This is one of the best people to check out if you want to develop pretty much everything you need to learn when starting out with Jazz: Phrasing, Vocabulary, Rhythm and most importantly these solos are pretty easy to figure out and play. I have given them to students to learn by ear many times, and they always learn a TON from it! Which makes me almost want to submit a complaint with my former teachers because nobody told me to check him out, but I’ll get back to that later.
The guitarist I am talking about here is Grant Green, someone who was a massive influence on a LOT of people, from Benson, to Pat Metheny, Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Super important figure in Jazz Guitar history!
3 Eras for Grant Green
To me, there are sort of 3 periods for Grant Green’s playing.
His early Bebop/Hardbop period, which is what I will focus on in this video. A lot of Organ trio stuff and also this guitar trio album simply called “Standards”.
then a true Hardbop era, with more modal Jazz and albums with Coltrane’s rhythm section, “Solid” is an amazing album from this period
and finally the Funk and Soul period where you have “Green Is Beautiful”
But the stuff that is so incredibly valuable for beginners learning Jazz is mostly the early stuff, and I think you will see why. And just to warn you: I will also talk about why I don’t like his tone that much on these albums, but you can of course start complaining about that already now in the comments.
Let’s get to the first example which is the pickup and the beginning of the solo, and it demonstrates 3 things that you definetely want to have in your playing, probably a more..
Bebop On Guitar, But Done Right
I should probably mention that the song is You Stepped Out Of A Dream, off the album called “Standards”. The whole album is a guitar trio, and Green doesn’t play any chords in this song at all, same goes for the other songs on the album, but it is an incredible album to check out, his playing is so solid and the lines are so strong.
The pick up is a long G7 line, even if I just write C6 since it is the end of themelody. It is a great example of how you can use trills in your playing to change up the flow a bit and make the whole thing come alive so it isn’t just 8th note lines all the time.
And it is really just a G7 out of C harmonic minor:
The first 4 bars of the solo shows some really useful examples of motivic development with 3 phrases that link in motifs:
First two phrases on the Cmaj7 are descending arpeggio melodies
and then the he connects the 2nd phrase of Cmaj7 with the phrase on Dbmaj7, using the same beginning notes over the chord.
Another thing that you want to notice is the large interval skip that Grant Green uses on the Dbmaj7 chord, inserting a low F between Db and C.
This is instant Bebop, and you will see 3 more variations of this later in the solo, and if that is all you learn from this solo then it is still worth the effort! As you will see, then this works on a lot of chords and is a great way to change things up so that your lines are not always running up and down scales or arpeggios but also surprising the listener a bit.
The II V I to Ab major that follows is also a great line, but later you also have a perfect II V I line! This one has what you could call a Dbmaj7(9) arpeggio,
Something you will see him play a few variations of as well in the solo. On The Eb7 there is another great interval skip that I always associate with Wes: You encircle the 3rd of the dominant and then skip up to the root, Wes does this a few time in 4 on 6.
Let’s take a look at that Perfect II V I
The Perfect II V I
Grant Green is a great example of how to be practical about taking Charlie Parker Bebop licks, that are often difficult to play on guitar,
and then make them into really playable and very solid Bebop material for Guitar. This, coupled with how he usually plays fairly relaxed tempos, makes these solos a lot easier to play and it is still really good music.
Check out this line and then I’ll talk about how it is a perfect example of a II V I bebop lick
You can hear that it has it all: syncopation, trills, interval skips and triplets. The funny thing about this is that you can see it as an embellishment of a very simple skeleton, like this:
Explainer: First you get the syncopation and the enclosure (From D to Bb) This is followed with the 2nd way to introduce interval skips:
The Pivot arpeggio that takes you to G on C7 (Pivot arp to G) We still have 2 variations of these in the solo though.
From here, he then adds a trill and an enclosure to resolve to the 3rd of F: A (C7 line to Fmaj7)
One thing you want to notice is that at the very beginning when he has the enclosure taking us to Bb then he is playing the enclosure in the opposite direction, so the melody moves down from D to Bb, but he plays the enclosure up from A to C. Again this is a much more interesting melody, also without the syncopation.
