Guitar sample CDs come in two basic types. One features guitars that are multisampled and programmed in detail for "true to life" playability via keyboard or guitar MIDI controller. The other emphasizes licks, riffs, and chordal comping performed by a guitarist and sampled as short chunks. GrooveAdemics' Jazz Rock Inversion ($19.99, audio CD) falls into the latter category, though it makes a limited foray into the former as well.
Inverted GuitarThe first third of the disc focuses on jazz chords, comped on a Howard Roberts semihollow-body jazz guitar. The guitar sounds quite good; the samples, however, are played only at medium-soft velocities, severely limiting the possibility of dynamic performance. Frankly, these samples made me snooze. You get a lot of chords, though, and according to the manufacturer, that's what this disc is really about. The chords range from dominant ninths to major, minor, and dominant seventh inversions. If putting together a mellow jazz performance is your thing, these samples will definitely do the trick. Picked and thumbed samples of open strings round off this section of Jazz Rock Inversion. Unfortunately, they don't adequately represent the range of the guitar and are therefore of limited use.
The next section, featuring a '79 Strat playing various short phrases and licks, fares better. It includes single-note mutes, octaves, octave-to-single notes, up and down slides, slide-mutes, pull-offs, and so on. These are nicely played and can be used as "nibbles" in many contexts. I was confused, however, by the inclusion of a few chords-A7; D sus4; C, G, and A major; and E and A minor-that are single strummed with no variations or rhythm patterns (the one strummed variation is a brief, uninspiring C-major-to-E-minor chord progression). These chords hang limply and have no real application.
The same goes for the few blues licks, and I do mean few. Track 75 has two slow-blues chord comps and an ending line in the key of A, but no corresponding samples in the keys of D and E to round out a 1-4-5 blues progression. Track 76 has the only other blues parts, and although it actually has a 1-4-5 progression, the 4 and 5 chords are merely rhythmic slides, not the main comping pattern set up in the root chord. There are hardly enough samples to put together a workable blues line.
The last groups of samples are chord strums played through effects such as a Voodoo Micro-Vibe tremolo and a Maestro Phase Shifter. Like the Strat strums, these chords lack rhythmic variations and go nowhere. The distortion pieces, rock bends, and licks at the end of Jazz Rock Inversion might work as musical incidents, but overall the disc lacks idiomatic variation.
Licks and LumpsGrooveAdemics can't seem to decide what sort of CD Jazz Rock Inversion should be. Give me a disc of jazz guitar with lots of dynamics and phrases; one with Strat samples that key on blues and funk bits or blazing fusion performances; or one of rock and alternative chords and strumming parts. As it is, you don't get enough of any one approach to make this disc worthwhile. The audio quality is good, and the CD is very inexpensive, but the playing is merely acceptable. Jazz Rock Inversion left my hopes for a collection of Scott Henderson-style jazz-rock guitar samples woefully unfulfilled.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 2