Tag Archives: jazz blues solo

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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Jazz Blues – You Need To Know Triads!

If you had any doubt, why Triads are amazing in your solos then you just check out this video and see how strong melodies you can create and how many options you have when you solo on a jazz blues. Trust me, you will never regret practicing diatonic triads and inversions.

A triad is easy to learn and great for melodies, just listen to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or Metallica’s One.

We can practice many things, but the great thing about triads is that they make very solid melodies so you can easily use them and sound great in a lot of places, as you will hear in this video.

The Solo – Triads only

Let’s first check out how a solo chorus only using triads sound and then I will show you what triads go where and how to find them for different chords.

When you only play super-imposed triads it often sounds quite modern, but of course, Charlie Parker and Wes used triads as well, so it is also a part of more traditional bop vocabulary

F7 and Bb7 – The Magic of Diatonic Triads

The first phrase on the F7 is an A diminished triad. When it comes to choosing triads then the easiest way to search is to look at the scale in thirds.

F7 is the dominant in Bb major, so if you have that scale in thirds:

Bb D F A C Eb G Bb

The F7 is arpeggio is then:  Bb D F A C Eb G A Bb

And the top part of that is A diminished A C Eb

In this way, we can filter out possible candidates by choosing triads that have common notes with F7.

Bb major doesn’t work, but Dm, is good, F and Adim are part of the arpeggio, and Cm is also a fine option, as you will see later. You can get away with Eb major as well because the Eb is a strong note on F7.

Dm, F, Adim, Cm, Eb

The same process on Bb7: Bb7 is the dominant in Eb major

Eb G Bb D F Ab C Eb

Gives us:

Gm, Bb, Ddim, Fm, Ab.

Here I am using Bb major on the Bb7.

The next bar uses a Cm triad on F7, which fits with what I already showed you.

Now that it is clear what is available on the regular dominants then let’s have a look at the Altered dominant and later the dominants from the diminished scale.

Next, we have an F7 altered which for many is a difficult chord to solo over, but Triads can actually work as a type of Shortcut.

Thoughts on Practicing Triads

The most important way to practice triads is to learn them in the scales you use, so working on diatonic triads is extremely useful, and if you want to take it to the next level then playing the inversions through scales is also a great exercise.

Altered Dominant Triads

F7 altered is the same as Gb melodic minor. Soloing over an altered dominant can be tricky, but as you can see here the triads help you make stronger melodies that still really connect to the chord.

The theory is a little bit less clear, but still not rocket science:

The Scale in 3rds: Gb A Db F Ab Cb Eb Gb (I am writing A because it is an F7 chord)

The Gbm triad is b9, 3, b13

A augmented triad: A Db F works as well

Db is not that strong without an A, it almost sounds like an Fm chord and a little close to the Bb7.

F dim is not that strong, we really miss the A and the Eb.

Abm has the Eb so that works.

Cb or B major works really well, that is the triad of the tritone sub B7

Ebdim is an F7b9 so that works as well

So we have: Gbm, Aaug, Abm, Cb, Edim

This is a bit context-sensitive so you can probably get other triads to work as well, but for now, I am going for the “easy” choices that sound fairly obvious.

The Altered Shortcut

The line in the solo is using Cb and Gbm triads to create a very logical melody. And in general, that is something you can use with the altered dominant: The triads resolve up and down in half steps:

F7alt: Bb7: Gbm Fm

Aaug Bb:

Abm Gm:

Cb B:

Ebdim Ddim:

And you could make similar lists for resolving to other chords like Bbmaj7 or Bbm6.

Diminished Chords and Some Great Triad Options

The Bdim in bar 6 has a lot of triad options.

The arpeggio itself has 4 diminished triads: B D F Ab

Which gives us B D F, D F Ab , F Ab B, Ab D F

The scale I would use here is C harmonic minor, and a great triad in that to use would be the G major triad, which is what I use here.

The G triad is used to lead back to the Adim on the F7.

Minor II V I trick

The Aø D7alt is the minor II V to the Gm7, the II chord.

A great really simple way to make lines on this progression with triads is to use the same triad, first in major and then in minor.

That is what I am doing here: On the Aø you see the major triad from the b5: Eb major, and on the D7alt that becomes an Ebm triad, which fits because D7 altered is Eb melodic minor.

Let’s have a look at being symmetric without sounding symmetric with the diminished scale.

Dominant With Diminished Scale

On the C7, I am using one of the best ways to play melodic lines over a dominant using the diminished scale: Making melodies with the 4 major triads.

For the C7 that gives us C, Eb, Gb and A major.

In this case, I am using A and Gb major to really bring across the C7(13b9) and C7(b5).

When you improvise with these triads then it is easy to not sound symmetric: Don’t play symmetrical melodies, which is how I approach this line playing different melodies and inversions with the triads.

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F Jazz Blues – Study Guide

This study guide will give you a row of lessons to check out how to solo on an F Jazz Blues. The material will cover basic and advanced chords and voicings, arpeggios, scales and also some of the things to check out if you want to work on being able to play better melodies in your solos.

The 12 bar blues is an essential part of the Jazz Repertoire. The F Jazz Blues is probably the most common key. Famous pieces like Straight No Chaser, Billie’s Bounce and Au Privave are most know themes played in F. 

Your Feedback is very valuable

Remember that the guides are here to help you so if you have suggestions for this or other guides then let me know! I might have missed something or you have another idea for something that is important to check out! Feel free to send me an e-mail or message via social media.

I have also collected the videos in a Playlist on Youtube if you prefer that:

Playlist: F Jazz Blues YouTube Playlist

Check out the other study guides here: Study Guides For Jazz Guitar

The Jazz Blues Survival Kit: Basic Scales and Chords + an Etude

The first three lessons deal with a basic chord vocabulary and how to use it when playing important chord progressions and jazz standards

Expanding your chord vocabulary

Where the basic clear voicings are presented in the previous section you can move on to a higher level by checking out these two lessons. 

The first is directly continuing with the material from the Survival kit and the second is introducing Drop2 voicings.

Arpeggios and Soloing

The best place to begin with soloing and expanding on it when approaching the blues from a bebop perspective is probably to check out the arpeggios. Being able to play the harmony is very important and a very solid foundation to build on.

The Blues in Jazz also has a specific language that is worth checking out. Adding this on top or next to your bop vocabulary is very useful. This video goes over 5 examples of lines mixing these two traditions.

Developing Phrasing for both chords and solos

Playing Chords does require more than just knowing what chord to play where. Some of the other parts of phrasing chords on a blues are dealt with in this lesson. The lesson is not using an F blues as an example, but the information in it will greatly help you get a good hard-bop blues vibe.

More Modern sounds

There are also more modern approaches that you can apply to an F Blues. Quartal Harmony and Pentatonic sounds are very common devices in Modern Jazz.

Chord Solos

Chord Solos is a must in mainstream jazz and this lesson goes over how to work on playing chord solos on an F blues by demonstrating a chorus and giving some exercises to develop your own chord vocabulary that is aimed at playing chord solos

Learn more about Jazz Blues

If you are looking for more extensive turtorials and examples you can check out some of the examples in my WebStore in the Blues category


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More Resources

If you want to have more resources available then you can also check out these lessons from my webstore with longer examples, exercises and analysis of material on an F Jazz Blues