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Rhumba Blues Solo
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from David Hamburger’s Blues Alchemy
Along with Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell was part of a triumvirate of hard-bop guitarists in the fifties and sixties, although, unlike Green and Montgomery, Burrell is still with us. All three could hang with the heaviest of bebop changes, yet routinely delivered performances saturated with the blues. For a full dose of Burrell getting down and dirty, check out Midnight Blue or his work with Jimmy Smith on Back at the Chicken Shack and Midnight Special
“Rhumba Blues” is a minor blues, although the IV and V chords are actually dominant chords. The melody is played using octaves in a call-and-response style between the melody and the chord voicings played during the solo. Stylistically, it’s similar to “Chitlins con Carne” by Kenny Burrell and other tunes from the soul-style jazz period. There are also some cool voicings that may be new to you such as a 7#9 chord played down low on the neck.
This song is played entirely in octaves with the exception of some chord hits. To play an octave, hold two notes at once, two strings apart and mute the string in between. For example, to play a C octave, finger the third fret on the fifth string and fifth fret on the third string while muting the D string in between with your index finger. This also helps to mute everything around it, for example using the tip of the index finger to mute the E string and using part of the pinky to mute the B and E strings. This allows for a more percussive attack. Using the thumb instead of a pick creates a warmer, more authentic tone.
When you get the octaves with the roots on the D and G strings, a three fret spread is needed. The chords consist of a G7#9 and a C9. The D7 is never actually played, only referenced.
The opening phrase is basically a blues phrase followed by a chord hit, followed by an answering phrase. To add emphasis to the chord jabs try stopping the chord by relaxing your grip on the strings. Keep them touching, but don’t press them down. The third phrase starts the same as the first, with a C9 answering, then the same phrase with the slide in it, before a move back to G. The turnaround spells out a D7 chord with the F#, which isn’t part of the G minor pentatonic scale. The ending phrase has a flat 5 note – the Db – then you’re back to the I. “Rhumba Solo’s” use of octaves and tasty note and rhythm choices should offer up plenty of inspiration for most any player.
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