Learn how to bal­ance jazz and blues play­ing with an ex­clu­sive les­son from this fab­u­lous jazzer!

In this penul­ti­mate in­stal­ment of our four-part video se­ries, Dario Cortese talks to Nigel about his ap­proach to bal­anc­ing jazz and blues play­ing.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Welcome to the third part in our se­ries of video lessons with jazz gui­tarist Nigel Price. In the first two in­stal­ments we looked at Nigel’s ap­proach to chord melody and sin­gle-line play­ing. We’ve tried to high­light the think­ing be­hind it in or­der to pro­vide read­ers with a sys­tem­atic ap­proach to those ar­eas. This month we’ll be look­ing at how Nigel ap­proaches play­ing over a ma­jor jazz-blues.

With­out get­ting into too much de­tail, it might be worth point­ing out that the jazzblues struc­ture has a few dif­fer­ences from a stan­dard Al­bert King type of blues. Firstly, the ‘tra­di­tional’ blues is of­ten in a guitar friendly key such as A or E, whereas the jazz blues is more likely to be in Bb or F. This is due to the preva­lence of horns in jazz; for trum­pet or sax play­ers it’s a lot eas­ier to play in Bb than it is in A (and pi­anists of­ten pre­fer it too).

Another dif­fer­ence is in some of the chords used. In fact a jazz-blues, although heav­ily based on stan­dard I-IV-V for­mat, has the ad­di­tion of a few chords. This al­lows jazz mu­si­cians to use their V-I lines that are such an im­por­tant part of this style. Nigel’s ap­proach of­fers a very good bal­ance be­tween blues and jazz phras­ing. He demon­strates great con­trol over both styles but for the pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle let’s fo­cus on a cou­ple of el­e­ments that make this solo ‘jazz’.

To start, Nigel plays the ma­jor­ity of his solo us­ing swing quavers (eighth notes). This is an im­por­tant jazz her­itage and comes straight from Char­lie Parker. What’s im­por­tant to no­tice is how the quavers are ar­tic­u­lated. In fact, when we an­a­lyse them we re­alise that Nigel of­ten uses a legato (ham­mer-ons, pull-offs or slides) to con­nect two quavers. This hap­pens mostly on off-beats – an off-beat qua­ver is played legato onto an on-beat qua­ver. This is not a tech­ni­cal choice but it’s done to cre­ate a cer­tain kind of shape and flow to the phrases. Check out bars 9, 14/15, 16, 17, 20-22, and then again in the dou­ble-time feel sec­tion from bars 33-35. We of­ten find this ex­act same style of phras­ing with any great jazz mu­si­cian.

Another el­e­ment of Nigel’s play­ing that refers back to the jazz tra­di­tion is the note choice. This can be seen for in­stance in the use of su­per­im­posed arpeg­gios. Su­per­im­pos­ing arpeg­gios means adding them to phrases to bring out spe­cific chordal ex­ten­sions. For in­stance, play­ing an Em7 (E-G-B-D) ar­peg­gio over a Cmaj7 chord (C-E-G-B) brings out a Cmaj9 (C-E-G-B-D) sound. This al­lows Nigel to use a sim­ple ar­peg­gio (R-3-5-7) to cre­ate a much more so­phis­ti­cated har­mony, as you’ll see and hear in bars 9, 14, 15, 33, 34, 45.

When these two el­e­ments are com­bined with sim­pler, more straight­for­ward mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic phras­ing we end up with the best of two worlds – which so many peo­ple love to hear. Join me again next month for the fi­nal part of Nigel’s mas­ter­class se­ries.

Nigel ap­proaches this style with a very good bal­aNce be­tweeN blues aNd jazz phras­iNg.

Nigel Price: for­mi­da­ble UK jazz gui­tarist

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