There's no avoiding the fact that Jazz Fusion has made a solid comeback in recent years. Thanks to the rise of players like Guthrie Govan and Tom Quayle, mixed with the ease of communication and sharing via social networks like Youtube and Facebook - suddenly all of these sounds are just a few clicks away.
It was inevitable really, and the internet has only helped to speed the process up - solo guitarists have always tried to push the boundaries of what's capable on the instrument. In '78 Van Halen shocked the world, then came Malmsteen's "Rising Force" in '84. The 80's was dominated buy the neoclassical scene, but at the same time guys like Shawn Lane, Brett Garsed, Frank Gambale and Mike Stern were seriously pushing the boundaries of what sounds you could make on the guitar, not just with speed, but with extended harmony and chromaticism.
The goal of this column is to drop you in at the deep end and show you some cool bebop influenced lines put in a funk fusion context.
You may be asking yourself "but shouldn't he start with the basics?" and the answer is kind of yes.... and kind of no....
what we're looking at here is the vocabulary, phrasing, note choice and rhythmic devices of the kings of bop, I highly recommend you going back and studying the solos of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Christian. You can only improve as a musician by understanding their approach to improvisation, and their harmonic pallets. The goal here though is to give you some quick idea that will hopefully draw you into the dark world of Jazz
Besides, I'm a Jazz Rock player who can play Jazz, why would you come to me for Jazz lessons when there's just so many great resources out there (my personal favorite being http://www.mattwarnockguitar.com/)
so without further adieu lets crack on!
This first lick is very much a Mike Stern/ Pat Metheny style lick with a heavy blend of chromaticism and note targeting. I really cant recommend these two players enough. Every one of you should check out Metheny's "Still Life (Talking)" and Stern's "Time In Place" right away.
Both of these players are considerably more Jazz than Rock on the fusion spectrum, so this may come as a shock to fans of Howe and Kotzen but there's certainly something for everyone here. The basic difference (in my opinion) is the firm underlying arpeggio based playing style featuring all of the staple bop approaches for targeting these chord tones - the more rock players tend to dazzle with awesome chops and the chromaticism is often a lot less structured.
The chord vamp is one in C dorian, the rhythm guitar plays a mixture of Cm7 (Eb/C), Cm11 and F/C so our first port of call would be our Cmin7 arpeggio
C(R) - Eb(b3) - G(5) - Bb(b7)
You should spend time familiarizing yourself with this diagram, moving on prematurely would only be cheating yourself. Try playing melodies with just these notes and listen to the harmonic strength that these notes have. Your end goal is to know what the interval of each note in the shape is and to know how it will sound over the chord before you actually play it.
Next we can map in our Dorian colour tones around this framework
C(R) - D(9) - Eb(b3) - F(11) - G(5) - A(6/13) - Bb(b7)
Now we come onto the idea that not all notes are musically equal. Although technically we are playing the dorian scale here, I like to think of it as an arpeggio (or a pentatonic scale) with added colour tones. As with the previous diagram, you really need to be comfortable with this diagram before you move on - we've added two really important colour tones here - the 9th and the 6th (which is characteristically dorian in sound). You should know where these notes live, and the sound that they create. As a guide, start practising this up at the 8th fret (your standard position 1 minor pentatonic shape).
Of course - the next step is to be able to link any or these chord or colour tones together with chromatic passing tones -
The first thing you'll notice is just how much there is to look at here, see why I wanted you to master the first two diagrams first? This is a long road to go down if you want it to become second nature, but learning some typical bebop phrases is a great way to get you started. I like to think of it like this - I cant speak a language without knowing the words and vocabulary, we all know the letters (notes) and aim to be able to make our own sentences (lines) but learning the basic words (licks) is the only really way to start.
This line could be broken down into 4 separate licks (each 8 notes long) and they have been glued together - these 4 licks are worth learning on their own in many positions and octaves so when you go onto automatic mode they are more likely to creep into a solo.
Here's the lick played slow - this is actually really important, you need to really hear how the line affects the chord you're playing over, this line would sound completely different if played over a Bbmaj7 or an F7 - It's worth trying those too and looking at how the same notes work over a different chord.
Next is the same lick but played at tempo - to make it seem a little more musical I have applied it in the middle of another idea. Note that the lick is played twice, on the send time I play the first note a 16th note early and tie it into the first bar of the lick - this is a very common rhythmic device in Parker's playing and adds a real swing feel to a line
Lastly we have a backing track for you so you can try these little fragments, or the whole line, in the context of a dorian solo.