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Guitar Lesson: Jazz soloing over the song Blue Bossa

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Guitar Lesson: Jazz soloing over the song Blue Bossa

“Blue Bossa” is a 16 bar bossa nova jazz standard, written by trumpeter Kenny Dorham. The original version can be found on “The Best of Kenny Dorham – Blue note years” (Blue Note). Many great players have covered this tune including; Pat Martino, Joe Pass, George Benson, Kenny Burrell and a great duo version by Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea. Blue Bossa is also a tune that is used as a study piece in many music colleges, as it is a good introduction to playing and improvising over jazz tunes due to it being harmonically quite simple.

Leaping straight into jazz improvisation is a very hard thing to do especially if you are making a transition from rock or blues.

The styles are completely different. There are lots of articulations in rock and blues such as bends, slides and vibrato.

In strict jazz playing there is very little, you wont hear Joe Pass adding tone wide vibrato to the end of one of his lines! The tone is also very different. If you are playing a Strat like guitar, try putting it on the neck pick up with the tone control rolled back to about 3.

This lesson is aimed at those players that are starting to get into playing jazz. One should be familiar with terms such as Major and minor II V I progressions, as this is what this tune is predominantly made up of.

I have written three solos each one chorus long using different approaches:

  1. Solo 1: A key centre approach
  2. Solo 2: Arpeggios
  3. Solo 3: Full on “jazz” approach

Aim to learn the solos but more importantly learn from them and not just copy them ‘parrot’ fashion. Try making some of the licks and lines your own by phrasing them differently as well as trying them in different keys and tunes. Many famous jazz players, when interviewed have underlined the importance of transcribing a favourite player’s lines. They have learnt from this method and used them in their own playing.

On the audio files below you will hear each solo played and also an extended backing track. The backing track is for you to try playing the solo over and to practice improvising over this classic standard. Let’s go through each of the solos and point out any interesting or tricky parts.

Solo #1 Using Key centre scales:

Blue bossa can be viewed as having two key centres. The first 8 bars are in C minor, then the next 4 bars move to D flat major, before returning back to C minor for the remaining 4 bars. By using good phrasing and note choice, you can construct a fairly convincing jazz solo by just using those two scales. Notice how the solo uses an almost constant stream of 8th notes occasionally broken up with a rest or a couple of 16th notes. This is the rhythmic aspect that will help to give you that authentic jazz sound. You may notice that on the harmonic side of things, the intervals between notes are much larger than you may play in a rock or blues solo. When playing jazz (or indeed any style) try thinking in leaps, 5th’s, 6th’s and 7th’s rather than steps, 2nd’s and 3rd’s as this will give greater harmonic depth to your solo. This can be clearly seen with a tricky line over the D flat Major II V I starting on bar 9.

Solo #2 Using Arpeggios:

In the very early days of jazz, this was the common approach to soloing, changing with every chord and this is very tricky to do especially at a high tempo on a tune with a lot of changes. It was not until the be-bop era that players also started to use the ‘modal approach’ (grouping a bunch of chords together in one key). Being able to improvise using just arpeggios, is a great skill to have, this will make your solos sound much more sophisticated as you outline the chords underneath. However, it can also end up sounding quite predictable as there is only so much you can do with it because there are no “danger notes”. The best approach in a normal situation would be to use a little of both. Using just arpeggios does make for great practice. This is the most technically demanding of all the three solos, as the fingering for these arpeggios is not always natural.

Also remember this is not an exercise, so we are not just running up and down shapes, we are using them in a musical way and this makes for big leaps across the fret board. This can clearly be seen within the first two bars using just a C m7 arpeggio in different positions. You can see a strong outlining moment over the G7 chord in bar 6. Strictly speaking, G7 does not exist within C minor the V chord should be Minor, but it gets changed to dominant 7th in jazz to give a stronger resolution back to the I chord.

Therefore, here we are outlining the major 3rd of G7 a B note and this gives a real impression of the soloist following the chord progression but not just outlining the root notes. Bar 11 is the only straight forward arpeggio run you will find but it has been rhythmically altered to 8th note triplets, this can prove quite tricky to play at 160 bpm. The solo ends with the use of arpeggios high up the fretboard.

Solo #3 Full Jazz Approach:

The solo starts by using C Dorian rather than C Aeolian. This is a common substitution and gives a jazzier sound due to the natural 6th. The opening line is “borrowed” from John Coltrane’s solo in the tune Giant Steps. Towards the end of bar two you should also note the use of chromatic passing notes which is common practice in jazz. Rather than just playing a C note try approaching it from either a B or a C# and sliding into the C note. There is a strong note outline over the F m7 chord an A flat note is played which outlines the minor 3rd of F. The minor II V I uses a minor 7 flat 5 arpeggio followed by a C harmonic minor line over the V chord G7, as this scale contains the 3rd of G7 the B note discussed earlier.

The line finishes using an intervallic sliding idea based around 6ths. Over the Major II V I we have some passing notes and the use of the Altered scale (also known as super Locrian) over the A flat7 #9 chord, this creates tension before resolving to a nice simple root note over the D flat Maj7 chord. The final minor II V I lick uses C Dorian with passing notes over the II chord, G Altered over the V chord and C melodic minor (a common substitution for Dorian) over the I chord. The solo finishes by using the technique of chord outlining (outside note – chord tone) over the final two chords.

Enjoy working through the solos and remember to learn from them, try to get in the habit of deconstructing any solo you learn. Whatever the style, learn to understand the thought process behind it. All this can only make for a better player.

Resources for the Jazz Exercise: Soloing over “Blue Bossa” – © Lewis Turner
Download PDF Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Key Centres Tab (102KB pdf)
Download PDF Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Arpeggios Tab (100KB pdf)
Download PDF Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Full Jazz Tab (314KB pdf)
Music Download Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Key Centres Solo (847KB MP3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Music Download Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Arpeggio Solo (847KB MP3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Music Download Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Full Jazz Solo (847KB MP3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Music Download Guitar Jar Lesson – Jazz Blue Bossa – Backing Track (1.9MB MP3)

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All content © Lewis Turner – For more information about Lewis Turner, please visit:

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About the author:

Lewis Turner is a highly accomplished guitarist, with years of performing, recording, session and teaching experience. Lewis performs all over the UK and abroad with various bands as well as Theatre, TV and Radio work

6 Comments

  • excellent blog… would you mind if i shared this on my website?, will put a link to this page
    great post!

  • Yeah sure no problem! Check out the other lessons I have on here.
    Cheers.

    • Very excellent !! just I would like save these MP3 version (key centres, arppegios, full jazz, backing track) but I dont’know how to do ?

      Many thanks

      Rado

  • For my study of Blue Bossa I find that your lesson is one of the best three style explainations out there. The example of key centre, using arpeggioos and the full jazz approach provide just enough inspiration for players. Thess short samples go a great job of walking the talk.

    I would be eager to hear more of the three exanples in mp3 form if these are available.

    Thanks Dennis

  • This is excellent

    Is there a way to download the MP3’s ?

    Thanks

    • Sorry JazzGuitar, when this post was published were only at the point of streaming MP3’s. Future lessons will have downloads enabled.

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