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A Sampling of

Jim Ferguson's Reviews, Honors, Awards

“[Jim Ferguson] is a wonderful composer . . . his technique is impeccable.”
Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, 2004

Jim Ferguson

"In the past, when repertoire had to be picked for a concert or competition, guitarists felt that they only had limited choices....
Now? The choices are almost endless! There are wonderful pieces by modern composers such as Thierry Tisserand, Eugene den Hoed, Mikhail Sytchev, Nick Fletcher, Nelly Decamp, Jim Ferguson, Vincent Lindsey-Clark, Livio Torresan, and Brian Wright in all manner of differing styles...."
—Chris Dumigan, Classical Guitar Magazine, Winter 2015, Issue 380.

Praise from JoAnn Falletta, acclaimed conductor (and guitarist):
"Thanks so much for your wonderful music. I read through it and it is truly beautiful. I did tell The Belfast Telegraph that I am a big fan of yours!" (June 2012)

"Notwithstanding her reverence for the canon, [JoAnn] Falletta has also been a crusader for...living composers.... She has championed contemporary composers like Californian guitar supremo Jim Ferguson."
The Belfast Telegraph, October 6, 2011

"I can't think of anyone who has done more for jazz guitar than Jim Ferguson."
—Jimmy Bruno, jazz guitar virtuoso

"[Moonstone] is convincing evidence of Jim Ferguson's place among the great fingerstyle jazz guitar artists. He fits in the ranks of Gene Bertoncini, Charlie Byrd, Ken Hatfield, and Lenny Breau." —Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, 2010

"Bluesy and swinging, Ferguson bears up under repeated listening."
Cadence Magazine, 1995

"With his many excellent accomplishments, his quest for excellence, and his sensitive, informed writing, it is little wonder that many consider [Jim Ferguson] to be the Jazz Guitar Guru." —20th Century Guitar Magazine, 2001

"Jim Ferguson is a well-seasoned music writer and a sought-after teacher of jazz guitar.... His playing is exciting and always swinging. This combination makes Jim a teacher who knows what to put in a book for students of jazz guitar."
Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, 2000

From Charles Postlewate, October 2001:
"To Jim Ferguson with my deepest thanks for starting this project with a simple question in 1983. That question and its response led to this book and its companion book/recording that will surely be historically significant in the evolution of right-hand technique for classical guitar."   (handwritten note of appreciation on inner front cover of Charles Postlewate's Right-Hand Studies for Five Fingers, Mel Bay Publications, 2001, presented to Jim Ferguson)

A biography of Jim Ferguson is featured in Maurice J. Summerfield’s The Jazz Guitar—Its Evolution, Players and Personalities since 1900.

Grammy® Award nominee for Best Album Notes (Wes Montgomery—The Complete Riverside Recordings, Fantasy Records), 1994

Dedicatee of Jorge Morel’s "Romantico y Allegro Ritmico," 1992

Dedicatee of Charles Postlewate’s “Chinese Metronome,” 2009

Winner of Western Publishing Association's Maggie Award for Best Instructional Column for Jim's Guitar Player Magazine series Fundamentals (1989).

Winner of Western Publishing Association's Maggie Award for Best Instructional Series for Jim's Guitar Player Magazine Master Series (1988).

Recipient of a Great Lecturer Certificate of Honor, a student-nominated award sponsored by the California Faculty Association, at California State University Monterey Bay, academic year 2005/2006.

