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Style Guide: Soul Jazz

Style Guide: Soul Jazz

Moving right along ... the next pattern is out of the Grant Green book of soul-jazz guitar improvisation. It is a simple repetitive pattern that can be used over an entire chorus of blues. I refer to these as “turns.” The written rhythm makes it look more complex than it actually is, so I encourage you to listen to the recorded example in order to capture the correct feel of the idea. Before diving into Fig. 13 and Fig. 14, check out Grant Green playing “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” It’s not a blues progression specifically, but at 1:23 you’ll hear the master himself demonstrate what these turns should sound like.

Pay close attention to the articulations, and work toward capturing a relaxed—almost lazy—feel on the pull-offs. Practice each example separately over the blues progression, then experiment with various combinations of these two patterns.

Fig. 15
simply makes use of the idea in Fig. 13 over an entire chorus of Bb blues. This really swings when played correctly, and can be used at any tempo from fairly slow to burning!

The final concept we will examine in today’s lesson is the blending of octaves with four-note block chord voicings. The chord voicings are similar to what we looked at earlier in Fig. 3. Mixing these two devices in an improvised blues chorus is a great way to add some spice to your improvisations. Employing the following idea gives the guitarist a call-and-response type of sound and blurs the lines between straight-up improvisation and comping. This can also create the aural illusion of two guitars playing at the same time.

Wes Montgomery was the master at applying this idea, and I highly encourage you to check out Wes if you haven’t already. In fact, before proceeding, take a minute and check out this video of Wes playing a blues in F. He uses the specific octave and four-note block concept beginning at 3:54, but watching the entire video is sure to inspire even the most advanced jazz musician.

Fig. 16 utilizes the octave and four-note block chord blend, and is an idea that will invoke the sound of Wes in your own blues improvisations. The key to the call-and-response aspect of this idea is to play short octave motifs that are punctuated with block chord “stabs.” This idea is sure to generate excitement!

If you have made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back as we have covered a lot of ground in the soul-jazz genre. Give yourself a chance to rest while watching these two videos of Peter Bernstein and George Benson. While watching and listening, focus on hearing materials similar to what we have worked on in this lesson.