For the next couple of post I will share some thoughts about a great underrated guitarist : Marvin Sewell.

If you’re -like me- a fan of Cassandra Wilson, you’ll know his name already. Through the years, as Wilson’s music gently changed, Sewell role in the band evolved from playing mainly acoustic guitars in a 2-guitar setting, to being ‘lead electric’ guitarist in a band with piano. On the albums “Loverly” and “Silver Pony“, he has some really cool melodic interventions -and great rhythm parts too-.

Coming from Chicago, Sewell has a very different approach to the guitar and its role in the band than most modern jazz guitarists : Sewell doesn’t shy away from playing ‘simple’ rhythm guitar, you’ll hear him play in the Freddie Green 4 to the Bar style when needed, he can groove in a very R’n’B way, he’s great at acoustic picking, and he plays cool slide guitar too. That’s not what you usually get from a ‘jazz guitarist’.

But when it comes time to solo, he demonstrate a very swinging yet daring phrasing, both rhythmically and harmonically. From my european perspective, I seam to find that Chicago musicians have a very different way to approach ‘playing outside’ (from Andrew Hill to Steve Coleman, through Joe Diorio, you’ll get the idea), a way to extend the harmony that is less ‘formulaic’,  that doesn’t seam to follow preset rules, but be more organic ; almost like they didn’t get the Berklee brochure on “how to play out” and had to come up with something different.

I’m a big fan !

This first solo I want to talk about comes from Cassandra Wilson album ‘Loverly’, it’s on the jazz standard “Wouldn’t that be loverly”.

Capture d’écran 2015-07-02 à 18.05.13

On the first A section, Sewell starts with simple phrases with lots of space and swing. On bar 4 it starts a longer phrase is 8th notes (dragging a little), notice the repeated notes beginning : a great underrated tool. Then finishes with a bluesy lick with bend note.

The second A section is mainly a long atonal 3bar phrase. We’re in G major, but bar 10, Sewell plays a Bb pentatonic scale (that can also be seen as a F#Major7 lick), then bar 11 he starts with a B major arpeggio to E minor arpeggio, then bar 12 a lick that implies Eb to D7alt. It’s highly dissonant, yet the internal logic of the phrase makes it flow effortlessly. Very nice !

The end of the solo quiets things down, and finished with a nice classic II-V lick that brings in the B section and Cassandra’s voice.

Also listen how Jason Moran on the piano comp behind this solo.

Hope you like it, I’ll show some more Sewell magic in the next post. In the meantime, take care.

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