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A spirited and unpredictable three-part work
"American guitarist Jim Ferguson writes interesting music full of jazz-styled melodies and harmonies, but also with a big touch of his own personality thrown in. Jazzotica is in three parts, beginning with a Fast, with Feeling first movement consisting of an opening of syncopated chords, which continues with a run around an attractive melody with changing time signatures to give it a rhythmic lift. The jazz element is there from the start, but not in an obvious way—Ferguson’s approach is more subtle and original. Some 7/8 bars provide momentum, with strummed chords and ever-changing harmonies that never go where you expect. A middle section in 5/4 briefly provides a kind of respite, until the opening ideas re-emerge and race to a coda that dies down into an anti-climactic close.
Slow and Delicate is a waltz idea that again sounds fresh, with some delicious harmonic work and unusual juxtaposition of harmonies, while the final Spirited and Constant is completely in 4/4, with a bouncy melody surrounded by syncopations and a number of technical flights of fancy that need careful attention to get them right. The coda begins fortissimo, with a triplet eighth-note flight down the fingerboard, but again fades away unexpectedly to a quiet close on a harmonic.
This is a first-class piece of writing, effortlessly individual and constantly musical and engaging. It takes a good player to do it justice, but lesser talents will also enjoy trying to wrap their heads around this fine, entertaining work."—Chris Dumigan, Classical Guitar Magazine, Spring 2016, Issue 381.

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Winedark Sea

"What a gorgeous piece—haunting and unforgettable." —JoAnn Falletta, acclaimed conductor and guitarist, and dedicatee of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition

"The Wine-Dark Sea appears as the title of an historical novel by Patrick O'Brian published in 1993, which happens to be the same year Paul McCartney wrote his song 'Winedark Open Sea.' This evocative phrase, originally from Homer's Odyssey, has been used by at least five other authors and now we have another musical link.
The opening few bars are marked Slow and Foreboding which sets the scene for the main body of the composition which is comprised in the main of quick-flowing arpeggios which one presumes is indicative of sea movement. A calm but lilting interlude is introduced next containing a pleasant melody line first in the treble then in the bass and with some nice discordant chords spicing things up. A lengthy chromatically descending chord sequence (maybe a sinking to the bottom of the ocean - or is that just me being poetical?) leads back to the main part of the composition.
This is an appealing little composition, which may be of interest to the Intermediate player."—Steve Marsh, Classical Guitar Magazine, June 2014, Vol. 32, No. 10.

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Four Monsters

"Well, here is a strange one indeed. Four Monsters is a four-movement suite with each titled movement making an oblique reference to classic horror films. Hence there is 'Frankenstein Meets The Jazzman' (shouldn't that be Frankenstein's monster Meets the Jazzman) in which the 'mechanical' but funky rhythm and the use of the 'Hendrix' 7th#9 chord does indeed conjure up the awkward movements of Frankenstein's monster.
Next comes 'The Raven Vanishes,' a very slow, moody and eerie piece (marked quite aptly, funereal) which features some attractive discordant sounds with the melody played throughout over a constant and insistent bass line.
'Mad Love' is, in essence, a bizarre-sounding waltz hinting vaguely at the Koshkin classic 'Usher Waltz.' Mad Love (also known as The Hands of Orlac) was a 1935 horror film which starred the actor Peter Lorre whose face, if I'm not mistaken, has been included in the front cover art-work by the talented artist Corina Sierk, one of d'OZ's finest illustrators.
Finally there is 'The Fly,' a rapid-paced piece in which the dissonances created in the bass line actually do sound 'fly-like.'
I personally am keen on 'program' music and this fits the bill very well indeed. Not sure if this would be a suitable candidate for the formal recital platform but as an item for the intermediate player in the student concert, etc. I can see this having quite an impact."—Steve Marsh, Classical Guitar Magazine, September 2013, Vol. 32, No. 1.

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Film Noir—Four Scenes

"Aptly titled and conceived. Film Noir consists of four filmic 'scenes' that capture the genre's characteristic subdued moodiness most effectively. The individual movements portray different aspects common to the films that inspired the composition: 'Dark Streets & Shadows,' 'Wheelman,' 'Femme Fatale,' and 'Heater.' Each scene is prefaced with an introductory description of the movement and its various special effects. 'Dark Streets & Shadows' describes the predawn meeting of the male and female protagonists; 'Wheelman' refers to the getaway driver; 'Femme Fatale' is the seductive woman of mystery; and 'Heater' is the pistol (weapon of choice for the villain). A brief prefatory synopsis of the scenes for the audience will usually be helpful.
Repetitive motifs contribute to the overall mood. These motifs could have become tedious, but Ferguson calculates them well and provides contrasting relief before they overstay their welcome. The harmonic language is misty and darkly appropriate. Programmatic music stands or falls depending upon its ability to evoke the desired imagery in the listener's mind, as well as upon the basic musical strength of the composition. This succeeds on both counts, especially to anyone who is familiar with (or who is a fan of) the type of film referenced."—David Grimes, Soundboard, March 2014, Vol. 40, No. 1.

