Ted Greene was an absolute master of improvisation and chord melody.
|Born||September 26, 1946|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||July 25, 2005(aged 58)|
|Genres||Rock, blues, jazz|
|Associated acts||Bluesberry Jam, Fito de la Parra, The Nomads, The Purple Gang|
Greene began his own guitar studies at the age of 11, and was an accomplished player while still in high school, occasionally collaborating with local rock and R&B bands. He briefly studied accounting at California State University, Northridge, but dropped out to devote his time to music.
In the 1960s he was a member of the rock band Natural Selection and a blues rock group called Bluesberry Jam, which included future Canned Heat drummer Fito de la Parra. He was a friend and collaborator with Joseph Byrd, on whose Columbia Masterworks album The American Metaphysical Circus he was featured (he also provided the whimsical name of the studio band who performed it, "The Field Hippies"). During the late 1960s and early 1970s he did commercial studio work with Byrd. He was again called on in 1977 to provide guitar tablature for three arrangements of Bix Beiderbecke's piano music for the Ry Cooder album Jazz, which Byrd arranged and produced.
Although Greene is often regarded as a jazz musician, he played many musical styles. He was known to guitarists for his role as a music educator, which included private teaching, seminars at the Guitar Institute of Technology, columns for Guitar Player magazine, and his instructional books on harmony, chord melody, and single-note soloing. A voracious reader of almost any book on music theory, especially from the common practice period (circa 1600–1900) he distilled complex concepts regarding the structure of western music and would write out more accessible versions for students to understand (handed out to students in the form of lesson "sheets"), often applying keyboard concepts to the guitar. For example, many transcriptions of the chorales of J. S. Bach would be re-written for guitar with useful analysis applicable to any musical setting
Greene typically worked as a vocal accompanist, which he preferred because he found group settings restrictive. While he was a sought-after session musician, he derived much of his income from tutoring. He wrote four books on the subject of jazz guitar performance and theory: Chord Chemistry, Modern Chord Progressions: Jazz and Classical Voicings for Guitar, and the two-volume Jazz Guitar: Single Note Soloing.
His playing style included techniques such as harp-like arpeggios combined with gentle, tasteful neck vibrato, creating a "shimmer" to his sound. Other notable techniques included playing songs with a walking bass line with simultaneous melodies. Greene used counterpoint to improvise in a variety of styles, playing, for instance, a jazz standard such as Autumn Leaves in Baroque style. He used a large variety of chord voicings, often creating the effect of two simultaneous players.
Although not well known to the public, Greene was respected by guitarists. Guitarist Steve Vai has praised Greene's musical knowledge and perceptiveness on Solo Guitar, stating that Greene "is totally in touch with the potential of harmonic constructions" which allows him to create an "organic and inspired listening delight." In a 1982 discussion with Robert Fripp, John McLaughlin described Greene as "really unbelievable", noting that "it's so difficult to move around on a guitar in the harmonic way one can do on a keyboard...He's the only guitar player who accomplishes this thing that really turns me on."
Greene died in his apartment in Encino of a heart attack at the age of 58. In 2009 Barbara Franklin wrote the biography My Life with The Chord Chemist: A Memoir of Ted Greene, Apotheosis of Solo Guitar. She died on August 13, 2011.
- Solo Guitar (Art of Life, 1977)
- The American Metaphysical Circus by Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies (1969)
- Chord Chemistry, Alfred Publishing Company
- Modern Chord Progressions, Alfred Publishing Company
- Jazz Guitar Single Note Soloing, Volume 1, Alfred Publishing Company
- Jazz Guitar Single Note Soloing, Volume 2, Alfred Publishing Company
- My Life with the Chord Chemist: A Memoir of Ted Greene, Apotheosis of Solo Guitar by Barbara Franklin