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Andy Summers (1942 – ) is definitely a “tip of the iceberg”
guitarist, which is to say that those who are only aware of him
via his successful stint with The Police, during the late 1970’s
and early 1980’s, are probably only cognizant of a small
aspect of his playing. Prior to watching his installment of
the “Hot Licks” series, I must admit that I was one of those
people. This 2006 DVD re-release of a 1997 VHS tape
definitely gives the viewer more for his or her money, with a
running time of approximately two hours and 44 minutes,
and featuring at least 115 different musical examples. Other
DVDs that I’ve seen from this series typically run just
more than one hour!

The other difference between this film and others in the
“Hot Licks” series is that it intersperses Summers’ guitar
demonstrations with actual performances by him and his band,
the “Andy Summers Trio,” featuring Jerry Watts on bass and
Bernie Dresel on drums. There were also artful video montage
techniques used throughout this film; clearly, more money
was spent on this installment.

Andy Summers proves to be an effective teacher, revealing
his broad range of knowledge and experience in the genres of
Jazz (his first love) and Classical music. I was very interested
to hear him discuss how he would perform guitar duet
arrangements of Bela Bartok’s violin duets with Robert Fripp.
As he mentioned at the beginning of the DVD, standard “triadic”
harmony doesn’t really interest him, and there was none
used during this lesson. Instead, he emphasized different
chordal “colors,” utilizing all sorts of sophisticated takes on
various Jazz harmonies and special suspensions. He shared
knowledge of the different modes, and playing with the fingers
as well as with a pick. The various chapter headings included,
“The Police Guitar,” “Line Playing,” “Playing Through Changes,”
and “Matching Scales to Chords.” In short, this was the most
thorough guitar lesson in the “Hot Licks” series I’ve seen
thus far. I’m now aware that Summers is a “complete” guitarist.

Although his trio did perform tunes from his days with The Police,
I was more intrigued by the music they performed which was
more akin to Jazz. The harmonies and chordal stylings were so
interesting that at times, it was as though I was listening to
Lee Ritenour or Pat Metheny. I’m glad that I’ve now seen and
heard examples of Summers diverse talents, and have been
given the opportunity to learn from his considerable experience
and expertise. Typical of this series, the usual lessons, artist
biography, selected listening sources, and discography were
also included. Arlen Roth certainly raised the bar with this
installment of “Hot Licks!”