"Known equally for his work in both jazz and classical music, Jim Ferguson has contributed to both these musical genres as performer, composer and musicologist. Film Noir is his tribute in music to the classic film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s. The first movement is 'Dark Streets & Shadows,' the sound of a distant bell and footsteps are the main effects used with skill to point the music into setting the mood; I love the marking at the beginning, Moody, Romantic and A Bit Threatening. 'Wheelman' follows the getaway car to and from the scene of the crime; using effects to describe a motor idling and revving, a horn honking, and tyres squealing and how can you resist music marked Motoring But Wary; 'Femme Fatale,' the mysterious and seductive woman. Musically it's quite straightforward, just remember when you play this, it is marked Sultry and Suspicious; you have been warned. The suite concludes with 'Heater,' the murder weapon! Woven into the music is loading the gun and the fatal gunshot, and then finally the collapsing body. This is a really interesting work and something that would be most effective in a recital. I'm sure a fair amount of acting skill would not go amiss; well worth investigating and wonderful fun to work out and play."—John Arran, Classical Guitar Magazine, May 2012, Vol. 30, No. 9.

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Lady Di

"Assuming that the Lady Di in question is our late Lady Di, then this piece has a lot to live up to. One might expect a schmaltzy tragic piece full of angst and emotion but instead you get a swiftly moving lively little piece with a nicely individual touch in its slightly unexpected harmonies.
Although ostensibly in E major, the opening takes four bars to get there starting with a sequence of G minor, D, A, A minor and then finally E, although the substitution sometimes of the expected D# with D natural makes parts of this melody sound distinctly modal. The occasional use of chords with fourths makes one think at certain points of jazz chordings. After this upbeat and jaunty idea comes a new section with sliding minor chords set against a bass line wherein the thumb is asked to play both forwards and backwards similarly to a plectrum, although it falls nicely under the fingers so there is nothing to worry about. A return to the opening idea brings a swift conclusion to this little gem.
This is a warm-hearted three-minute piece, full of unexpected little details and moreover only moderately difficult. This would be ideal as a little filler in a concert and deserves to do well."—Chris Dumigan, Classical Guitar Magazine, March 2012, Vol. 30, No. 7.

[Note from Jim: "Lady Di" was written for my girlfriend Diane.]

Just Jazz Guitar Magazine's Dr. Frank Forte, in his review of Jim Ferguson's Moonstone CD, said:
"'Lady Di,' for Jim's lady friend, is a stately feeling, moving piece with interesting parallel movements and pedals. The movement from E major to A minor makes for great tonal contrasts and fires the soul." (May 2010)

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Cirque du Soul

"'Cirque Du Soul' is a quirky and humorous piece, with an occasional hint of menace, which successfully evokes the strange world of the circus with its slightly off-kilter view of the world. It takes the form of a quick waltz with a somewhat strange bass-line melody linked together almost throughout the first part of the work by two-note chords.
A middle segment illustrates the composer's jazz background with a slower, graceful and moody passage containing some lush harmonies and some nice integration of harmonics with natural notes. The work concludes with a return of the waltz.
'Cirque du Soul' is an interesting and attractive composition, not too difficult for the intermediate player, and one, which I would imagine, could become many a student's favourite piece for a while.
The presentation is excellent with very useful fingering ideas and the ever-delightful artwork of Swiss artist Corina Sierk dominates the front cover in eye-catching style."—Steve Marsh, Classical Guitar Magazine, January 2012, Vol. 30, No. 5.

