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The Unsung Master of Phrasing : Hank Garland

We all have tunes that we love coming back to. No matter how much we age, or how much our taste in music evolves, there are songs that will never get old to us. For us, Jazz musicians, that also happens for certain solos that had a big impact and a big influence on us. Today, I'd like to share with you my love for Hank Garland's solo over his blues "Riot-Chous" along with its transcription ( see end of this post ).

Walter Louis Garland aka Hank"Sugarfoot" Garland was born in 1930 in Cowpens, South Carolina. At the age of 16, he moved to Nashville where he soon became one of the most in demand session player and sideman. He worked with many country music and rock and roll musicians of the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, The Everly Brothers, Boots Randolph, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty, and Moon Mullican.

He is also known for his contribution to the Gibson "Byrdland" model, which takes its name from the two guitarists who helped conceive it : Billie Byrd and Hank Garland.

Garland came from country music, but he had a deep love for Jazz. In 1961, he even went to NY to perform with George Shearing and Charlie Parker. This is when he recorded "Jazz Winds From a New Direction" for Columbia Records, featuring an 18 years old Gary Burton on Vibraphone, Joe Morello on drums and Joe Benjamin on Bass. The tune "Riot-Chous" is now available on the compilation "Move ! The Artistry of Hank Garland".

The first time I heard this solo, I was shocked by the clarity and the precision of Garland's articulation as well as the incredible bounce that his phrases have. The filiation with George Benson is very clear to me here. I have always found it very hard to achieve this level of articulation without losing the ability of accentuating your phrases. In fact, picking all the notes can give a machine-like sound to your playing and flatten the rhythmic drive that should infuse what you are playing. Clearly, that is not a problem for Garland as he does both beautifully.

All the great Country and Blue-grass guitar players have this ability to generate this incredible rhythmic drive while playing the longest and most intricate lines. It is to me one of the most interesting guitar tradition in the World and there is a lot to be learnt from these players. Someone like Danny Gatton is a great example of that.

The great George Benson has claimed many times that Hank Garland had had a great influence on him. Unfortunately, I find Hank Garland to be rarely mentioned by guitarists nowadays. He is to me the perfect example of a musician who was able to break the boundaries of music genres, and I am happy to pay tribute to his memory with this humble post.

Later in 1961, after he recorded "Jazz Winds From a New Direction" , Garland was caught in a car accident that left him in a coma. He was never able to play music again after he regained consciousness and he passed away in 2004 in Orange Park, Florida.

But thankfully we still have his music and I am happy to share the first five choruses of this incredible solo. If you are a guitarist, or even if you play another instrument, here is a little something so that you ca try to match Mr.Garland's incredible phrasing !!

Thanks for reading.



Hank Garland's - Riot Chous - Score
Download PDF • 259KB


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3 comentários

I just shared this article with Hanks page on Facebook which is his brother Billy's and sister in law Amy's tribute page. Billy passed a couple of years ago. A lot of interesting stuff on that page, check it out. Love all your work and was able to see you with Cyrille a few years back in Oriental NC down on the coast.


Luís Lapa
Luís Lapa
28 de out. de 2021

Thank you so much for this!!! I'm a huge fan of Hank's work. Amazing!!!

david graham
david graham
23 de set. de 2022
Respondendo a

Yes me too. I love his work and also Django. Along with Nando Rheinhardt, I do not listen to jazz guitar players even though I play jazz guitar. I revere these three as much as I do Bird, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon.

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