…the more I appreciate his virtuosity with the guitar. “This guy” happens to be Eric Rachmany of Rebelution, and he’s absolutely amazing.
If you’re familiar with Rebelution, you know that they’re a reggae band out of Isla Vista, CA. And you might think, “It’s reggae – all um-chuck, um-chuck. How hard could it be?”
Admittedly, most reggae is like that. But Eric, like so many other modern reggae guitarists, are completely changing this. The rhythmic foundation is still “um-chuck.” But Eric plays rhythm lines over the rhythmic foundation. And the kicker is that he DOES THIS WHILE SINGING!!!
Check out one of my favorite Rebelution tunes, called “Closer I Get.” It’s a perfect example of Eric’s virtuosity.
Look, I can play all those lines that he plays with relative ease. The base 1-4-5 pattern in Fm is a standard minor blues, and his minor pentatonic pattern is pretty straightforward. I can play it all. But to be able to sing over it is an entirely different matter. Also, bear in mind that that’s just one song. He does this with most of their songs.
I do about 5 or 6 Rebelution covers in my solo gigs, and the only thing I can say is this: Thank goodness I have a looper. 🙂 After 46 years of playing, I’m a pretty decent guitarist, and while I can sing over some rhythm lines, what makes this and other songs particularly difficult to sing over is that the melody lines are often syncopated and attack or play off the beat. I can play lead lines when the melodies are on the beat, no problem. But this is pretty hard. That said, it has inspired me to practice and master being able to sing over rhythm lines like this.
The video doesn’t necessarily show his virtuosity on the guitar. It shows quite a bit. You’d have to see Rebelution live to really “get” what I’m talking about. His phrasing and timing are impeccable. And while he sticks primarily to a pentatonic root with his solos, his expression with passing notes and bends belie the simplicity of the scale. The point is that when he plays, he really makes music, and communicates his message. And that’s what it’s about for me.
As I’ve shared with younger guitarists whom I’ve mentored over the years: You don’t need tricks. You don’t need gimmicks. All you need is a message. Just let your fingers do the talking. Then I go on explaining: If a dive bomb will get the message across, go for it; the same thing goes for tapping. You could do all the tricks in the world, and show off your technique, but if you don’t pull all that stuff together to actually say something, then your solo is the equivalent of a garbled mess. Besides, an effective solo is as much as what you don’t play as it is what you play. Think about it.
Then even though I’m not really all that into Jazz, I do like particular artists, so I’d tell them to go on YouTube and listen to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Talk about communicating a message. In particular, I tell them to listen to Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green.” There’s a certain sparseness in how Miles plays that song.
By the way, listening to Miles Davis wasn’t my idea. I actually got that several years ago from an elderly black gentleman named Patrick that I met at the restaurant I’ve worked at for 16 years running. He was an old jazz player who had played with some big names in his heyday, and amazingly enough, he used to enjoy coming in to hear me play. During breaks, I’d go and talk to him, and one time I shared that I wanted to better at improv. He just told me this: “Go listen to Miles Davis. That man can do more with one note than a lotta guys can do with a hundred.” I listened and was transformed.
After awhile, I realized that despite the fact that I couldn’t shred or play super-complicated lines, I could use what I could play just so long as I communicated my message.
Circling back to Eric Rachmany, the guy doesn’t do any tricks at all. There are some places where he might sweep pick, but that’s not really a trick. That just takes practice. Eric is someone who’s always in the pocket, and what he plays always makes sense. To me, that’s the sign of a great musician.
So kudos to you, Eric! Keep bringing the good vibes!
Here’s an extra treat: Miles Davis playing Blue in Green…
Sorry, it’s not live, but this song takes me away.