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12 Simple Jazzy Studies

Renowned concert guitarist Xuefei Yang includes Jim's Simple Jazzy Studies 2 and 9 in her book, Learn & Conquer Guitar Repertoire with Xuefei Yang (Intermediate): "It was not easy to narrow down the pieces for this book.... The pieces that finally made this book are those I personally enjoy playing." —Xuefei Yang, 2015

"Atmospheric ballads, swinging numbers, incisive rhythm patterns, and simply sounded picturesque pieces can be found among the 12 studies. Influences of Miles Davis are heard, as are references to the studies by Leo Brouwer. The 12 studies are not that simple to play, but are of high educational value in the understanding of syncopated rhythms, the development of 'swing feel,' and typical jazz chord sequences. Each etude limits the technical challenges to a few elements. Bringing the pieces to life is a great deal of fun!" —Stefan Kuen, GuitarWeb, March 2011 (translated from German)

"The studies are engaging and a rewarding challenge well worth the time to play them. I liked number 6, and Howard Morgen is reminded of Stephen Sondheim by it." —Dr. Frank Forte, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, May 2010

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Contemporary Anthology Of Solo Guitar Music For Five Fingers of the Right Hand

"When playing through this music we easily come to the following conclusions: technical comparisons can be made to known guitar works, and it is certainly more fun to train the little finger on these quite interesting pieces rather than on boring gymnastic exercises. This book offers a very rich collection of good music from the pens of experienced and successful composers! But if you insist on playing with only four fingers, you can still profit from this book. Even though it may not be what the composers had in mind, the music still works fine!" —Thomas Bittermann, excerpted from a review in Concertino Magazine, March 2011 (translated from German)

About Jim's contributions to Contemporary Anthology Of Solo Guitar Music For Five Fingers of the Right Hand, editor Charles Postlewate said during an interview: "I wrote [an harmonic study for] Californian Jim Ferguson. Jim wrote two really clever and nice pieces inspired by the aforementioned Brouwer studies.  He also used some Lenny Breau harmonics (plucked with the thumb and touched at the node by the index finger) in three of his compositions and forced me to learn this technique. I had previously considered these harmonics as gimmicks. But when I began practicing them for his pieces and getting proficient with them, I saw that they are really useful at times in our standard repertoire, either in combination with standard RH harmonics or on the bass strings where RH harmonics tend to have a scraping sound when plucked with either the a finger or, as I do with the little finger, c, in a five-finger technique. I wrote 'Chinese Metronome' for him." (September 2009)

Classical Guitar Magazine's Stephen Kenyon, regarding Contemporary Anthology Of Solo Guitar Music For Five Fingers of the Right Hand, said: "This was a huge project to undertake and deserves to be taken seriously." (May 2010)

[Six of Jim's original compositions ("Leo's Blues," "Before Six," "Chuck's Waltz," "Sumi Dance," "Debussiana," and "Asian Pavan") are included in the historic Contemporary Anthology Of Solo Guitar Music For Five Fingers of the Right Hand, which includes works by renowned guitarist/composers from Europe, North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Composers include Ernesto Cordero, Carlos Dorado, Jim Ferguson, David Flynn, Gerald Garcia, John Hall, Ricardo Iznaola, James Lentini, John Oliver, Charles Postlewate, Mirko Schrader, Burkhard 'Buck' Wolters and Luis Zea.]

