This lesson will take you through a couple chorus’ of a blues solo using vocabulary from the great jazz saxophone player, Charlie Parker. Learning blues solos from famous jazz musicians is a great way for guitar players to begin to dip their feet into playing jazz. Trying to learn to play jazz instrumentals or standards right from the beginning can often be too much to start with whereas a 12-bar blues is a form, progression, and groove that just about every guitar player is very comfortable with. We will go through the six jazz phrases and break down some of the concepts behind what Charlie Parker was playing.
The solo opens with a phrase based around a Bb major triad. One of the major concepts of bebop jazz improvisation is playing using chord tones. Throughout this solo you will notice that most of the sustained notes or notes on down beats will be using notes right from the current chord. While most of the time this is fairly easy to identify, sometimes the chord tones can be disguised. For example in the first lick, during the second bar (over an Eb7 chord) there is a bend from C to Db. The Db in this case is a chord tone of Eb7 (Eb G Bb Db).
The second phrase deals with the change from Eb7 back to Bb7. The lick highlights the half step difference in chord tones between the b7 of Eb7 (Db) and the 3rd of Bb7 (D). Changing a simple motive like this throughout a chord progression is an extremely common technique in jazz improvisation.
The third idea is a fast bebop phrase that spans over the ii-V and the turnaround. These fast bebop phrases can be difficult to pull off on guitar. I find that adding in hammer-ons and pull-offs really help to both play the line consistently and also help get the phrasing closer to a saxophone.
The second chorus begins with a scale line using what is known as the bebop scale. The bebop scale is simply a dominant/mixolydian scale with a chromatic passing tone between the b7 and the root (Bb C D Eb F G Ab A Bb). When starting the scale on a down beat, this chromatic passing tone makes it so that the chord tones all fall on a down beat. Again, when playing the faster lines like this it helps to use slurs instead of picking each note.
The fifth lick again targets the change between the Eb7 and Bb7 chords. This time the lick plays over each chord with two separate phrases. Pay attention to all the chord tones that are used and notice how when you play it solo you can still hear the chord progression even without the band.
The solo ends with another speedy bebop passage. It begins with a simple Cm9 arpeggio before moving to an F7#5b9 sound over the F7 chord. The last two bars of the phrase use with another bebop scale passage before ending with a simple descending Bb major triad.