Ed Bickert's Masterful Chord-Melody - "Skating in Central Park"
by Ed Bickert, as heard on Out of the Past (2006, Sackville Records) - Read more about Ed Bickert here
One of Canada's top call guitarists, Ed Bickert made his name as a phenomenal accompanist, and a contemporary of '60s guitar giant Jim Hall. Throughout this trio album, along with the stylings of drummer Terry Clarke and bassist Don Thompson, we get to hear Ed's wonderfully creative comping style blended with melodic solo lines. This particular solo over the beautiful John Lewis tune "Skating in Central Park" is not only easily accessible for many aspiring guitarists, it also illustrates several fundamental strategies of effective chordal comping.
First and foremost, it's easy to see a high degree of minimalism throughout this solo--as with most exemplary chordal solos. A teacher of mine once explained that the differences between comping and soloing should be minimal--not to say that an accompanist should be at the forefront of the musical texture, but that the comping line should contribute as much uncluttered harmonic material as possible, and consist of small, mobile diad and triad shapes, which juxtapose well with melodic lines. In several places in this solo, we see Bickert play two- and three-note shapes against a higher melodic line--observe the fifth bar of letter B, where the melody note G is played against a simple F triad, then an E triad (the latter being a clever alteration of what would have otherwise been a simple dominant G chord). He avoids larger, more complicated textures until climactic points in the solo, usually the ends of each 16-bar phrase. Also, Ed's chordal range remains very constrained to the middle of the guitar, until those bigger points in the solo--we see his highest notes near the very end.
Bickert treats us with a few great "guitaristic" chordal ideas in this solo as well--for instance, the open string work at letter D, where the open first string drones throughout a series of tight cluster chords. Also, at letter F, we see Ed moving a simple set of paired fourths down the neck in minor thirds, implying a strong alteration to the G7 chord, before the same idea resolves into the diatonic set of fourths found in the Cmaj7 chord in the next bar.