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Moonstone CD

"Howard Morgen introduced me to Jim Ferguson a few years ago and I have been enjoying his compositions, playing, arranging and writings and lessons ever since. He is always exciting, never predictable. Moonstone is the latest of his CDs and is a gift of beautiful fingerstyle playing, all original pieces showcasing much of Jim's musical offerings.
But first is it jazz guitar? Well, it is improvisational, fresh, original, and it swings. Why ask more?
Moonstone is the title of a 19th-century mystery novel. Jim, always reading, gives a bit of mystery to the title song of his CD. Herein is clear lyrical technique evoking many feelings.
In addition to being a player and composer, Jim is a teacher, writer and educator and this is reflected in the titles of many of his compositions. He goes into more detail in the liner notes. You can learn much about his thinking by checking his writings in Guitar Player, Jazz Times, Classical Guitar, his Mel Bay instructional books, and Downbeat, among others.
The guitar he uses on Moonstone is a 1989 cedar top Thomas Rein with d'Addario J51 hard tension strings. All tracks were recorded with a matched pair of Schoeps microphones through a Grace Design Lunatec v5 preamp. John Strother mixed and mastered the tracks, all this resulting in great pure sound and clearly heard tones.
The program, quite varied and emotionally charged, begins with a trilogy of Latin-influenced tunes, setting us up for some good listening. The themes are compelling and the progressions grasp the ear.
'Chuck's Waltz' is written for Charles Postlewate and, along with three other pieces on the CD, is included in Postelwate's Contemporary Anthology Of Solo Guitar Music For Five Fingers [Mel Bay]. The pinky of the right hand, mostly ignored, is explored here, and Jim has been interested in its use since meeting Lenny Breau.
'Lady Di,' for Jim's lady friend, is a stately feeling, moving piece with interesting parallel movements and pedals. The movement from E major to A minor makes for great tonal contrasts and fires the soul.
There are 6 of his 12 Simple Jazzy Studies For Solo Guitar, which can be ordered from his website. As clearly as they are rendered on the CD, they can be studied by the player. The studies are engaging and a rewarding challenge well worth the time to play them. I liked number 6, and Howard Morgen is reminded of Stephen Sondheim by it.
So, there is much going on in Moonstone. I think the CD is convincing evidence of Jim Ferguson's place among the great fingerstyle jazz guitar artists. He fits in the ranks of Gene Bertoncini, Charlie Byrd, Ken Hatfield, and Lenny Breau. See if you hear it in Moonstone."—Dr. Frank Forte, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, May 2010, No. 63.

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Cedar & Silver CD

"This CD was recorded in 2004 on Spring Street Records, P.O. Box 551, Santa Cruz, California 95061-0551. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive a book or a CD from Jim Ferguson, but this was really the biggest surprise that he's sent my way to date.
Cedar & Silver is a solo CD with Jim Ferguson performing thirteen beautiful compositions on a cedar top nylon string guitar. All but two are his own. He is doing this fingerstyle, and his technique is impeccable. The guitar is by Thomas Rein of St. Louis, MO, and it is a joy to hear the responses and tone Jim urges from this scrumptious guitar. The instrument and the player are bonded and you can hear it.
We know Jim well for the Mel Bay Publications All Blues for Jazz Guitar, All Blues Soloing for Jazz Guitar, All Blues Scale for Jazz Guitar, All Solos & Grooves for Jazz Guitar, and All Intros & Endings for Jazz Guitar. He is sought after as a teacher and writer and is on the faculty of California State University. His articles have been seen in JazzTimes, Downbeat and other magazines. But this CD is not just jazz, nor is it classical music. It is the product of a fine composer who loves the guitar and finds many stimuli to write playable music for the instrument. Here is a very interesting side of Jim's musical life. Noted as a writer and an educator, Grammy nominated for his writing and a former editor of Guitar Player Magazine, he is now showing us that he is a wonderful composer for guitar, and although these pieces are played on classical guitar they are distinctly his own and not an imitation of classical work from the past. A second listen has us realizing that he is a jazz guitarist. Chord progressions, and jazz influenced lines are in his blood and this music.
He is not a foreigner to the study of classical guitar and has even written several volumes published by GSP of San Francisco including instructional material devoted to the studies of Leo Brouwer, Fernando Sor, and Matteo Carcassi. His love of the classics and his knowledge sings out in this work.
I know that Jim loves jazz, but he loves the guitar more, and this CD certainly is evidence of this. All the pieces are unique and distinctive, and it is just wonderful to listen to these endeavors produced by a man who is so versed in teaching jazz and blues guitar.
I loved the flagship piece 'Cedar & Silver.' It gives a feeling of South America and wonderful weather. There is a nice modal piece, 'Nisene,' which is named after a state park where Jim mountain bikes.
'Horace' is dedicated to the jazz pianist composer Horace Silver and includes some references to a couple of his tunes in the introduction, and some of this was not written but improvised. And so it goes, with 'Medley for Kirk,' which is a take off on some movie themes. This one is a medley and not all original. The haunting opener, 'Asian Pavan' is based on two Japanese pentatonic scales. Jim wrote it while teaching a survey of world music. The theme is stated and carried through an intriguing harmony. All the pieces are based on engaging motifs and are full of musical enjoyment.
Throughout the entire CD there is a wonderful feeling of soulful sensitivity demonstrated by this ever so multifaceted virtuoso guitar player. Although it is not straight ahead jazz, this is one to listen to."—Dr. Frank Forte, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, November 2004, No. 41.

