After moving to NYC, I was fortunate enough to get to hang with Mark Turner and ask him questions for a couple of hours. I never really got to study privately with him like a few of my friends and bandmates did, but I at least got to ask him his thoughts on music, the process, improvisation, harmony, and practice. There was MUCH talk about triads and voice leading… so you know I was happy to hear his thoughts on those topics.
I also picked up a few things indirectly from him through my friends that were studying with him showing me some of the ideas they were working on.
One of those topics was the importance of mastering the forms for the bird blues, rhythm changes, and Cherokee. The goal being that we should be able to own each of these chord progressions...
Peter Bernstein is one of my all-time favorite jazz guitarists. So of course he was the first teacher I reached out to study with when I moved to NYC - along with John Scofield. It was an epic and intense first year.
Studying with Pete basically meant hanging out, playing a lot of duo together, and just talking about different elements of the music and the tradition. He's an encyclopedia. He knows so many tunes, he can play them in any key, he's got so many stories, and he can dig into any philosophical or historical perspective of the music. He's a sponge and has been soaking everything up from the greats that he's surrounded himself with for decades.
One of the things he and I talked about the most was comping. How important it is and how to work on it....
The staple pursuit of almost all jazz guitar players. It's an art form in-and-of-itself that can immediately set the legends apart from the pros apart from the talented hobbyists apart from the early stage players. Can you sit with a guitar and make music? Not simply play a tune... or make it through the form... but can you truly bring a jazz standard to life?
Ultimately, this is a lifelong pursuit. We mature and season over time with our playing much like a great wine or bottle of scotch. But I do believe there are practical steps we can take immediately to start seeing much quicker results. Not that they will get our technique to a place where we're sounding like Martin Taylor or Tuck Andress by next year... but they WILL take us from where we are...
Alright jazz guitarists...
I wrote a short, 2-measure idea for you that combines both topics applied to a basic V7 -> I6 chord progression. Then I moved that progression through the entire circle of 5ths so you could try it in all 12 major keys. You can download the PDF below.
Let me briefly explain what each of these two topics means, and then I'll analyze what's happening in the exercise.
This is a name I use anytime I'm attempting to create harmony in a way that does not simply involve playing this chord voicing, then the next chord voicing, then the next chord voicing, and on, and on, and on......
Look! Up in the sky!
It's an octatonic scale!
It's a dyad run!
It's triad pairs!
Yep, this whole run started with one simple major triad. But like a seed planted in the ground, watered, and tended to... it's bound to grow into something else.
Here's the basic theory going on that turned a simple A major triad into... that ^^^^
Actually first, let's talk about Bruce Lee for a second. Bruce once said that he's not afraid of a person who's practiced 10,000 different kicks once. He's afraid of a person who's practiced one kick 10,000 times. We'll come back to that in a minute. Let's pick up from the A major triad.
I'm using an A major triad over a C7 chord. There's a lot to cover, so I'm not going to explain too much about that.
I like to add a...