Tag Archives: blues jazz

Why Their Jazz Blues Solos Always Sound Better Than Yours

Jazz Blues is surprisingly simple. The Lines are a lot simpler than you might think and probably stuff you already know, you just need to learn how to get it to sound right, and that is also easier than you might think!

Let me show you some amazing examples from what are probably also your favorite Jazz artists, they all play unbelievable Jazz blues solos and also give you some ways to make your own solid Jazz blues licks.

The sound of Jazz Blues is different than the sound of Jazz, the lines are related to Bebop lines, but they are different in quite a few ways, and that is probably what I like about them. Of course, the same is true if you compare Jazz Blues to what you might consider “straight blues playing” like this

In this video, I want to take a look at what that difference is, because if you know that then you also have an easier time getting the sound right in your playing.

Is This Overlooked When It Comes To Blues?

The first aspect of Jazz Blues is actually not as much about note choice or rhythm, it is about something that is at the core of the Blues sound. Try to listen to this part of George Benson’s solo on Bille’s Bounce. Notice how he is not just weaving through the changes, he is doing something else.

The scale that he is using here is often also a bit misunderstood, calling it Dorian is, I think, a bit misleading, but I will return to that part of it later. What you probably noticed is that he is repeating phrases, and he is also playing fairly short phrases. Obviously, motivic development is a massive part of most excellent jazz musicians’ toolbox, but here it is also related to Blues since the form of a 12-bar traditional Blues is about repeating and developing a motif through the form (Blues Progression diagram with phrases) In this case, the motif is a pretty simple descending melody and Benson is also moving the motif around rhythmically a bit, which is less common with blues but it is still clearly connected to Blues.

One thing that you want to be able to do is to play short phrases and find ways to repeat them through the form.

If you start to listen to it then you will hear this all over the place in the solos of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Charlie Parker, in fact, you will see quite a few examples of it in this video.  Let’s look at some rhythms

Stop Playing Bebop All The Time!

Another thing that is different from more straight Jazz or Bebop is how many notes you are playing and what rhythms. Again George Benson is a great example, so I’ll start with him and then move on to Wes. Check out how this phrase sounds amazing but certainly isn’t a Bebop line:

There are several reasons that this isn’t a Bebop line, but mostly the fact that he is playing quarter notes more than 8th notes is a big part of it.

Having simpler and more grounded rhythms is in fact also a part of the Blues sound where Bebop uses more syncopated rhythms in accents in longer lines.

Like Benson, Wes can do amazing things with this, and you want to notice that both the previous 2 and this next example are really only the same notes over the Blues, which is also important to learn. You could reduce it to a scale, but that might really help you as much as you think. You can also hear some of the other things I already talked about

As you probably noticed then, Wes is also repeating a phrase and developing it, just like George Benson was in the first example.

He also relies mostly on quarter note rhythms and not a Bebop 8th note flow,

and I think sometimes people forget that if you want to be able to play phrases and rhythms like this then you need to work on that. If you only practice playing 8th note lines through changes all the time, then you won’t get there. A part of the Jazz Blues sound with both Wes and Benson examples here, and this is true for these examples but also quite common in general in the solos I have checked out, is that the phrases seem to emphasize two notes: the 6th of the key, in F major which is a D, and the Ab,  the minor 3rd.

If you look at the Wes motif then it has the D as the outer note and the Ab is the other note that stands out:

And the first example with Benson sort of does the same:

Play the 2nd Benson motif where the D is also the outer notes of the scale.

Of course, that is not going to be true for all phrases, but it comes back more often than you might think, and it can be fun to mess around with. Let’s go a bit deeper with the note choices and figure out if there is a “Jazz Blues Scale”.

Is There A Jazz Blues Scale?

You may remember that I said these first 3 examples could be seen as using the same scale. To me, they don’t immediately sound like it though, so maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but check this out:

The 2nd George Benson example is clearly using the major blues scale,

so the major pentatonic with an added minor 3rd: F G Ab A C D F

And, the 1st George Benson example uses the same note set but doesn’t really use the A (except for the pickup);

if you look at the Wes example then that is also using that note set:

“The Scale Is NOT The Answer”

So all of the examples would be covered by the Major blues scale, and that is an important building block, but something that I find myself saying more and more often to people, and which seems more and more true every time I think about it:

If I am trying to understand a phrase and learn from it then the answer is almost never a scale. It is not just a set of notes that makes something music. We are all using mostly the same notes, There are Amazing Bebop phrases – and – very Boring Heavy Metal scale sequences that use the same major scale.

