Can you explain the difference between a “jazz
blues” and a regular blues? How can I make my
blues playing more jazzy?
—Blue and Bored in Birmingham
Dear Blue and Bored,
This is a great question! There are many
variations on the jazz blues, but this one is
middle of the road and comes straight from
bebop. Lets take a look at the chord changes.
The first thing to notice about [Ex. 1] is that
we’re still using a 12-bar form with the familiar
harmonic shape. However here’s what
we’ve substituted: In the 4th bar, we add a
IIm-V to get to the IV chord. The 6th bar
contains a #IV diminished as a passing chord
up to the I. In the 8th bar, instead of I we go
to VI which is really the V/II. Now the tricky
part comes in the turnaround. Instead of VIV-
I as B.B. King might play it, Wes
Montgomery might play it like this; IIm-V7-
I followed by a VI-II-V and back to the top.
Practice the example below to get used
to hearing the added harmony. The voice
leading is important because your lines will
have to include those notes. This will get
you started, and next month we will solo
hard on these chords.
Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the
non-jazz world. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jake’s latest release is
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