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Beyond Blues: Jimmy Herring's Twisted Jams


For some variety, here’s a backing track that covers a basic B minor blues form. Before we see how Herring might tackle it, take a listen to the groove.

The first lick in Ex. 4 can easily fit over a blues progression, starting in the third measure. It’s here we outline the I-IV movement before returning to the tonic. Beginning on the second beat, we have some heavy chromaticism on the B melodic minor scale (B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A#). That leads into a line based mostly around an E melodic minor scale (E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D#), but with a D natural, which implies the Dorian mode. In the fourth measure, there’s a tricky alternate-picked C#m7b5 arpeggio. This implies a jazzy Em6 sound before resolving to an equally tricky Bm6 arpeggio that leads us back to the I chord.

The final example outlines the bVI-V-I progression that you would hear on a minor jazz-blues. Over the G7 we play a phrase using the G Mixolydian (G-A-B-C-D-E-F) scale. Then we shift to a chromatically embellished GmMaj7 arpeggio over the F#7 (implying an F#7#5b9 sound). To finish the lick we shift back to our Bm7 chord (actually a Bm6 on the track) and wail with a blend of B Dorian, blues, and melodic minor. These types of phrases are an essential part of the fusion vocabulary and require alternate picking mastery well beyond my own. This example is at 115 bpm, but Herring wouldn’t break a sweat at 160!

Take your time with these ideas and use them as a springboard to do your own listening and transcribing, and enlist the provided backing tracks to accompany your musical explorations.

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