The song that this lick comes from is called “Breakfast Feud”, a blues in Bb which was recorded with Benny Goodman and his Sextet. What’s interesting to me is that Charlie’s solo doesn’t start at the beginning of the form, it starts on bar 5, which is the Eb7 (the IV chord). That threw me for a minute!
Right away, Charlie gives us something we can use. I don’t mean just in a jazz context, really in any style. He plays an idea using Bb minor pentatonic over the Eb7. By basing your idea off of the minor pentatonic pentatonic in Bb, you can outline the IV7 (Eb7) chord very nicely.
Over the next 2 bars, he plays a nice swinging line using Bb mixolydian (major scale with a b7), which outlines the chord tones of the Bb7 (Bb, D, F, Ab). In this line, he has a nice balance of arpeggio and scale like movement. Something we should all strive for!
Now we’re getting to the end of the Bb blues form. In the 9th bar of the form (remember the solo started on bar 5), he doesn’t really address the Cm7 directly, but he seems to still be playing Bb mixolydian ideas, with a few chromatic approach notes thrown in. The first note (C#/Db), is a half step approach to the D, which is the 3rd in the key of Bb. Again, he’s not really addressing the Cm7 directly, so it doesn’t make sense to relate the D to the Cm7 chord, so that’s why I analyzed it in the key of Bb. The 5th note of the bar 9 is a chromatic approach to the 7th note of the Bb major scale.
He’s playing chromatically in bar 10, but he’s doing a fine job of outlining the V chord, which is F7. If you can visualize the A shaped F7 at the 8th fret, you should be able to see what he’s doing. He’s chromatically descending from the 3rd of F7 to the 2/9, then chromatically descends again from 1 down to b7. This is
definitely a move you can incorporate in a variety of situations – jazz, blues, maybe roots rock – you get the idea.
Starting in bar 11, Charlie plays a great bluesy phrase, starting from the double stop, where he plays the 6 (G) and the Db (b3). If you’re more analytical like I am, you can look at those notes as coming from both the Bb major pentatonic (1 2 3 5 6-G), and Bb minor pentatonic (1 b3-Db 4 5 b7). If you’re less analytical like many people are, I’d encourage you to be aware of the numbers of the scales that this lick (or any lick) comes from, because it will help you “put it in a box” mentally, which makes it easier to use in your playing. After that nice double stop, he plays a descending lick in Bb Mixolydian, with a 1/2 step approach on the 3rd string from the Db to D.
In 8 bars, Charlie Christian gave us several practical ideas that we can incorporate into our solos.
Here’s a quick summary of the most useful things:
- Bars 5-6 use Bb minor pentatonic over Eb7 in a Bb blues.
- Bars 7-8 use Bb mixolydian over Bb7. If you’re reading this article, odds are that you were already aware of this one. To follow through with the idea though, it’s one of the next steps to take after playing strictly minor pentatonic solos. So, in a Bb blues, you would play Bb mixolydian over Bb7, Eb mixolydian over Eb7, and F mixolydian over F7, etc.
- Bar 10 Add chromatic approach notes to your chord tones, in this case F7. 9-b9-1, 1-7-b7, etc
- Bars 11-12 combine major and minor pentatonic ideas over 7th chords for a bluesy effect, and chromatically approach 3rds over dominant 7 chords. As I said earlier, this is not just for your jazz playing. It also applies to blues, rock, country/bluegrass.
I left bar 9 out of this list, because it’s harder to quantify what’s going on here, since he’s not addressing the chord, as mentioned earlier. Generally speaking though, we don’t have to always think of the specific chord we’re playing over when we’re playing a blues. We can play bluesy ideas over any chord in the blues, and they should work fine. The key is to experiment!
I hope you enjoyed this lesson. I’m looking forward to your comments!
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