"Loved your CD!!" —Susan Orlean, bestselling author of The Orchid Thief

"Listening to your CD right now. It's great!" —Marla Streb, champion mountain biker and classical pianist

Amazon Customer Review (April 2005), by Leo de Leon, jazz guitarist:
Cedar & Silver, A Modern Guitar Masterpiece (5/5 stars):
"Jim Ferguson displays his guitar virtuosity as well as his eclectic taste in music. Every style from blues, jazz, classical, Asian, Brazilian, gospel, folk, and country finds its way onto this recording. This album was designed for people like me who absolutely love the sound of a guitar, and who have eclectic tastes in music. I am also a serious student of guitar, and for me this recording will not only be pure listening pleasure, but also a lesson in guitar virtuosity and composition."

Cedar & Silver was cited in Guitar Player Magazine's "What's Spinning In The Editor's Heads This Month" section, December 2004

The score to "Asian Pavan" (from Cedar & Silver) was published in the October 2005 issue of Classical Guitar Magazine. "Asian Pavan" is also included in the Contemporary Anthology Of Solo Guitar Music For Five Fingers of the Right Hand (2009), along with 5 other original compositions by Jim.

Tracks from Cedar & Silver have been used in A&E and PBS programming, and on ABC, MTV India, The History Channel, and other national and international television networks.

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Jim Ferguson's Jazz/Blues Guitar Instructional Books

All Blues for Jazz Guitar: "Essential for all of my students!" —Howard Morgen, guitarist and instructor

All Blues Soloing for Jazz Guitar: "Superb. One of the most comprehensive and clearly presented approaches to this much dissected subject." —20th Century Guitar Magazine

"[Ferguson's] trilogy could help up your status from Jazz Wannabe to Legit Hepcat. Dig it, man." —Guitar Player Magazine

"Ferguson's books are essential for anyone wishing to expand their jazz vocabulary." —Jimmy Bruno, jazz guitar virtuoso

All Blues Soloing for Jazz Guitar: "Learn these smoky lines, and you'll amaze your bandmates the next time they launch into a shuffle."
—Guitar Player Magazine

"Taken together [Ferguson's books] offer myriad options in navigating various blues forms. An essential resource for students."
—JazzTimes Magazine

All Blues for Jazz Guitar: "The examples on the CD are well executed, and contain that classic dry-as-a-bone archtop tone."
—Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine

All Blues Scale for Jazz Guitar: "No other book stands alone and covers the blues scale as well." —Dr. Frank Forte, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

All Intros & Endings for Jazz Guitar: "Jim Ferguson continues with a terrific book of all intros and endings. If you've ever had trouble coming up with interesting intros or endings, this will surely help. Highly recommended." —Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

Shapes, Patterns & Lines for Jazz Guitar: "I would highly recommend this book. The concepts presented are easily digested and applied by any level of player and the material is laid out in a clear, easy-to-follow manner." —Matthew Warnock, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

All Blues Soloing for Jazz Guitar is a Mel Bay Bestseller.

All Blues for Jazz Guitar is a Mel Bay Bestseller, and was named one of "100 Great Guitar Books" by Acoustic Guitar Magazine.

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