5 Grant Green Licks Every Jazz Guitarist Needs to Know
Learning how to play jazz guitar means studying and understanding the soloing concepts of great jazz guitarists. Which is why in today’s lesson we’ll be studying 5 Classic Grant Green Licks from his solo on “Cool Blues.”
Grant was a legendary player with a unique tone, thorough understanding of jazz fundamentals and a strong swing feel that made him stand out against many of his contemporaries.
This week I was working with a skype jazz guitar student who was transcribing Grant’s solo on the jazz blues tune “Cool Blues.”
While working on it together, I was reminded about how many great licks and concepts were in the solo and so I decided to pick 5 of my favorites and break them down for you to study in your jazz guitar practice routines.
So without further ado, here are 5 Classic Grant Green Licks from his memorable solo on “Cool Blues.”
Grant Green Licks 1 – 7b9 Lick
Soloing over the VI7b9 chords in a jazz blues chord progression, which falls on the 8th bar of the form, is often the hardest part of outlining the changes in any jazz blues solo.
During the 4 choruses of his solo on “Cool Blues,” Grant uses a similar lick twice when navigating the G7b9 chord in bar 8 of the form, the first lick you can see and hear below.
The lick uses a common melodic device, the 5th Mode of Harmonic Minor to outline the G7b9 chord, as well as bringing out the Bdim7 sound that is found within both that chord and scale.
Using the 5th mode of harmonic minor, playing C harmonic minor starting on G, is a common and important melodic device that every jazz guitarist should explore in their practice routine in order to make soloing over 7b9 chords easier and sounding more authentic.
Check out this lick in the context of the 8th bar of a jazz blues, in the key of Bb and other keys you are working on. Then, practice bringing this lick into your minor ii V I soloing ideas as it also fits well over that commonly heard and often tough to navigate chord progression.
Click to hear the audio for the Grant Green Licks 1 – 7b9 Lick
Grant Green Licks 2 – Bluesy V I
The second lick mixes arpeggios, scales and a blues lick over the course of this 2-bar idea.
The lick starts off by outlining an F7 arpeggio, before moving into the scale pattern in the second half of the F7 bar.
This pattern, which features the 9, b7, 6, and 5, is a common Bebop Jazz Guitar Pattern, and one that should be taken out of the context of this particular lick and practiced in other scales, over other chords, and with other tunes in order to ensure that you bring this important piece of jazz vocabulary into your playing as a whole.
The last part of the lick mixes Bb triad with the 4 and #4 from the related Minor Blues Scale to form a classic-sounding Jazz Blues Lick that were always a staple of the Grant Green sound.
Mixing the triad, 1-3-5, along with notes from the blues scale, in this case 4 and #4, is a great way to outline the given harmony while bringing a sense of the blues into your lines at the same time.
Another important idea/concept that is worth exploring further in the practice room.
Click to hear the audio for the Grant Green Licks 2 – Bluesy ii V
Grant Green Licks 3 – Altered ii V I
As well as having a bluesy quality to his lines, Grant Green would also often build tension by using altered notes when soloing over dominant 7 chords.
In this line, you can see Grant using altered notes, the #9 and b9 (Ab and Gb), to build tension over the F7 chord, before resolving this tension later in the bar and finally finishing the line on the I7, Bb7, chord in the next measure.
This lick, play the #9-b9-R, is a common and important sound that many Legendary Jazz Guitarists used in their solos to bring a sense of tension to their lines, that was then resolved to the root of the underlying chord.
It’s a simply lick, only three notes long, but it should be taken out of this idea and worked on over other 7th chords, in different keys and applied to other tunes that you are working on in order to be able to bring this sound into your solos in a more organic fashion than just running up and down this lick verbatim.
Click to hear the audio for the Grant Green Licks 3 – Altered ii V I
Grant Green Licks 4 – Mixolydian Lick
This lick doesn’t feature any complex scales, altered notes or even any blues notes, but it is a great-sounding lick nonetheless.
The important part of the lick for me, is the last four notes. This is a commonly used pattern that many jazz guitarists use to outline 7th chords, and one that should be practiced in 12 keys and applied to other tunes you are working on in the woodshed.
The crux of the lick is that you start on the 4th note of the scale, then move down to the 2nd, up to the 3rd and then jump up from the 3rd to the root.
This is an example of an Enclosure, where the G note is the target and Ab-F are being used to “enclose” that target note before landing on it and then resolving to the high Eb to end the line.
Again, another pattern that is worth further exploration in the practice room.
Click to hear the audio for the Grant Green Licks 4 – Mixolydian Lick
Grant Green Licks 5 – Long ii V I
We will finish our exploration of Grant Green licks from his solo on “Cool Blues” by checking out the last ii V I jazz guitar lick in the solo.
It is a pretty straight-forward lick, using some patterns we have seen before and some classic Grant Green sounding ideas, such as the triplet over the F7 chord.
Sometimes we don’t need a lot of outside notes or advanced scales to make a line sound good, and this lick is a perfect example of the “less is more” approach to outlining chords.
So have some fun with this last lick, take it to other keys, other tunes and other positions on the neck to get the most of this simple, yet effective, ii V I jazz guitar lick.
Click to hear the audio for the Grant Green Licks 5 – Long ii V I
As you can see, though Grant only soloed for 4 choruses there are at least 5 classic licks that you can pull from this solo and explore further in the practice room.
For me, that is the big takeaway from a study like this, that transcribing a solo is just the first part of the learning process.
The real learning occurs when you start to tear apart the solo and learn the theory, fingerings and further application of the licks that make up the solo as a whole.
Check this ideas out in your practice routine this week, and keep in mind the concepts behind each lick as you work them in different positions, over different tunes and in different keys across the neck.
What do you think about these 5 Classic Grant Green Licks? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.