If you’re in need of some inspiration to freshen up your blues phrasing or looking to add a little jazz-like colour, John Wheatcroft is back with another series of 3 blues lessons which will help you broaden melodic, rhythmic and improvisational horizons. In part 2 we are demonstrating Latin Blues inspired by Allan Holdsworth, Bireli Lagrene and John Scofield.
Study 2: Latin Blues
There’s no reason why blues needs to be restricted to just triplet shuffles. The trick to this Latin-inspired fingerstyle blues part is to establish a clear rhythm between the thumb (articulating the bass) and the fingers (executing the chord). As the bass player (if you have one) would generally be doubling up the root note and often the 5th degree of each chord, you can de-emphasise this element or even leave this note out altogether. Initially at least, it’s probably a good idea to leave it in as the bass note should help you to visualise each chord voicing and feel generally more secure on the fretboard overall. A crucial harmonic addition to the conventional minor I, IV, V occurs in bars 9-10, with the appearance of the bVImaj7 (Cmaj7) V7 (B7) move. Sometimes the bVI can be treated also as a dominant 7th, and can be heard in the songs Long Train Running by The Doobie Brothers and B.B. King’s version of the classic Thrill Is Gone.
Lead: Chromaticism & Motific Development
One of the ‘big three’ for me, along with Allan Holdsworth and Bireli Lagrene, is John Scofield and it is he who provides the primary influence for our accompanying solo here. John’s playing manages to sound bluesy, but avoids all the obvious blues clichés by jumping about the notes and adding chromatic decorative notes, buzzing around the destination chord tones in a completely compelling and convincing fashion. Our opening phrases are derived from a highly decorated E ‘blues’ scale (E, G, A, Bb, B, D). To create colour over minor chords, John frequently aims for the sweet sounding major 6th interval, in this case the note A. Repetition and thematic development always feature heavily in John’s soloing style. In bar 6 here we use repetition and string-skipping to create a hip sophisticated edge to the basic A minor pentatonic sound (A, C, D, E, G). In bar 7 we see how a simple idea based initially on the interval of a 5th can be moved to various different locations within the harmonically appropriate E Dorian mode (E, G, A, B, D).
In bar 9 we move away from Sco’s influence and toward one of the phrases I’ve ‘developed’ from Carl Verheyen and incorporated into my own soloing style based around an intervallic C major 7th (C, E, G, B) and a superimposed G major 7th (G, B, D, F#), whist the snaky skipping half-whole phrase in bar 10 comes from John’s friend and one-time Miles Davis collaborator Mike Stern.