Stelios Panos – Johnny Smith & Tal Farlow

In my previous post I remarked that Pierre Bensusan never disappoints. The same can be said about Stelios Panos, whose passion for precise transcription of the music of jazz masters keeps their music alive and available for others who want to learn this art. His is a true contribution for all jazz players.

Stelios’ latest collection includes  45 songs/solos by Johnny Smith and 37 Tal Farlow songs/solos for Band-in-a-Box users. This is crucial, since it provides a more complete, immersive experience than any other software. You can hear the transcriptions on excellently sampled instruments with RealTracks while following along with the music in Notation, Notation with TAB, Chords, or on the Guitar Fretboard! I’ve never heard of any other software that comes close to this.

Note that along with the songs there are also several alternate solos from other years. Since we are dealing with jazz, several of the songs were performed (and are available) with different solos in different years. These document the players’ style as well as their changes over time.

The Johnny Smith section highlights his smooth style that made him so beloved, starting with his all-time classic Walk, Don’t Run. This was then covered by Chet Atkins, who actually asked for Smith’s permission to cover it in person. Chet’s version was then the basis for the version that the Ventures took to #2 on the charts! It’s hard to pick from just a few from the standout list of songs here, but there are jazz classics like My Funny Valentine, My Romance, and Swingin’ Shepherd Blues;  folk songs such as Black is the Color (of My True Love’s Hair) and Shenadoa [sic]; movie themes (Exodus); popular songs (Yesterday); and even classical pieces like Maid with the Flaxen Hair and Romance de los Pinos. And, of course, Johnny Smith’s “signature tune” Moonlight in Vermont.

Complementing Smith’s work is the Tal Farlow part of the collection. While both guitarists share a sophisticated sense of harmony, Farlow tended to be more adventurous. Combined with his blazing single-line playing, this gave his playing an enormous air of excitement that few musicians have matched. This is all the more remarkable since he was a self-taught guitarist who learned while listening to some of the jazz greats on the radio at work as a sign painter. Some of these transcriptions may be a bit daunting, especially for players with smaller hands. Farlow earned the nickname “The Octopus” thanks to his huge hands which not only gave him a huge reach but also moved with blazing speed. His style owes something to fingerstyle guitarists as he played the two lowest strings with his thumb, reserving these for a bass counterpoint to his melodies on the upper four strings (said to be due to his starting with a mandolin tuned like a ukulele!) and also tapping on the guitar for percussive effects. Whatever extra work it takes to learn Farlow’s tunes is more than repaid in your rapid advance in technique and sophistication.

Whether the chordal sections of Smith’s work or the blazing solo lines of Farlow, we have to appreciate the dedication of Stelios Panos in his careful editing of the fingerings which he places on a separate TAB staff (which you may have to turn on in either the Options for the Notation Window or Printing in Band-in-a-Box). Too many transcribers these days rely on the software to generate TAB, where the fingerings can be misleading to downright impossible.

Here’s an example of a software generated chord that I have seen a number of times (including in BiaB):

and a playable version:

You can imagine the hours and days it takes to proof-read all of the songs in a collection, so Stelios Panos deserves great credit for making his fingerings logical and playable. He takes as much care with the transcriptions, so you can be sure of getting the highest quality.

NOTE: This two-artist collection is meant for  Band-in-a-Box users only. (Unlike some previous sets, videos for non-users are no longer included.)

For more information on ALL Stelios Panos transcriptions and to BUY them go to http://www.djangoinabox.com

My highest recommendation for anyone with Band-in-a-Box.

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