String Theory: Drawing Inspiration from a Sax Legend and Melodic Minor's Two Coolest Modes

The following content is related to the August 2013 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

In this and next month’s columns, I’d like pay tribute to one of my biggest musical heroes, the late, great tenor saxphonist Michael Brecker. His huge tone, jaw-dropping chops and ferociously funky and always brilliantly compelling solos inspired me early on to learn the language of jazz and taught me a great deal about the art of phrasing and playing intriguing, “outside”-sounding lines that have a method to their musical madness—meaning a theoretical basis that one can analyze, learn from and apply.

And so, I’ve composed a 32-bar solo, presented in two parts and played over a repeating eight-bar chord progression, that was inspired by Brecker’s improvisation on the track "Quartet No. 2 (Part 2: Dedicated to John Coltrane)" from pianist Chick Corea’s 1981 album Three Quartets. That performance features Brecker, backed by an elite acoustic jazz rhythm section, soloing over essentially the same chord progression, albeit in a different key, C minor. My tribute solo is in the more guitarist-familiar key of E minor and follows the progression Em7-C13-B7alt-Em9-B7alt.



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Jimmy Brown

Over the past 30 years, Jimmy Brown has built a reputation as one of the world's finest music educators, through his work as a transcriber and Senior Music Editor for Guitar World magazine and Lessons Editor for its sister publication, Guitar Player. In addition to these roles, Jimmy is also a busy working musician, performing regularly in the greater New York City area. Jimmy earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and Performance and Music Management from William Paterson University in 1989. He is also an experienced private guitar teacher and an accomplished writer.