Jazz and Blues Phrasing
In this fourth lesson of this series we are looking at some music based on the Guitar playing of Larry Coryell. Most of the examples come from his book called ‘Jazz Guitar’ published 1998 and available on his website www.larrycoryell.net. So if you would like the tab and sheet music for these lessons get yourself a copy.
Before we look closely at Coryell’s use of jazz-style phrasing let us just recall what we covered in Lesson Three. You remember that in the lesson we played really three melodic phrases over two twelve-bar chord progressions in C. When we listen to the phrase we see certain things in common, namely that they have a classic arch-shaped structure. An ascending line answered by a tumbling, falling phrase often using a blues scale.
The first phrase uses a minor scale with the added Eb. Hear how the line goes up to Eb, touches the note then descends back down through the minor scale with bluesy third infection from Eb to E.
The second phrase remember started on C# and rose through the minor scale picking up some chromatic colouring on the way to a high C, then tumbled back down through the blues scale to the low Bb.
Finally in the second twelve bars there was played, over an F7th chord, a rising diminished scale topped with chromatics and again tumbling down through A minor through our ‘telling’ C# and resolving on a jumpy bebop ending.
When we turn to the new melody played at the start of this video Coryell takes the chord progression we learnt in lesson two and plays some different kinds of phrases, really more in a jazz idiom than blues. Let us look at the first phrase just starts like we used before, based on A minor with an added Eb.
The second, has almost the same notes with a slight variation at the end.
The third phrase however is just a short descending blues pattern that just stops. Note the abrupt ending and remember what we said about the jumpy bebop style of phrasing.
The following phrase is very curly, convoluted kind of phrase like we often see in jazz, You can just think of it as a complex phrase but I like to hear this a three phrases, in close proximity, joined together. Stevie Ray Vaughan does this also in his blues patterns with a series of short melodic patterns pack in together in a small space.
The next phrase just two notes. And this extraordinary phrase. What is going on here? In his book Coryell described as using the Dorian scale built on the fifth step of the scale built on the root of the chord. Can you believe that? Jazz guys say this sort of thing often. It sounds complicated but yes over a Bb chord he plays the first five notes of an F minor scale. Descending. And leaving a note out. Over the Eb chord exactly the same. Over the Ab chord he plays an Ebm7th arpeggio and over the Db chord and ascending dominant scale on Ab. Personally I just see the first arpeggio over the Bb chord as just a ninth descending through 765, then then same on Eb. The Ebm7 arpeggio is just a chord extension of Ab7 and the Mixolydian scale on Ab is self-evident. The short four-note connection phrase, D F D Eb leads nicely into a two bars blues phrase again just a descending line replete with sliding inflections.
Over the F9 chord he just plays a cute repetitive arpeggio pattern
Nearing the end of this 24 bar solo Coryell plays an arpeggio fragment like he played previously but this time on the beat in semiquavers again using that frenetic, almost nervous, compressed jazz rush, Compare the relaxed eighth-note triplet blues sound the first time with the same notes this time semiquavers.
Again a bluesy descending arpeggio tumbling down to a low G answers the semiquavers.
Ok so there is a brief analysis of Coryell’s jazz-style phrasing, Remember the aim here is not to just copy this line, but to learn from Coryell’s note choices, rhythmic style and melodic shape so you can create your own melody,
Just recapping that:
- Basic eight-note phrases in A minor with added Eb
- Short disconnected phrases sometimes with leaping bebop ending.
- Short melodic fragments played rapidly close together.
- Short arpeggiated phrases based on one scale per chord.
- Using a Bbmaj9th chord over C7th.
- Repeating a phrase with faster, compressed note-values,
- Relieving tension and resolving through descending blues phrases,