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JGT Lesson: Unleashing Two-Five Power!

Mark Stefani

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Mark Stefani’s latest swing blues lesson built on successive II-V changes.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this tune composed by Sam Jones and recorded by Cannonball Adderly, Wes Montgomery and others, “Unit Seven” is a swing blues in C featuring an AABA format. The “B” section/bridge is built on successive II-V changes permitting the use of core jazz language, and is the basis for this lesson edition.

“Unit Seven” – Swing Blues Highlights (licks)

This lesson is based on an 8-bar bridge excerpt from my 132-bar “Unit Seven” guitar solo (key of C).

1 – The opening II-V lick is right out of the Charlie Parker (“Bird”) playbook.

A classic D minor bebop cliche is followed by an F minor line over the G7. This is a common approach that was employed by the alto sax legend, getting an outside sound over the V7 chord by thinking a minor 3rd away from the IIm7 chord. Another option he used involves Ab minor (flat fifth away). Both achieve the same goal in addition to call & response phrasing, the name of the game in a good jazz solo.

2 –  In the next two bars, the harmony moves up a whole step, similar to what you would encounter in a tune like “Satin Doll” (Ellington).

Even though the Em7 to A7 appears to simply be another II-V sequence, there’s more to it. The Em7 (IIIm7) spanning four beats is really functioning as a substitute for the I chord, which is why in this case a C major blues lick works so effectively, setting up a short II-V lick in the following bar. The same approach can be used in any standard swing blues progression at bars 7 and 8.

3 – What I just described creates a resolution to the Dm7 (II) chord in the following measure, leading to a famous Bird long II-V lick beginning after the first beat.

It uses one of his favorite moves, an Fmaj7 arpeggio functioning as a Dm9. Note the simple quarter notes over the G7, as the line moves from D to D# and eventually to E in the next bar.

4 – Last but not least, the final two measures of the bridge is a standard turnaround to I (C), with the Em7 (III) chord rearing its head once again.

However, this time with just two beats apiece over the III-VI-II-V, it’s a perfect opportunity to use a pair of short II-V’s, as you might do in bars 11-12 of a swing blues or in bars 3-4 over Rhythm Changes. 


As you can tell, there’s a lot of language information in play here, and it can be used FAR beyond the bridge changes in this tune. To hear my complete “Unit Seven” solo (from Blues, Jazz & Beyond), click here.  A complete transcription (standard notation/tab) is available in his popular Monster Guitar Solo series.

Everything in this edition is reflective of material taught in Mark’s Swing Blues: Doorway to Jazz lesson course. Mark Stefani also accepts Zoom/Skype students on a limited basis. Information available upon request.

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