There is a downside to how we teach Jazz now, on one hand, it is very efficient and helps internalize important skills, but on the other hand, it is often very focused not taught using real music and teaching how others played which helps you understand the music in a broader way and also teach you other important things at the same time. There are a few guitarists that I was not really aware of while I was learning and didn’t discover until much later, but I think they could really have taught me some useful things and made learning Jazz easier. The 3 guitarists are sort of split into periods: one that is mostly before Bebop, one that is in the creation, and one that plays Bebop. I’ll talk about how one of them in a way is a bit like Van Halen 😁
#1 The Father of Bebop?
When I started out playing Jazz guitar, I was still studying Mathematics at the University of Århus. I was actually pretty lucky to get some pretty solid recommendations from my classical guitar teacher Morten Skott. This meant that I was not only listening to Charlie Parker who I had just discovered, but also had cheap compilation cd’s with Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian. And even though I am talking about people that I didn’t really check out in this video, then I did actually learn some Charlie Christian solos by ear from that compilation cd, the problem with that was that while I could figure out some of his phrases and a few entire solos, at least I hope I got it right since I don’t really remember what I checked out, then I had no idea what the songs were or how to play them, and my theory was not good enough to tell me anything, so they were just solos and phrases I could play not even really knowing what key I was in.
My favorite from that album was Seven Come Eleven which is a really typical swing riff composition.
The main theme is:
So very rhythmic, repetitive, and only a few notes.
I probably liked this because it was easier to understand and made more sense to me than some of the other tracks which had really interesting phrases with shifting dim runs like “Good Enough To Keep” Which has phrases like:
Of course, that is not really THAT complicated, but it was very far away from Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rage Against The Machine which is where I was coming from.
The Solo from Seven Come Eleven is a great example of what I later felt I had missed:
As I already showed you then there are more complicated and dense phrases in Charlie Christian solos, but I really think that this lighter more sparse playing is something that really helps you get the rhythms to sound right, also later when you start playing longer bop lines.
All this stuff where it is just a few or even one note that is interesting because of the rhythm
And this is really just one area of the neck and strong basic Ab or Ab7 vocabulary to learn.
You can get so much from checking this out; I have also often used it with students.
The People who came after Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian was a huge influence on all of Jazz guitar, and when I listen to him now then I really hear how Barney Kessel was influenced by him, I believe they also met at one point, but I am not sure if that is true.
Let’s check out another guitarist that is criminally overlooked!
#2 Sideman of A Giant
I guess sometimes when you work with really famous artists as a sideman you end up standing in the shadow of them and not getting noticed. I think that sort of happened to Oscar Moore who is probably best known as “the guitarist of Nat King Cole” maybe a bit like George Martin being the 5th Beatle, but that is hard to say.
The Nat King Cole Trio stuff with Oscar Moore is from the mid-40s until the beginning of the 50s and since Nat King Cole was both an amazing musician and a commercial success, then a lot of the songs are short takes with a single or a half chorus of solo for the guitar.
This makes them fairly easy to learn, and Oscar Moore solos always have a lot of solid lines, but also some interesting phrasing. Check out this solo from Sweet Lorraine:
I sometimes feel that these shorter solos are really more similar to a solo that you might find in a pop or rock song, which I guess the song also was when it was released in 1940-something.
There are some solid simple melodies in this, and actually a fair amount of blues,
but also some stuff that is really a lot more about effects and surprising sounds. In this case by being very intervallic,
He also used long slides, bends, tremolo picking, and stuff like that to have different sounds.
That part of it pretty much disappeared when Jazz became more serious with Bebop and was supposed to be real art. Here it almost reminds me of stuff you might hear in a Van Halen or Steve Vai solo, where the sound is sometimes as important as the notes.
It’s more about sounds than about a longer melody, and since I am anyway making this a hottake then maybe Ellington’s saxophone player, Johnny Hodges also is an example of someone using phrasing and effects like that.
Keep in mind that I am not really saying anything about whether this is good or bad music, I am just showing you an aspect of their playing where they are similar. You can get rid of your anger in the comment section if it offends you that Johnny Hodges and Van Halen are similar.
In the case of Oscar Moore, it sort of makes some of his material more modern, and less Bebop because Bebop is much more about flow, and some of his phrases are intervallic and sort of the opposite of flowing, probably also because he wanted to not sound like the melody that had just been sung.
I felt that I learned a lot from how Oscar Moore mixes the different things in these short solos and Nat King Cole is fantastic both as a piano player and a vocalist! Another thing worth mentioning is that if you check out later Oscar Moore stuff then you really hear him develop with the times and start playing altered scale and more Bebop-influenced lines, similar to the next guitarist.
#3 The Shortcut To Bebop
This solo actually always makes me happy. Grant Green is probably the one of the 3 that I ended up spending the most time with, mainly because I have given his solos to a lot of students for them to learn Bebop vocabulary, and that is also how I heard this solo the first time, and how I discovered the standards album that he made. For guitarists then there probably is no better place to learn Bebop than Grant Green, his lines are absolutely incredibly melodic and his vocabulary is solid Bebop, and I am saying that while I still don’t like his tone on this album, but you can complain about that in the comments, first, check this out:
Within these 8 bars you have so many great things!
3 variations of using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord: Ebmaj7 over Cm7:
Bdim over G7:
and on Aø over F7:
A great pivot arpeggio with some chromaticism on Bbmaj7:
A line cliche turned into a bebop lick in the 2nd line with some really nice phrasing embellishments:
The King Of Bebop Guitar
And this is in 8-bars, and there are several places like this in the solo. The greatest thing about this is that he manages to make Bebop lines playable on guitar and still makes great music. If you want to develop that side of your playing then he is where you need to go next. Especially how he mastered adding pivot arpeggios and large intervals to his playing and in that way not sounding like he is just running up and down scales, there are techniques for this that you can start using. 4 of the most common variations are all in the solo that I talk about in this video and that can really breathe new life into your Bop vocabulary and give you some fresh melodic ideas. The solo is on another standard: You Stepped Out Of A Dream
Get the PDF!
You can also download the PDF of my examples here:
Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:
You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:
Get a free E-book
If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:
Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group
Join 7500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.