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The Mandy Walk: An Inside Look With John Stowell

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Today we’re getting a rare inside look at one of internationally renowned jazz guitarist John Stowell’s compositions, The Mandy Walk.

In case you aren’t familiar with John’s work, he is a recording artist on the Origin label and tours across the United States and the world performing, recording, and giving clinics. His career has been going strong since the 1970’s and his music is both innovative and creative. I suppose Downbeat magazine said it best:

“He plays his amplified guitar as if he were surrounded by fine crystal… the type of slow burning, sustained energy that you hear in players that practice all the time.”

I recently got the chance to hang out with John and do some studying the last time he made his way through New York City. He graciously agreed to share some of his work with us on the LJS Blog.

The Mandy Walk is an incredible composition especially for guitar players to check out. As you can see from the tablature, he uses a lot of really interesting pianistic voicings. As a composition itself, this is a great piece for any instrumentalist to check out.

Here’s what John has to say about it:

Composing and improvisation are connected in a number of ways. Often a melody can be extrapolated from ideas in a solo. In my case, I find a few chords in a sequence that could have some potential for further development. I generally avoid diatonic harmony in my tunes and look for chords with close intervals, open string voicings, double stops and inner voice movement. My melodies themselves and the composing process are a bit of a mystery to me. What speaks to me is the result of 45 years of listening to and playing jazz; my tunes write themselves in small pieces, albeit slowly.

For “The Mandy Walk”, I used an opening line that sounds blues-based. By using some unusual variations on E minor and E dom7 with some tensions and parallel movement, I think I’ve made the melody less predictable. Note the use of the open D string to color the F,G and A augmented triads. The second half of this short tune has some unusual F maj#5/D mimaj6 voicings, and there is II-V-I to Bb maj with an Fsusb6 that you might find interesting.

I’d be flattered if you like “The Mandy Walk” enough to play it, but my goal is to introduce you to a few new chords and sounds. In my experience, the best way to internalize new shapes and inversions is in a context. Have fun with this.

PDF for The Mandy Walk


Listen to John play The Mandy Walk


Videos to learn the melody/changes

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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