“Joy Spring” or a Joyless Frethand Mess?

So “Joy Spring” by the late great Clifford Brown is actually a pretty cool tune. The title is a little ironic given the temperature plunge in DC the past couple weeks. Also, Brown was a trumpet player and clearly didn’t write with the fretboard in mind. There’s just no ergonomically friendly way to approach the melody; you’re either stretching to grab the intervals, making liberal use of the weak 4th finger (pinky), and/or shifting position every few measures. In fact, taking on “Joy Spring” — or any tune written for another instrument — is a great exercise for guitarists, albeit with considerable frustration potential.

I’m working the tune because I was recently bumped up a level in the jazz band masterclass program, which feels really good given how much time I’ve been putting in on the instrument. It does mean a whole new repertoire though. In addition to “Joy Spring,” the group is tackling other timeless standards including “Witch Hunt,” “Nothing Personal,” “How High the Moon,” and “Moanin’.” These tunes span the swing, bop, post-bop, and modern eras, and are each challenging in their own way. As a guitarist in an ensemble context, my role is primarily rhythmic and harmonic. However, on “Joy Spring” in particular, I’ve set a personal goal of being able to keep up with the horns in belting out the melody.

Following up on my last post, the New Yorker has one of the best Jim Hall tributes I’ve read so far. Like one of Jim’s solos, it hits all the right notes and gets straight to the point. Also, if you don’t yet have any Jim Hall albums in your collection, any of the collaborations cited in the essay are a great place to start (I’m partial to “The Bridge” by Sonny Rollins).

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