Hey Jazz Guy,
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 Patterns [Buckyball].