Session 5

The Blues

Because of its short repetitive form, the blues has always been regarded as a test of the jazz improvisor's creativity and authenticity. The form has been so pervasive in Jazz that it has developed beyond any necessary connection with the traditional style and become a form adaptable to other genres. For this reason, any one example of blues is often referred to as a '12-bar' rather than a 'blues'.
The blues scale on which blues improvisations are based is unlike any other scale found in Wesern music.
Here is the blues scale in C.

The Blues Scale

The interval structure of this scale is 'minor third, tone,semitone, semitone, minor third, tone'. Practise this sequence in all twelve keys and listen to its use in the playing of the experts. The first example is a standard 12-bar by the pianist Oscar Peterson, called 'The Smudge'. Here is the tune. Click on the manuscript to hear Revray play it through twice.

The Smudge

Rehearse The Smudge according to the following sequence:-

1st chorus: Drums only.

2nd chorus Drums & Bass.

3rd. chorus Drums & Bass & Guitar chords.

4th. chorus Drums & Bass & guitar chords & improvised solo (flute or trumpet)

5th. chorus Bass & improvised guitar solo.

6th chorus Bass & Drums & piano chords & improvised guitar solo.

7th chorus Bass & Drums & piano chords & tune (Trumpet)

The voicings used in the above version of 'The Smudge', are designed to give the non-keyboard player a basic blues sound by using only two tones - the 3rd and the 7th of each chord. These voicings should be memorised.
Below are the chords for another Blues in the key of F. Use the blues scale in F as a basis for improvisations. Use 'rootless' chords where possible. When the lowest note of the chord is a 3rd, a 9th is added to 'spice' it up. When the lowest note of the chord is a 7th, a 13th is added.

Blues in F

This chord sequence is a standard 12-bar blues, the chord symbols are:-

F7     Bb     F7 F7
Bb7Bb7 F7    F7   
C7 C7 F7       C7:

Listen to this blues by 'Sweets' Edison called 'Dirty Butt Blues'.
Play along with the recording.

Eb     Ab     Eb Eb7
Ab7A dim7 Eb    C7   
Fm7 Bb7 Eb       Bb7:

There are many sets of blues 'changes' but all are based on the 12 bar three chord set. Here is a more complex set of blues changes which came into being in the 'be-bop' era. Note especially the use of tritone substitution in the fourth bar, the descending chromatic II - V progression (Fm7, Bb7, Em7, A7, Ebm7, Ab7, Dm7, G7) in bars 6 - 10, the II - V - I (Dm7, G7, C7) in bars 9 - 11,
and the I - VI - II - V turnaround (C7, A7, Dm7, G7) in the final two bars.

Blues in C

In addition to these blues changes, there are special types of blues such as minor blues, jazz waltz blues, and a few with changes of their own - all of which are descended from the original three-chord twelve bar blues.

Listen to this blues by Charlie Parker called Now's The Time.
Listen carefully to the chord changes, write them down and play along with the recording.

Lesson 6