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Mon, 26 Sep 2016

Video: Swing expert Jonathan Stout plays 'It's Only a Paper Moon' on a 1929 Gibson L-5 at Norman's Rare Guitars, and then I keep on writing ...

Swing guitarist Jonathan Stout lays out his philosophy on swing music, the guitar, Charlie Christian, Allan Reuss, REALLY old Gibsons and Epiphones, X-bracing vs. parallel bracing and more on his Swing Guitar Blog and Campus Five YouTube channel.

His latest video was recorded on another YouTube channel because he made it at Norman's Rare Guitars in Tarzana. where Jonathan plays Harold Arlen's "It's Only a Paper Moon" on a 1929 Gibson L-5 acoustic.

Jonathan is a wonderful guitarist who explores three distinct "directions" on the guitar: swing rhythm on the acoustic archtop, swing-style chord-melody on the same instrument and Charlie Christian-style swing-to-bop soloing on the archtop electric.

They really are three different kinds of playing -- watch Jonathan's videos and see what I mean.


Adding to that, Jonathan is the comparatively rare musician who is also an adept bandleader. As he says on this nearly year-old episode of The Track, a swing-dance/music podcast (of which I've heard only a small portion at this point), he travels a few times a year around the country to play at major swing-dance competitions/events, and his main concern as a guitarist and bandleader is playing period-correct music for swing dancing.

The portion of the podcast I've heard was very illuminating, and I hope to hear the rest soon.

I was first drawn to Jonathan's videos and blog when my searches for Gibson acoustic archtop guitars turned up his "NGD" (aka "New Guitar Day") videos on his 1935 Gibson L-12, 1932 Gibson L-5 and 1932 Epiphone De Luxe. If you're a guitar nut, especially when it comes to archtops (and especially acoustic archtops), you can learn a lot from these videos about what makes a guitar suited to playing swing rhythm with a band and solo chord melody. He also goes into the way he likes to amplify the acoustic archtop on stage and why an electric guitar -- even an archtop electric -- is a poor choice for swing rhythm. I learned a lot and after that enjoyed many videos of Jonathan playing solo chord melody versions of swing-era standards.

Among the things I took away from Jonathan's videos are the big and little things that make different guitars play and sound different, and why he gravitates toward instruments made in the early years of the swing era.

Before I close out this post, it's also worth mentioning the fact that Jonathan is a bandleader. He can book a gig with more than a couple kinds of small groups, or a full big band, and he is capable of taking those bands on the road. He also has a day job as a lawyer. I'm exploring how musicians of all kinds practice their art and craft, both from a creative and financial perspective, and delving into how musicians create, live and make a living.

Meanwhile, enjoy this video and the many more on YouTube.

It's also worth mentioning that this particular video was recorded at and presented by Norman's Rare Guitars. I've been watching their videos for a few months now, and the enormous inventory coupled with the stream of famous players visiting the shop makes for compelling videos just about every weekday. I'm almost afraid to go to the shop because I'm neither moneyed enough or playing enough to justify spending many thousands of dollars on vintage guitars (and I have a couple of very nice instruments that are "vintage" by virtue of the fact that I bought them more than 30 years ago when they were cheaper and I was playing enough.

What I'm trying to say in such a roundabout way is that Jonathan has inspired me to play more, even though I have a long, long way to go if I hope to get through an entire jazz standard on my own, much less with a group of other players.