But at the same time, the major blues scale is a very useful resource to explore and is probably used a lot more than you’d expect in Jazz Blues, also in some pretty creative ways when it comes to double stops which you will see later in the video.

But if there isn’t really a Blues scale then there is another way to think about it.

The Mighty Triad (and a few other tricks)

Like any style of music, there isn’t a single approach that describes everything that is possible, which is probably also better because if it was a formula like that then the music would probably be boring. Still, there are some things you can do that work really well and are used often.

Notice how Parker uses motifs, or maybe riffs is a better word for it, and also how he gets from the I to the IV chord in this example from Now’s The Time:

The motif in this example is built around an F major triad on the F7

and then he changes it to Fm when the song moves to Bb7 to spell out that chord change and still connect the phrases.

In thiscase, Parker doesn’t use the major pentatonic scale, a better description is probably that he is adding notes around an F major triad, and there are some really great and fairly famous lines of his that follow that recipe, like this one from the opening of the Now’s The Time solos.

The first part is really just an F major triad with some chromatic approach notes:

Phrasing Without Bends

But you can also go more for more of a major pentatonic phrase like this Wes line from his solo on Fried Pies, and notice how Wes is really relying on slides as a part of his phrasing, you could say that he uses those instead of bends in the phrase, and the slides are mostly targeting the major 3rd, A. Something that is very common for this sound:

In general, slides, hammer-on and pull-offs are often the preferred techniques in Jazz blues over bending, probably because people like Wes had very heavy strings and not a lot of sustain, but you can find examples of bending, they are just less common. What you want to explore is using slides and hammer-ons to get to the 3rd of the chord:

You had George Bensons pick up in the first example –

But you also have a sort of enclosure like this:


or using a hammer on like this

Without bending there are other things that Jazz guitarists get very creative with: Double Stops.

The Power of Double Stops

This first one is a great example of how Jazz Blues should not always go with the changes in the way Bebop usually does, because in this chorus from Wes’s solo, he just sticks to the same 2 bar riff, but what you want to notice besides the double-stops is also how that really creates some tension and drives the whole thing forward. And pay attention to what type of double stop this is.

This type of double stop is a sort of pedal point where the high D note is ringing through and then you have a G that is sometimes turned into a short blues phrase.

A great variation on this double stop you can hear in Wes’ solo on Fried Pies. The high D is still a pedal point but it is now becoming a part of a call-response phrase and I think this double stop is a lot less common outside Jazz:

You want to listen to this solo for how he develops phrases and connects from one phrase to the next, it is pretty amazing!

Chord Solos in Jazz Blues

Another important part of Jazz Blues is combining Jazz chords with Blues licks, which is an amazing sound, and here Joe Pass is absolutely mind-blowing. If you want to explore how he does this and also how he approaches Jazz Blues in general, then check out this video which has some of the most solid Jazz Blues you will ever hear!

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

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This BEST Jazz Blues Solo For Bebop, Blues and Brilliant Phrasing

It’s George Benson, so it is usually pretty solid! This solo is certainly no exception, and it is from probably my favorite period of Benson with a lot of Bebop, high energy, amazing phrasing, and some really solid Blues!

Jazz guitar probably wouldn’t be Jazz guitar without this era of Bensons playing, but I think that will be clear from this. It seems hard to believe that I nearly walked out of a concert the first time I heard him play, I’ll tell you about that later.

Benny’s Back

The song is a fairly basic Blues in C with one twist in the harmony, and Benson’s solo is mind-blowing, it even has a phrase that I can’t analyze or really make sense of but it still sounds great!

The theme is sort of built around a sound that I used to call “Expensive” or “Sophisticated” Blues.

The Best Period For George Benson?

