Play Green Dolphin Street like 3 Jazz Guitar Legends
From: Sam Smiley Green Dolphin Street Guest Post
First, I want to thank Jamie for hosting me as a guest poster. I truly appreciate his generosity and feel honored that he has invited me on to contribute to his site! On to the jazz…!
One great way to get into a standard and study jazz vocabulary is to look at how different players approach the same tune. This article is focus on the classic standard “On Green Dolphin Street” and particularly on the A section. You can look at this section a couple different ways. One is to play the tonic chord (Ebmaj7) then move up a minor third, finally descending chromatically back to the tonice. The second way to hear the tune is Ebmaj7 to Ebmi7, then chromatically down two half steps.
There are very few tunes that have this movement, so it’s an interesting tune to look into the way some of the classic guitarists have approached this. All of these examples can be found on my YouTube channel, so check them out to hear the masters.
Jim Hall 1
Jim Hall played this tune with the Gary Burton quartet in the early 1960s. Apparently only YouTube videos exist of this recording, but it’s a great solo. Jim starts in typically Jim Hall style fashion in the solo break by using creative rhythms and the minor 7th interval. His approach to the solo is very simple. He uses a rhythmic motive and very simple harmony. Bars 4-6 use a simple triad figure that descends.
Jim Hall 2
The second Jim Hall example happens during the second time through the form. Here he goes into bebop mode-mixed slightly with a Charlie Christian lick (who was Jim Hall’s main inspiration). He ends the section again with a very clear and simple idea, following the Bb down to finally resolve on the G in the 7th bar.
Grant Green is another of the classic 1960s jazz guitarists. His lines have a driving quality to them. He also plays very clear ideas, so clear that you will have a ‘duh’ moment once you see the notes he plays. He always kills though. This example is from his recording with Sonny Clark. Grant also uses triads in his first take on the A section. Check out the opening of the solo where he implies bars of 3/4 through the 4th bar. He implies triads on the F and E major 7th chords.
Kessel is probably the closest to Charlie Christian tree of all the 1950s and 1960s guitarists. One interesting part of this phrase is the motive he develops in bar 2, where he plays in the key of C. He then develops the phrase by transposing to C minor, and anticipates the change by a beat. He outlines the Bmi7 chord in bar 5 with a slide into F# and high D, which keeps the C minor feeling. The section ends with a great line taken right from Charlie Christian-make sure to start this line on the high E string and follow the “F Shape.” Very modern sounding use of old vocabulary.
As you can see from looking at these examples, these guitarists all approach this 8 bar section a bit differently. I think one thing that is interesting is that they commonly use very simple harmonic devices and figures, and develop them to work during the whole section. The concept of developing ideas is a very important part of improvising and these three masters give you a glimpse of how to do it.
What are some tunes you have checked out by different soloists and what kinds of things can you take away from that kind of study?
Sam Smiley is a guitarist who has found a nexus of unlikely allies, country music and jazz. He writes about this meeting place at www.samsmileymusic.com.
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