Grant Green I-VI-ii

hard bop blues licks Oct 05, 2018

You can hear Grant Green play something like this on "Blues For Juanita" from his 1962 Blue Note LP The Latin Bit. As far as I can tell, as the one non-Latin groove from the day's recording, "Blues For Juanita" was left off the original release but seems to have been included in every subsequent reissue along with a couple of other tracks from later in the year.

This lick takes place over bars 7 and 8 of a twelve-bar jazz blues in Bb, and I've indicated what tonality Green is playing out of (above the tab) and what scale steps he's playing relative to that tonality (above the notation). As you can see from all of that, he sticks pretty close to the harmonies at hand, with the G7 altered lick falling neatly into measure 8 – making it particularly easy for you to lift and appropriate this move for your own use elsewhere.

More importantly, check out how easy it is to slip from this particular position of the Bb scale into the G7 sound, and from there into some C minor moves, all...

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Kenny Burrell I-VI-ii Doubletime

hard bop blues licks Sep 21, 2018

At some point about a year ago, I got really annoyed that I knew almost nothing about Coleman Hawkins except how large he loomed in the history of jazz and how important he was to the development of the tenor saxophone. So I went off hunting down recordings and, like a well-intentioned dachshund in a park full of squirrels, was quickly distracted by an album of late-period Hawkins led by Kenny Burrell on guitar. Are you kidding me? And there, on the album Bluesy Burrell – a redundancy if ever there was one – was the slow blues "It's Getting Dark," with the badass double-time turnaround move I've included below. As usual, I've included in parentheses, below the assumed chord progression, the chords the rhythm section is outlining, as well as the scales Burrell is clearly choosing from and how his notes relate to the underlying harmony.

This lick falls over bars 7 and 8 of the twelve-bar form, taking you from just after the return from the IV chord around the...

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Stanley Turrentine I-VI-II

hard bop blues licks Sep 07, 2018

More Stanley Turrentine! The G7 altered part of this lick does not sit quite so obviously on the guitar but with a little doing it can start to make sense.

Generally speaking, it's pretty clear what Turrentine is thinking over each chord, but in some spots, there's a bit of overlap as to what that could be. I've put the most literal possibility above the notation: here's what the notes we're playing are, relative to exactly what the harmony is at the moment.

Beneath the notation, in italics, I've put what the notes could be, considering where we're going or where we've been. So in the first measure of the lick, yeah, that's Bb major stuff, but it could be G7 altered stuff, anticipating the change to G7 by a couple of beats. In the third measure of the lick, over the C minor, those last four notes of the measure are still C minor stuff but they could be an anticipation of the Bb chord we're about to resolve to, and so be heard as a Bb-sounding pickup into the next bar.

The lick...

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Red Holloway I-VI-II

hard bop blues licks Aug 31, 2018

This week, a lick inspired by the work of tenor saxophonist Red Holloway. Just like I got hip to Jimmy Forrest's badass command of the changes by hearing him on Jack McDuff's The Honeydripper – an album I picked up because it featured Grant Green – I mostly became aware of Red Holloway through his playing on another Jack McDuff recording, which I also got into because of the guitar player involved, George Benson. Benson's early work with McDuff has been reissued on George Benson & Jack McDuff and, along with his playing on a couple of Lou Donaldson LPs a year or two later, is some of my favorite straightahead Jazz George.

It seems more than coincidental that both Forrest and Holloway worked with McDuff. Together with Percy France, the saxophonist on Jimmy Smith's Home Cookin', they constitute a kind of triumvirate of funky tenor perfection: three musicians who effortlessly erase the line between raw, gutbucket r&b blowing and a murderous fluency with the...

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Stanley Turrentine I-IV

hard bop blues licks Aug 24, 2018

Stanley Turrentine played plenty of blues on plenty of albums, especially in the first part of his career on Blue Note. For maximum exposure to the twelve-bar form it's hard to beat his 1962 Release That's Where It's At, featuring Les McCann (of later "Compared To What" fame) on piano. Turrentine's solo on McCann's mid-tempo "Pia" includes a I-IV move similar to the one below. Like the Tina Brooks lick, this example also plays off of the idea of creating a ii-V approach to the IV chord, but in this case, you just play the root and b7 of the the "V" (Bb) before resolving to the IV, or Eb.

As before, I've indicated the various chord tones relative to the imagined substitute chords implied by the solo. Click on the playlist below to hear fast and slow demonstrations of this move:

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Tina Brooks I-IV

hard bop blues licks Aug 17, 2018

I've been yelling about Tina Brooks for the past few weeks, so I thought it was time to (A) figure out a few of his licks myself and (B) show you what I'm talking about. So here's a short lick that will take you from the I chord to the IV chord, inspired by one of Brooks' moves in the first chorus of the blues "Back To The Tracks." I've included some tab and notation as well, to show you what's happening.

The basic idea is, in bar three of a 12-bar blues, you begin to think: "Ok, we're headed towards an Eb chord. I know Eb is the IV in the key of Bb. But, just supposing Eb was a I chord – what would its V chord be? Ah, Bb. And we could make that a Bb7altered sound if we wanted to, by adding the b13 and the b9. And what would the ii of Eb be? Fmin7, which we could also play as an Fmin9."

So that's how you get licks like this one: by (1) approaching the Eb with its own ii-V resolution, to get Fmin to Bb7 to Eb, (2) dressing up the Fmin and Bb7 chords with some upper extensions,...

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