REVIEW FROM:
AMERICAN STRING TEACHER, No.1, Vol.60

PLAYING THROUGH THE BLUES
Violin Edition.
Fred Lipsius. Advance Music, 2008,
Book/CD $17.95

This is a wonderful introduction to the blues for intermediate/advanced violinists and beginning/intermediate improvisers, although advanced players will also enjoy it. The book and play-along CD include twelve tunes in different time feels — swing, jazz waltz, funk, Latin, ballad, and modal —performed by jazz violinist Matt Glaser. Composer Lipsius emphasizes the simplicity and feeling at the heart of blues, creating melodies and solos that develop organically from a melodic or rhythmic idea (“riff”). Using space, texture, ornaments (slides, turns, etc), rhythmic displacement, and other improvisation techniques, Lipsius shows how to get the most from simple ideas and relatively narrow melodic range (two octaves at most) without being predictable or boring. There are nice surprises: a pizzicato solo, trades with the drummer, rhythm section “hits” in a ballad, acoustic swing guitar backup in a Count Basie style piece, double-time feel in the middle of a 12/8 slow blues. All tunes except the ballad are medium tempo, and are in accessible keys for both string and horn players: C, F, B-flat, E-flat and related minors. Most of the pieces can be played entirely in first position, with occasional second or third position suggested. Blues scales used throughout include accidentals (C- and F-flat) that may be unfamiliar to students. No bowings are marked, although the written phrasing and articulations are clear and easy to follow (and can be changed by the player). Some of the syncopated and off-beat eighth note rhythms will be challenging for students new to jazz, but listening to Glaser’s in the pocket playing and clear articulation will make this less difficult. The play-along tracks are with rhythm section only, allowing students to develop their own improvisations. Lipsius is a master of melody, and these pieces are fun to play and well worth performing. - by Paula Zeitlin