Everything moving down sounds like this
compared to the “flipped enclosure”
This is also a thing that Parker does really a lot, so he probably got it there. We still have two more variations of those large interval strategies so let’s get to the next example
Two Great Examples of Chromatic Notes
There is a really cool trick with enclosure at the end of this example, but let’s start with the phrase on the Dbmaj7, where he is really laying back in the time. Again he is adding a low F between Db and C, but this time he is adding a leading note to that lower note which is a great way to amplify the effect of the interval skip, because you are skipping down to a funny note that needs to resolve:
On the II V in Ab that follows he uses the Dbmaj7(9) arepggio that I talked about earlier, but adding a trill and going in to two enclosures next to each other that sound really great:
Here you have a melody which is first an enclosure of Bb and then on of G
This is very similar to how George Benson creates some great lines on Billie’s Bounce, no scales, just using triads and enclosures. Let me know if you want a link to the video where I talk about that.
How I discovered Grant Green
As I mentioned in the beginning then I was never told to check out Grant Green, which is probably just a coincidence. I had actually checked out some of his later stuff before getting into Jazz, but I did not think to look for more standard material by him. It wasn’t really until I started looking for material that I could use for teaching that I discovered him, mainly because his solos are not too long and not too fast plus that they are often on a 12-bar blues or on a common jazz standard, which makes them great for learning Jazz. This led me to checking out quite a few solos and using them really a lot in lessons and I really like a lot of his albums, especially Solid is a favorite of mine where Joe Henderson is also really amazing! B-roll: Joe Henderson Photo or VIdeo
The Tone And All That Reverb
Grant Green clearly doesn’t fit the typical myth about Jazz tone, with the tone rolled down and bass turned up on the amp, but of course that is also a myth. If you have watched any of my other videos on my guitars and how I think about tone, then you might be able to guess that I am not a massive fan of how Grant Green sounds on these early recordings where I think he is using an ES330 which is a completely hollow version of a 335 with p90 pickups. According to George Benson then Grant Green set up his amp by turning down treble ad bass and turning up the mids, which actually is not that different from how I set up my amp. When I talked about not liking the attack on my ES175 in the video on that guitar, then that is exactly what you hear in this recording of Grant Green. Of course, I think it is fine for him, but it is not what I want to sound like. I have similar thoughts on the spring reverb that is very present on this album, when I listen now I do wonder if it is not a studio spring reverb instead of the amp, but it is hard for me to tell. Remember that it is quite possible to like how somebody plays without wanting to have the same tone, and for the rest feel free to “open up emotionally” in the comment section.
No Chords, Just Fills
I want to add a short side-note on the harmony Grant Green uses on this song and how he doesn’t use any chords, which is not very common for jazz guitar trios, but I think it is clever how Grant Green uses fills to spell out the harmony next to the melody. This is especially clear on the maj7 chords in the beginning. where you have the 3rd in the melody and then Grant Green plays a riff spelling out movement from the 7th to the 6th which both gives you the chord and suggests some harmonic movement.
He probably got that from the trombone part on the Sonny Rollins version, EXAMPLE And I say that because he also plays the same reharmonization and also the same wrong note in the melody that Sonny plays. The next example is on top of that reharmonization.
Pivot Arpeggio 2.0
The reharmonization here is that you usually don’t go from Fmaj7 to Fm7, but instead it goes from Fmaj7 to Am7 D7, so V of V. Both sets of changes fit the melody which is just a C.
What I want to highlight here is the 4th variation of those Bebop interval skips, because here you have an Abmaj7 pivot arpeggio on top of the Fm7, but Grant Green adds two nice variations to it. You get a leading note to the low C, and there is a trill on the G when he gets back up
The other thing that I want to point out here is how he also uses the enclosure and interval skip on Bb7 to get that nice interval at the end of the line:
Which is similar to what he did on the Eb7 in the first example.
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