Before we get into the solo and the mysterious phrases that I can’t analyze let me just recommend this album! The track is off the George Benson Cookbook

which is one of my favorites. This album and the one before it called “It’s Uptown” are the same core band and are great examples of what George Benson did as a sideman before really launching into a solo career. Both are great albums that you want to check out!

There is a lot to talk about already with the theme, even if it isn’t complicated then it is doing the simple things right to make it work, both with the rhythm, the melody and the harmony. This is on quite a few levels actually.

Let’s start with the main riff:

What I used to call Expensive Blues was when I had solos that used the 6th or 13th together with the minor 3rd, this is from before I started playing Jazz. A trill with the blue note and a descending run that ends on the 6th.

What makes this really work is that it is repeated, but it is repeated so that it is not the same rhythm since the first one starts on beat one and then the 2nd time it is on beat 4.

In fact, the 2-bar riff splits the two bars into 3-3-2 beat groups, so it has a sort of 3-2 clave feel as well, not unlike New Orleans grooves or what you may know from Bo Diddley.

The tag in this riff is C major pentatonic, something that you will see Benson use quite a lot in his solo as well.

The progression is a 12-bar blues, except for bars 9 and 10 where they play Ab7 to G7. It is also worth mentioning that they use these chords in the theme, but it is not in the solo where Benson plays either Dm7 G7 or D7 G7.

You will actually come across this in more songs where the theme has complicated harmony and then it is made simpler and more open when you solo.

I think this song illustrates in so many ways: Keeping it simple but strong really works, the pickup for the solo also shows this:

Setting it Up With Some Bebop (pickup)


Benson has a 1 bar break and is coming out of all the syncopated notes so the energy is already really high, and he matches that with the first phrase.

But it is really simple, an Altered dominant and a simple enclosure taking us to the 3rd of C on beat one, and it also really works! Jazz doesn’t have to be complicated all the time!

And he continues with a very basic triadic C melody which is sort of a major blues cliché

I am saying this is simple, but as you will see then it is not just him running scales, he is really playing phrases or melodies, all the time. The next phrase is very complicated, but I am not 100% that it is on purpose.

What Is This Now?

That’s a LOT of half-steps and a really weird interval in the middle.

It starts as a blues phrase and it ends as a blues phrase and then the middle part is really unclear. I could overanalyze it as super-imposing a dominant or using Barry Harris’ 6th dim with a million leading notes, but that doesn’t really make sense to me.

It is not the first time I have had phrases in a solo that I couldn’t really explain but sounds fine when I listen to the solo. I suspect this might just be a few wrong notes. One thing that is on point is the timing of the phrase and later there are some really solid rhythmical examples, a phrasing thing that is done with picking (I think), and of course some Bebop.

I forgot to mention that this piece is probably dedicated to the Trombone player Bennie Green who is also a featured guest soloist on the track.

Super Simple but Super Solid!

Here’s some super solid Bebop, but it is again very simple, and notice how relative short the phrases are for Bop stuff.

I think it is interesting because I know he was inspired by Pat Martino, and to me, this does sort of have a Pat Martino vibe or Pat Martino energy, but at the same time the material is much simpler and the lines are shorter with more emphasis on rhythm. One thing that you can really hear in this solo, which I have to tell students very often is that there are not a lot of phrases ending with long notes, in fact, it is mostly ending staccato, so very short.

A lot of basic stuff, notice the line on the Eø A7 because he uses a variation of this later.

Again just really spelling out the changes, targeting the 3rd of A on beat 3:

He is using an Fmaj9 arpeggio over Dm7 and changing up the sound with slides in the turnaround.

So a different way of playing the notes and short phrases and more rhythm!

The next phrase has a lot of notes and only a few different notes at the same time, but it is really about rhythm and phrasing.

A Picking Trick

This is just repeating a note and making it sound different by using different strings. He is really playing around with the 3-note groupings on top of the song,

and he is sort of just spelling out F7, F#dim to C7 which is a common set of changes for a blues in C.

Let’s check out a variation of the Eø A7 that I mentioned earlier:

Octave Displacement And An Extra Dom7th

On the Eø A7 you have essentially the same phrase as before:

but now it is with octave displacement so that he skips up to the Bb.

