Texas Shuffle Applied to Jazz
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
This is the story of how I merged two disparate styles of playing in an unpremeditated, organic way. It was so organic I can't recall exactly how or when it happened. But I know it happened on acoustic gigs with no drummer, percussionist or bass player.
The two disparate styles are the Texas Shuffle feel as exemplified by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the solo Jazz guitar style of playing chords with walking bass lines a la Joe Pass or Martin Taylor.
At first, the two styles were compartmentalized in my playing; I would do various Stevie Ray Vaughan tunes in the context of a Pop &/or Blues band and I'd incorporate walking bass lines while playing standards on solo Jazz gigs.
The Jazz stuff was done mostly fingerstyle and the Texas Shuffle feel employed a pick and was way more aggressive.
During the nineties when MTV Unplugged hit big, I started to play a bunch of "unplugged" gigs. It started out as bands like the MTV series but quickly spun off into solo acoustic gigs.
The solo Unplugged gigs were different than the solo Jazz gigs I'd always done, which was generally instrumental background music; accompaniment to fine dining, art shows, wine tasting parties and the like.
The unplugged gigs were more like singer/songwriter things. At the beginning I lost a gig or two because I was too "laid back" - I was playing more "jazzy" and singing on top of it. I realized I needed to play more "peppy." The fingerstyle acoustic thing wasn't working, except on ballads. I needed only one or 2 ballads a set but 8 or 10 peppy, up tunes.
So I adjusted. One of the things I did was change medium tempo songs to faster, peppier versions. Another thing I did was to strike all strings muted on counts 2 and 4 to get a percussive, driving feel to the tune. In most Pop music the drummer hits the snare drum on 2 and 4.
Being the type of musician I am, I wasn't satisfied to just strum the guitar and sing folky songs; I wanted to incorporate bass parts into my guitar playing (this was before loopers). So all the folky tunes got rearranged with bass parts under the chords.
I did that spontaneously on the gig without much forethought; I had enough knowledge, technique and experience to pretty much do that on demand.
Here's an example of adding bass parts and smacking 2 and 4 on a Pop tune by Delbert McClinton. I looped the 2nd verse and the chorus. For an in-depth exposition on how I incorporated a looper into everything I discuss in this lesson, see the blog, Loop-Dee-Loop!
Being the Jazz lover that I am, I wanted to be able to incorporate a few standards into my show but the way I'd always done them was too laid back. They needed to be more energetic and lively. Also, I didn't want to lose the walking bass line.
The solution wound up being to play the Jazz standards with a Stevie Ray Vaughan Texas Shuffle feel.
Check out the intro to "Pride and Joy" where he's playing a bass line and just hitting the muted strings or even open strings on the upbeat:
That first 12 bars after the 4-bar intro was the key to my approach. I integrated that technique with the more sophisticated harmonic structures of Jazz standards and came up with a peppier, more energetic way to play Jazz on my solo acoustic gigs. The video below will explain and demonstrate everything:
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