Archive for September, 2010

Green Dolphin Street – A Jazz Classic

On Green Dolphin Street is one of the first jazz tunes I ever learned. In fact, I learned it back when I was still studying classical guitar and had not started working on jazz at all. My teacher at the time had me get a book called “Contemporary Moods for Classic Guitar”, a set of arrangements by Laurindo Almeida. Besides this one, it included very nice arrangements for classic guitar of Blue Moon, Over the Rainbow, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, and others.

Green Dolphin Street is actually the theme song from the movie of the same name. From 1947 and starring Lana Turner, Van Heflin, Richard Hart and Donna Reed, it tells the story of two beautiful daughters of a wealthy merchant who fall in love with the same handsome young man (Richard Hart). Because he favors the gentle modesty of Marguerite (Donna Reed), her “not quite nice” sister Marianne (LanaTurner) persuades him to seek his fortune abroad. Settled down in business in New Zealand with a friend (Van Heflin), he sends for Marguerite to join him: however, he drunkenly addresses his proposal to sensual Marianne. When the wrong sister meets up with her husband-to-be and his partner, a bitter rivalry is provoked between the men for the love of an irresistible woman. Sounds pretty stupid to me, and that there is a reason no one remembers the movie.

However dumb the movie is, the tune is a classic that has been recorded countless times by innumerable jazz artists. I’m not sure who actually did so first, but there is an influential Miles Davis recording from 1958 with John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb — quite a lineup. Search for the tune on YouTube and you’ll turn up versions from artists like John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Carmen McRae, Hank Jones, Ronnie Scott, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans and on and on. It really is one of the most played standards of all time.

Although many of these performances are vocal, the majority are instrumental jazz. Perhaps the lyrics explain that:

Lover, one lovely day,
Love came, planning to stay;
Green Dolphin Street supplied the setting,
The setting for nights beyond forgetting;

And through these moments apart,
Memories live in my heart.
When I recall the love I found on,
I could kiss the ground on
Green Dolphin Street.

I’m not sure the lyrics are much better than the movie — certainly not as timeless as the music is.

I was trying to put a bit of a modern, popular spin on it, so I’ve made an arrangement and recording following my recent emphasis. It’s basically  smooth-jazz style, set for guitar, keys, bass and drums. As is typical for me lately I played the guitar and bass parts and programmed the key and drum parts. The guitar is my Orchid archtop. Here are the links to listen:



September 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm 2 comments

Vibramate – Aftermarket Bigsby

I have Bigsby vibrato tailpieces on a number of my guitars and very much like them. I much prefer them to the Fender-style whammy bars. They cannot inflect the pitch as much, but they are much more solid feeling and stable, at least in my opinion (I should note here that both Paul Reed Smith and Tom Anderson both make excellent Fender-style whammies — but correct adjustment is critical, wheras Bigsbys do not require fiddling).

My Gibson ES-347 left the factory and has spent its 30-some years with a fine-tuning stop tailpiece. The fine tuners work quite well, by the way. However, I’d really been thinking I’d like a Bigsby on there.

There is a 3rd-party product called a Vibramate ( that comes in a few variants and allows a Bigsby to be installed on guitars that originally came with a stop tailpiece — such as Les Pauls, SGs, and ES-335 types. For 335 type guitars, the adapter permits the installation of a Bigsby B-5, which was originally intended for installation on flat-top solid body guitars — like a Tele.

So, I bought the adapter and the Bigsby B-5. Installation was amazingly easy and fast, as the Vibramate website shows: — it actually took far more time for me to restring than to remove the old stop tailpiece and install the adapter & Bigsby. Everything fit perfectly; all screws aligned just right and were exactly the right size.

ES-347 with Vibramate & Bigsby

ES-347 with Vibramate & Bigsby

Here’s how it looks. Not too bad really. I’d actually have preferred a Bigsby B-7, as these were occasionally installed at the Gibson facory on ES-335 type guitars, but that would have required surgery — it would have left the old stud holes exposed and added new holes — not a reversible mod should I decide to go back. This is totally reversible. While I was at it, I also added a roller bridge to reduce tuning issues caused by the strings hanging up on the regular bridge.

The jury is still out. There is a substantial difference in feel between this and my other Bigsbys. I attribute that to the “tension bar” under which the strings go before they get to the bridge. This vibrato is much stiffer than my others.

But hey, if I decide I don’t like it, I can put it back to stock.

September 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm 15 comments


For us geezers, one of the wonders of the Internet has been the ability to reconnect with friends from the past. In the past couple of years, I’ve reconnected with the guys from my very first ever band, “The Sugarbeats”. This is a photo from before our very first gig, which was held at our elementary school in Pittsburgh:

the sugarbeats

the sugarbeats

Here is our original business card:

sugarbeats card

sugarbeats card

Thank you, David and Lance, for the great times. BTW, none of those phone numbers will get us anymore. And special thanks to Lance who was the one who hung onto to these amazing artifacts all these years.

September 4, 2010 at 5:21 pm 2 comments

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September 2010