In fact, he does a lot of great interval skips in this solo which really makes it more melodic.

You can also see that he comes out on a D7 this time, really playing D major pentatonic

before moving into some C blues over the G7 (play), which is also a way to create tension on that dominant.

Again not filling it up with 8th notes, and making the rhythm interesting without it being overly complicated.

`And that is a choice, as you can see from this phrase which is some solid syncopation.

Benson Blues

But first, as I mentioned that I nearly walked out of a George Benson concert. I was always completely blown away by Benson on stuff like this, or his solo on Billie’s Bounce I also made a video on it, and his straight-ahead playing is so incredible. But obviously, he is, by now, much more popular as a singer and sits more in pop and smooth jazz, which is not really my thing. The first time I heard him live, he was playing at the North Sea Jazz Festival. I was in my 2nd year of conservatory, and we had just played at the festival with the conservatory big band conducted by Jim McNeely. I had been listening to a LOT to this album that year, so I was really looking forward to seeing him play. He was in the big hall at the festival, and we went there. Of course, it was completely packed so we had to stand far back in the hall. I have to admit that in the concert, I was completely baffled and pretty disappointed that he didn’t play guitar at all in the concert, he was only singing. After 30 minutes, I gave up and I was already beginning to make my way to the exit to see something else when he finally picked up the guitar and played an amazing instrumental Blues, and The next and last song luckily also had a guitar solo as well. It was so good that it was actually worth waiting for.

Syncopated Blues Cliche

This is really just a syncopated version of the A-train ending (play) but like this, it has a lot more energy, and at this tempo, it is also tricky to nail it, but I am, again, really impressed with how simple it really is.

What makes all of this work is the execution, the phrasing, and energy that George Benson just nails in the solo.

A Better Tempo For Jazz Blues

That is the real challenge, because if you don’t have that then no amount of scales or complicated arpeggios will save you. But maybe this tempo is a bit fast to get started with this, and there is another Jazz blues solo that is in a much slower tempo but which also is full of perfect phrases, most of which are pretty simple, and that this Joe Pass solo that is off my favorite Joe Pass album.

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

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This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

Like me, you probably transitioned from playing some sort of Blues or Rock into playing Jazz, and often one of the first things that you “get” when listening to Jazz and that makes you explore the genre more is Jazz Blues. For getting that sort of crossover sound then I think this solo is the best there is, the perfect storm, and I never hear people talk about it which I find super weird.  It is the perfect mix of Bebop lines and Blues Licks and it is much more dynamic than most Jazz, but I’ll explain that along the way.

I was talking about this with one of the students in the Roadmap course the other day, and that made me think of this solo which really nails what Jazz Blues as a sound is and it is an Amazing solo! Certainly one of my favorite Jazz guitar solos of all time, and probably my favorite Joe Pass solo. It is a great song to demonstrate what is Blues and What is Jazz because it has clear elements from both and Joe Pass mixes that up and uses it in an amazing and creative way while also demonstrating just how incredible his range is with the music both in tempo, technique, sound, and harmony. Some of it is about the notes, but there is a LOT more going on.

There is a lot of real blues in this, with minor pentatonic stuff already from the rubato intro:

This is really all Blues scale stuff and using that sound. But he goes into some bop lines quite fast afterwards. Side note: I think the first part he is playing with his fingers and not with a pick, it is a little bit like you can hear the finger mute the string before it sounds which is different from playing with a pick, with a pick it is faster, almost instant.

Joe’s Blues & The Album

The song is off the “Intercontinental” album from 1970 which has Joe playing in a trio with drummer Kenny Clare and bass player Eberhard Weber.

Weber, is for me, much more associated with modern ECM stuff, so to hear him in this setting playing on an album of mostly standards is a bit funny, but he plays great on it! I have talked about how this is one of my favorite Joe Pass albums, if not just my favorite album. As far as I can tell, they didn’t rehearse anything and just spend a day in the studio with Joe calling tunes, which makes this album even more mind-blowing.

