Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jazzy Ukulele: Jazz Standards Book by Glen Rose Really Delivers

Having spent the past 30-odd years being disappointed by music books that promised everything from easy theory to mastery of the fretboard, I can finally say I have found one that delivers. If you can follow directions for how to place your fingers on the fingerboard, the Jazzy Ukulele Workbook, written by musician and teacher Glen Rose, takes your from zero to “Autumn Leaves” in the first ten pages. No exaggeration, no kidding, no disappointment.

An accomplished performing pianist, jazz guitar player, ukulele artist and teacher (to name just a few of his musical talents), Rose’s Jazzy Ukulele Workbook eschews theory and concentrates on practicality. “I wanted to get the ideas across without the theory. Most people just want to play as simply as possible,” said Rose.

Based on his popular guitar book, Play Jazz with Just Six Chords, Jazzy Ukulele shows how many of the popular jazz standards, such as “Fly Me to The Moon,” share a couple of basic chord groupings that, once mastered, allow ukulele players to immediately expand their classic jazz repertoire.

According to Rose, to play jazz, you need to stop thinking of chords in isolation. “Jazz players think of chords in little family groupings of two, three or four chords,” writes Rose. “These groupings are chords that are usually (but not always) linked together because they naturally flow into each other to produce the jazz sound.”

After learning what Rose calls the Major and Minor Jazz patterns, each with their own ending or resolution chords (the common ii-V-I progression, which, thankfully, Rose does not bother us with), you move on to playing “Autumn Leaves.” While Rose admits that proficiency with the song will depend on what each of us “brings to the table,” the book is devoid of fluff or theory that would only get in the way of the practical task of learning songs. This progression is so common, and so easy to learn, I was immediately playing other jazz songs that use it.

For an example of Rose’s wonderful teaching style, take a look at his Lesson 1 on YouTube:

You can also see Rose teaching “Autumn Leaves” at:

Rose also introduces us to jazz vamps (short chord progressions that are played over and over again, such as “Ain’t She Sweet”), music for other songs including “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Mack The Knife,” and a very handy chart showing chords you can “swap” for difficult or advanced chords that you will encounter in other jazz charts and “fake books.” For example, if you see a G7#11 and have no idea of how to play it, the chart shows that you can swap it for a G7 and still sound right. This is especially important for ukulele, whose four strings make it impossible to form some these chords. Rose is not asking you to understand the “whys” of all of this. He’s just showing you how to avoid freaking out when the music calls for a G7sus11.

As Rose mentions in his videos, he is a firm believer in using low-G tuning for jazz. “It makes more musical sense from bottom to top, if you want to hear the sound of the chords, especially in ballads,” advises Rose. Of course, Rose understands how some people prefer the high-G. “From a jazz point of view,” said Rose, “it is odd having that high string, but for classical it’s amazing, and maybe the same could be done with jazz.”

“I guess if someone starts out [with a high g], it’s about what you’re used to,” continued Rose. “If you started with that, you can make it work.”

While Rose leaves out the theory, he’s paid his dues and knows his stuff. Coming from a musical background—his father was a violinist did orchestration for Hollywood films, working with such screen greats as Nelson Riddle and Quincy Jones—Rose has also worked as a copyist in Hollywood and worked on the Star Wars score with John Williams. Trained as a classical piano player, he appreciates many types of music and spent a number of his younger days in rock bands. Rose became interested in jazz in his early twenties, influenced by the work of such greats as Erroll Garner.

Over the years, Rose has also authored a book on music calligraphy, taught in college, played European cabarets for about ten years, and wrote commercial jingles. He is most famous for his well-reviewed American Songwriter Series performances, which consist of nine shows highlighting the music of composers including Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, The Gershwin Brothers, Irving Berlin, and Rogers and Hart.

Rose started playing ukulele about 16 years ago. “It just sort of grew on me,” said Rose, “and I fell in love with it.” Rose not only takes the ukulele on the road with him, but has incorporated it in his American Songwriter shows.

Rose attributes the ukulele’s newfound popularity to its small size and ease of play. “A beginner can play almost immediately,” said Rose. “It can be a bit of challenge to create chords with just four strings, but that limitation is more of a strength than a weakness.”

Rose is pleased with sales of his book, orders for which have come from all over the western world. “I’m getting a great response from people,” said Rose. “It seems to work; people are learning something from it.”

Rose also has two other ukulele books. Classic Jazz Standards for Ukulele helps you add to your repertoire with charts for a number of songs, including “Over The Rainbow,” “Nearness of You,” “Lady is A Tramp,” “How High the Moon,” and “Summer Wind.”  Rose's Bossa Nova Classics lets you expand into Latin rhythms and includes such tunes such as “Girl from Ipanema,” “A Day in The Life of A Fool,” “Wave,” and “One Note Samba.”

Guitar players may want to check out the intriguingly titled Play Jazz Guitar with Just Six Chords.

Each of Rose's books, available as e-book PDF downloads, are very reasonably priced at only $11 each and are available at his Jazzy Ukulele website.

-Lamb Chop

1 comment:

  1. All the links in this article lead to the Jazzy Ukulele book, and I can't find where you can get "Classic Jazz Standards" and "Bossa Nova Classics".

    Otherwise I'm looking forward to learning from Glen's books!