Crossroads

robertjohnson02_200Robert Johnson was born probably on May 8th, 1911, to Julia Major Dodds. He was her 11th child, but was illegitimate, as Julia’s husband had been forced to leave town, and she had taken up with a man named Noah Johnson. John Lennon’s mother was also named Julia, and I have always loved the song he wrote for her, “Julia.” I just noticed that I had a little book called Searching for Robert Johnson by Peter Guralnick, and I was browsing through it. It just caught my eye. A while back I was going to make a project of learning some Robert Johnson songs, and I learned some, but then I got off track. Maybe I need to get back to it.

At the moment I am listening to Brad Mehldau. I love his piano playing. I have some favorites on a playlist, and he plays a lot of my favorite Jazz standards, like “I Concentrate on You,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “It’s All Right With Me,” and “Countdown,” which is by John Coltrane. Brad also likes to play Beatles songs, and makes them into new Jazz standards. “Blackbird,” “Dear Prudence,” and “Junk,” by Paul McCartney are a few of these that I like. Well, “Blackbird” is also by Paul, but he wrote it when he was still a Beatle. You know what I would like to hear? Mehldau doing “Julia.”

There are just certain chords that these songs use that I really like. “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” is by Richard Rodgers, and I at one time analyzed the tune and chords and there was some kind of really modern thing about it, like I think it might have been a minor 11th chord, but it sounds really nice. You know, Lester Young recorded it, and that was a long time ago, but I think that he was moved by the really pretty chords as I was.

Now, a friend of mine was showing me how she could almost play “Blackbird” but maybe would need to go over it a bit, as she hadn’t quite remembered how it went, exactly. I got the tablature for it and watched a YouTube video, and there were some interesting things about it that I noticed. First, the G string is played open on the offbeats throughout. Also, the meter changes constantly, and by that I mean that there is a steady beat but there might be a bar of 4 beats followed by a bar of 3 beats. A lot of time the D string is muted, and then you just pluck two notes but then your index finger flicks down and plays the open G and other non muted strings on the off beat. OK. I was really going to woodshed this song but the woman in question has departed from my concerns and my heart, never to return. So, I will learn “Blackbird” but it is on the back burner for now, since it only reminds me of her, and I am doing so well at forgetting her. No, really I am. Who? Can’t even remember her name.

I am working on a guitar project and today I advanced and made some new connections. I really can’t explain it to you, but it is just a way of seeing how certain chords are connected, and how many different ways you can play certain chord progressions in different inversions up and down the neck. There is a grid of diminished chords and if you just raise or lower a note of two, it transforms from one chord to another. Oh, well.

Had to take my saxophone back to Nick Rail Music because it had a little problem. The drag is they quarantine the instruments and then there is another week or so waiting. Well, it should give me time to finish my guitar quest. Searching for the patterns that unlock the mystery of harmony. The good news is that they will probably fix it at no additional charge because they just finished working on it, so it was supposed to be all good to go.

Well, it is time for me to take a walk and see how much the moon has waned. Ta ta.

Searching for Robert Johnson

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