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Blues Meets Jazz – a Mark Stefani Guitar Lesson

Mark Stefani

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This lesson is based on the 8-bar “A” section (verse) from Mark’s uptempo “Good to Go” original bebop composition, a tribute dedicated to jazz guitarist Andreas Oberg.

For starters, the progression used in this tune is based on the changes for “Move” (Denzil Best), recorded by Hank Garland on his landmark “Jazz Winds From A New Direction” release in the early 60’s. It’s a 32-bar, AABA affair and the “A” section harmony is very similar to what’s found in swing blues. As a matter of fact, if you remove measures 3-6 from a 12-bar jazz blues in the key of Bb you’d have the 8 bars that comprise this verse, so you can easily use these licks in that context, too.

1 – The first measure begins with the same rhythmic personality as “Move” using staccato quarter notes.

Check out the high-low octave skip followed by Bb major blues interplay between the Db and D (minor to major third). The second bar captures the classic IV to #IV diminished sequence commonly found in swing blues. Pay strict attention to the phrasing.

Blues Meets Jazz

2 – The next two measures are essentially identical to what you’d find in bars 7-8 of a swing blues, which can be thought of as a “turnaround to two” sequence since the goal is to arrive at the Cm7 chord.

The licks here are two of my favorites. Both mix quarter notes, eighth notes, and triplets, but harmonically they’re different. The first one is Bb dominant blues typical of players like George Benson, and the second a standard “Bird” (Parker) short II-V cliche. Handle the triplet with a forward string rake to execute it smoothly at high speeds.

3 – Any player familiar with jazz language will recognize bars 5-6 as a long II-V sequence, again typically found in measures 9-10 of a swing blues progression.

The licks used here come from two of my most significant influences, legendary pianist Oscar Peterson and the aforementioned Hank Garland. The two moves blend blues with hard swing, but both are highly flexible and can be used in multiple improvising situations (not just in a II-V context).

4 – The final two bars use a simple, blues-based approach to the basic I-VI-II-V “turnaround to one” formula found not only in swing blues but in so many jazz and vocal standards.

It’s a sparse but very effective move that begins on the Bb and steps right down to the F using mainly quarter notes. Plenty of breathing space in the last bar before the pickup to the next “A” section.

Even though you should strive to get these eight bars down in order, be sure to experiment with the licks as described above to get the maximum value out of the lesson. To hear my complete “Good to Go” solo, click hereA complete transcription (standard notation/tab) is available in our popular Monster Guitar Solo series.

Great! That’s a burnin’ tempo, for sure. Bluesy and fluid playing! Some of the lines reminded me a bit of Pat Martino. Keep up the good work.” – Andreas Oberg

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