playing more traditional bebop style language!

3) John Scofield – Time on My Hands (1990 – Blue Note):  WOW, this record really changed everything for me in college!  John Scofield’s comping is in my humble opinion second to none.  His 2-3 note intervallic and clustery voicings blew me away!  Such a different sound than all of the more traditional players I was listening to!  Sco taught me how awesome the Major 7th, minor 2nd and Major 2 intervals are, and how useful they can be!  Sco’s comping under Joe Lovano is so powerful throughout this record.  The biggest thing I learned from this record is that the soloist and instrumentalist providing harmony have an equal say in the musical conversation.  His voicings, rhythms and sounds really help take the soloist in a different direction, and I’ve always loved that and tried to adopt that attitude when laying down chords underneath a horn player or vocalist!  Also, the contrary and oblique motion diads incorporated in Scofield’s playing are so unique, and make his playing instantly recognizable.  This record also taught me the beauty of legato, and the importance of developing a strong left hand to create “slippery” sounding lines.  Sonically speaking, the use of overdrive and the heavy leslie-type chorus also are highlights when checking out John Scofield.  “So Sue Me” and “Wabash III” are real stand-outs on this record.

4) Doug Raney – Guitar, Guitar, Guitar (1985 – Steeplechase records):  Doug is often overshadowed by his father, the wonderful bebop guitarist Jimmy Raney, but Doug is every bit as great when speaking of navigating complex chord changes with a beautiful tone and relaxed swing feel.  I had been exposed to Jimmy as a teenager, and I happened on this record and purchased it just because Doug was Jimmy’s son.  I was not prepared for how killing Doug was!  I transcribed and stole so much language from this record I should have sent Doug a huge thank you note!  Doug’s mastery of the jazz language is up there with the best bebop and hard bop improvisers of any period!  Doug, like Jimmy, also truly phrased in a horn-like manner with accents on up-beats slurring into downbeats.  This was something I hadn’t had much exposure to at that point in my musical life, and Doug’s phrasing taught me as much as his soloing on this record!  This album also had an impact on my concept of guitar trio playing.  Doug used chords sparingly, and really took on a front-line single-note horn role on this one.  There are some great jazz tunes and standards on this record, including “Solar,” “I Thought About You,” and “My Old Flame.”  In specific regard to the study of jazz improvisation, Charlie Parker’s “Perhaps” is a stand-out for me! 

5) Pat Metheny – Question and Answer (1990 – Geffen Records):  Another guitar trio record that blew me away!  Although “Bright Size Life” would eventually have a similar impact, I found this record first!  I was the house theater guitarist at Cedar Point amusement park the summer of my freshman year, and the band was filled with some great young musicians from Indiana University.  So, I was really delving into the great bop players and their language at this time.  I found this record at a local CD shop in Sandusky, OH and my concept of playing was forever changed!  Metheny’s heavy utilization of chromaticism was such an inspiration to me!  His use of the pentatonic scale based on other scale degrees to achieve unique sonic colors showed me that pentatonic wasn’t just reserved for blues and rock styles!  Harmonically speaking, Metheny is so free on this record, and his rhythm section of Dave Holland and Roy Haynes helps keep things open sounding!  Pat’s tone on this album reminded me a little of 70’s Pat Martino in that it was very warm and dark, but the attack still had a certain clarity to it.  This is another example of guitarist adopting a mostly single-note style in a guitar trio setting!  Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this record was hearing Pat Metheny play jazz tunes and standards such as “Solar,” a blistering version of “All The Things You Are,” and one of the stand-outs to me, “Old Folks.”  Pat’s ballad playing on this ballad is beyond stunning and his concept of time and phrasing is so refreshing and unique.

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