NIGEL PRICE, PART 4
In the final instalment of this wonderful series, the talented jazzer looks at the minor blues.
Welcome to the fourth and final part of our Nigel Price video masterclass. In this article we’re going to look at Nigel’s way to play over a jazzy minor blues. To make the most out of this final encounter we decided to play a blues in bossa feel in order to see how Nigel approaches playing on a straight groove. The result is, again, tasteful playing of the highest calibre. A pleasure to listen to.
Before we start looking at Nigel’s solo, let’s talk about the minor blues structure and clarify what we mean. In jazz there are many possible ways to play a minor blues. Some blues are very simple harmonically and feature only three chords: Im-IVm-V (or Vm). Others are a bit more colourful and intricate. The structure that Nigel played on is a very popular minor jazz blues and probably considered the most standard structure. We’ve chosen the key of A minor for various reasons: it’s a guitar-friendly key and is a bit easier to get one’s head around it harmonically. Here’s the structure: | Am / / / | Bm7b5 / E7 / | Am / / / | A7 / / / | | Dm / / / | Bm7b5 / E7 / | Am / / / | F#m7b5 / / / | | F7 / / / | E7 / / / | Am / F#m7b5 / | Bm7b5 / E7 / | Compared to a standard blues there a few extra chords added to create more harmonic movement that the players can use. Mostly this is achieved by adding II-V to a destination chord; for example, a II-V to get to Am would be Bm7b5-E7. Although all the chords in a progression are important, some are a bit more important than others. For instance, the A7 in bar 4 is a chord that a lot of players like to play over because it creates a nice transition to the Dm in bar 5. This makes it the perfect place to use the V-I vocabulary, which is such an ingrained part of the jazz sound.
Another key chord is the F7 in bar 9. This chord can be seen as the result of a couple of substitutions that musicians started using simply because it ‘sounded’ right. Without getting too much into the details of how this is possible, here’s a short explanation from a theory perspective. The ‘original’ chord that, sticking to the diatonic harmony, should have been there is Bm7b5. That would have created a II-V into the Am (Bm7b5-E7-Am). How do we get from a Bm7b5 to an F7? Jazz musicians like to make most chords dominant 7 so that they have more options harmonically. So Bm7b5 becomes B7. Jazz musicians also like is the tritone (b5) substitution (ie a diminished 5th interval away from the original chord). So B7 becomes... bingo! F7! A long story for something our ears pick up naturally.
This type of minor jazz blues is worth knowing even for the players who are not, strictly speaking, jazz players. Even BB King and traditional blues players have played over similar structures. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have preparing them!
NEXT MONTH We begin a brand new series with LA blues and fusion maestro Allen Hinds
This Type of minor jazz blues is worTh knowing even for The players who are noT, sTricTly speaking, jazz players
Nigel Price: formidable UK jazz guitarist