B-roll: Viking guitar teacher – “Learn Joe Pass” “go practice” + tape with Joe’s Blues

I was introduced to this song as homework, which was sort of scary. My teacher copied a tape of it and told me to go learn it. At the time I hadn’t really been listening to Joe Pass that much, I had been checking out Wes, Ulf Wakenius, Scofield, and Pat Martino,  not so much a choice on my part, it was just what people told me to listen to, since this was before the internet, so I couldn’t google it

This solo was really different from the other Jazz Blues things I had heard.

Most of the time when I had heard Jazz Blues then it was a LOT faster and a lot denser, more 8th note based, like Parker playing Au Privave.

And at those tempos then the solos are much more bebop lines and most of the time the emphasis is really on the Jazz side of things with phrases weaving through the changes.

That is not how Joe’s blues works though, there’s a lot more space in there.

The Sound – Archtop and Polytone?

But first, let’s talk a little bit about the sound, I think Joe’s sound on this album is a great traditional Jazz guitar sound. I always imagined that he used his ES175 into a polytone on this album, but I don’t know if it was that guitar and what amp was there, though it does have a polytone vibe to me, it could just as easily be fender tube amp or a music man. I am not even sure if Polytone amps existed in 1970?

There is also quite a bit of reverb on the guitar, and, to me, that sounds like a plate reverb, not an amp spring reverb, which you may already know that I don’t really like. As far as I know, most Polytones don’t have a reverb, so it is likely that it was a plate reverb given that it was recorded in 1970 before digital reverbs.

I am curious what you think he used, and you can hear it all quite clearly in the intro before the rhythm section comes in. Let me know if you have a suggestion, or maybe you know what he used.

Leave a comment to let me know!

Jazz Guitar Has NO Dynamics

Jazz guitar as an instrument actually suffers a bit from not having a very wide dynamic range, compared to drums or a trumpet. In this song, then the rhythm section is really playing as if they are in your living room, so the bass is really loud in the mix, and the drums playing only brushes is really just supplying a clear groove for Joe Pass to lock in with and float over, and because the drums are very soft then Joe Pass has an easier time using the dynamics of the guitar to the full extent.

I don’t know if you have thought about that, but traditionally,  Jazz guitar trios were often softer than bands with horns, and you can tell that they often are still a bit more in the chamber ensemble corner when they play. Like if you listen to Julian Lage trio, or Gilad Hekselman

Both, modern guitarists, who really embrace this and are very good at using dynamics and colors in their playing, while also being really different.

If you listen to Julian Lage on Nocturne then you can probably hear that if the band was louder then his soft call-response would just disappear, or have to be so loud that it wouldn’t come across as comping the melody.

And that is also how the rhythm section works behind Joe Pass giving him room to really get the contrast out between loud and soft and using chords and single-note lines. Let’s look at some of those types of phrases he is using, and how that is as much about rhythm.

Mixing Up Blues and Bebop

Most Jazz solos will stick to the subdivision of the groove, which is usually 8th notes, but for a slow blues like this that really is more like a ballad then you can do a LOT more and Joe Pass almost uses all the options!

He has phrases that are using 8th notes as this part from the beginning:

But since Blues is more fluid on top of the groove he also uses that in some of the phrases mixing 16th notes and triplets into it, more open but also sort of going for the Blues feel.

And then a few beats later he plays double time phrases:

And we didn’t even get to the IV chord in bar 5 yet!

Another really nice harmonic trick that he uses a few times is to turn the Am7 in bar 9 into an A7, and then us notes from the G blues scale to make it sort of an altered sound and then stick to the blues sound on the D7 that follows.

That is really giving you an A7 with a b9 and a #9 when he uses C and Bb over the A7 it is like a phrase you can hear in two ways at the same time.

Another nice variation with the rhythm is where he uses straight 8th notes on top of the swing groove

Harmonizing Blues Licks

Of course, there are also some really great phrases, harmonizing melodies, and mixing chords with single-note lines.

A great example is this really simple 3-note Blues phrase that is harmonized on a G7:

and then repeated on a C7

First using G7 and Ab7 chords and then the same notes but now using C7 and Db7 chords and he is using some of the same chords and a G pedal note for this simple but very effective part of the solo


Wes Montgomery!

