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  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

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    Stormy Monday: How Jazz has Influenced the Blues

    by Simon James

    Count Basie was a master when it came to swinging the Blues during the 1930s. With the clever use of chord substitutions by the guitarist in his orchestra, Freddie Green, they were reveling in arranging more sophisticated structures to the standard I-IV-V variations. These innovative new harmonies paved the way for Bettie Smith to expand the blues melodies before T-Bone Walker eventually re-incorporated these Jazz Blues concepts back into the Blues with the 1947 classic Call It Stormy Monday. The slow blues deluxe was now born.

    Bobby Blue Bland went on to cover it featuring subtle comping and a beautifully lyrical guitar solo from Wayne Bennet which inspired the Allman Brothers definitive version Live at Filimore East in 1971. During this period and over the years that followed countless slow blues deluxe numbers have been produced from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and so many more.

    Incorporating Jazz Blues into Standard Blues

    In this lesson we are going to look at how the influence of Jazz has shaped the blues thus spawning the slow blues deluxe. What is so useful with this arrangement is that it works so effortlessly well at a slow tempo as well as when played with fast Bebop changes as you will notice when you listen to the Allman Brothers version. If you are not coming to this from a Jazz background it may be worth looking over my lesson Introduction to Jazz Blues to help you get a firm grasp on some of the basic variations involved in Jazz Blues.

    In the notation below you will notice how much of Jazz Blues has been incorporated into the standard 12 bar blues form. The first variation is in the Quick Change to the IV in bar 2.

    Then we have a clever chord substitution by way of a I13 and a I7#5 in bar 4. In bar 5 we move to the IV as in standard blues but then comes the IVdim. From bar 6 onwards we have a diatonic chord pattern with a chromatic passing chord by way of I-IIm-IIIm-bIIIm-IIm-V7. Chord substitutions such as these were a particular part of the playing of Freddie Green. Take extra care when learning this section as there are many changes and if you are not coming from a Jazz background you may find many of the shapes a little unfamiliar at first.

    stormy monday  


    Below I have noted some of the nuances that have been used in the various different versions of Stormy Monday over the years.

    The first nuance involves an F#7#9 (VI7) instead of the Cm7 in bar 8. This creates a four bar progression moving backwards through 4ths in bars 7-10.

    stormy monday  

    The following example is taken from the Allman Brothers version where there is subtle and melodic substitution of a Bbmaj7 instead of the E9 (V7) in bar 10.

    stormy monday  

    The next slight change comes from the Bobby Bland version and covers bars 10-12. Here we have a V7#9 for the fist two beats of bar 10 followed by the tritone substitution of Bb13 for beats 3 and 4. In bar 11 we move through I7-I13-IV9-IV#dim7. The diminished 7 allows for a sweet movement between the F# and E which continues with the I7 and I#dim7 in bar 12 before finishing with a good amount of tension on the V7#9 on beat 4.

    stormy monday  

    The final variation harks right back to the Freddie Green style of Jazz comping and covers bars 7-10. The chromatic movement in bars 7 and 8 works really well when stomped out as a Bebop Blues.

    stormy monday  

    Ensure that you practice all of these variations slowly as there are a good many additions to the standard 12 bar blues form. Particular care is needed when you are learning to solo over these so that you avoid running into a brick wall when trying to harmonise with the chord pattern beneath. When you have all of the changes down in 4/4 try playing it in 12/8 to really get that slow heavy blues feel.

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    Related Posts:

    1. Introduction to Jazz Blues

    2. Blues Variations Part 1

    3. Lenny Breau Style Jazz Blues Comping

    4. Double Stops and 6ths: Using Two Strings to Improvise

    5. Using Minor and Major 3rds in Blues Soloing