Another guitarist with incredibly strong melodic ideas who is a a master of using chords in his solos is Wes Montgomery. If you want to know more about his playing, then check out this video that talks about both his singl note lines and his chord solos.

3 Reasons Wes Montgomery Is Amazing And Worth Checking Out




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5 Jazz Blues Licks in F

Mixing Blues phrasing and melodies with Jazz chromaticism and harmony  can give you some really great dom7th lines. In this lesson I am going to go over 5 examples and some exercises to help you get started exploring this.

 Scales and Arpeggios for Jazz Blues

All the examples in this lesson are on an F7 chord. I also kept the material in the position around the 6th fret.

To be able to mix Jazz and Blues we of course need to have the material to play both Jazz and Blues in this position. For that we need an overview of the essential scales and arpeggios. Since we are mixing two genres we need to get the tools to play each of them. 

In the Licks I can then easier explain where we are pulling the different parts from.

On the Jazz side of things we need is a scale for the F7 chord. Since F7 is the dominant of Bb major that would be a Bb major scale:


And then it is also important to know the chord tones of the F7 chord, in other words: The Arpeggio:


For the blues we can get away with one simple scale, namely the minor pentatonic scale:


This position for the pentatonic scale is not the most common, but still has some great blues options!

The Jazz Blues Licks

From Bar to bar

In the first example the opening phrase, and in fact the entire first bar, is minor pentatonic scale with an added blue note (B).  The second bar is coming more from the mixolydian sound but then using slides to keep the bluesy feel.

What is often the case with these more bluesy sounding lines is that they tend to make less use of extensions and rely more on resting or resolving to the notes of the basic triad.


Is it blues or passing notes?

The second example is direcly going in to the mix and we don’t get a part that is clearly on thing or the other. The first part of the lick also uses the Blue note, but now as a more jazzy row of chormatic passing notes. It then continues with somthing that in this context sounds like F7 arpeggio material.

In the second bar we get a descending scale run from D to A with a lower passing note added before the A. The phrase concludes with a diatonic 6h skip up to the root. A melody that is very common to Blues and Country.


Bluesey triplets

Triplets and triplet phrasing are part of shuffle and blues phrasing. Much more so than most bop language. In the 3rd Lick I am starting with a triplet phrase that is using the leading note to the 3rd and then continuing with a melody outlining an A dim triad. From there it descends down an F7 arpeggio with an added passing note between the root and the 7th. This is a bebop cliché that some people have even made scales out of.

In the second bar we have a variation of the 6th interval, this time from the b7 to the 5th and from there the scale moves down the triad to end on the root.


Double stops

The first part of example four could be interpreted as F major pentatonic but you could also think of it as a Dm7 arpeggio.

The second bar is a phrase constructed from a repeated double stop idea. Double stops are an integral part of blues repertoire(Think Chuck Berry). This phrase is somewhat reminiscent of a Wes Montgomery phrase from Smokin’ at the Half note.


The phrase above starts with an arpeggio run that ends on and emphasizes the 7th of the chord. In the second bar it continues with another double stop and a descending pentatonic scale run. This is resolved to the major 3rd and then skips up to the root, a very typical blues phrase.

Very often in Jazz Blues phrasing you will find that the blues phrases are resolved. Since Ab and Bb both are notes with some tension over an F7 it often works better in a jazz context to resolve them (mostly to the 3rd(A))


Putting together the Jazz and The Blues Phrases in your practice

I hope you can use the 5 examples and  the thoughts on how to mix the two genres that I presented here. I think it is important that you quickly start to practice mixing your skills. So you have to both be able to play Jazz and relate what you do to the changes. At the same time you need to also develop some blues phrases and techniques. The final goal is tu fuse this and play Jazz Blues Phrasing using slides, hammer-on and pull offs etc.

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Take it your Jazz Blues playing further! 

If you want to explore more of what I do when soloing and how I mix jazz and blues you can check out this WebStore lesson. It contains a transcription and analysis of a 4 chorus solo and explain how the melodies are written and what melodic or harmonic devices are used.

Bb Jazz Blues Lesson 1

You can also check out the other blues lessons: https://jenslarsen.nl/prodcut-category/blues/

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