Grant Green was a legendary jazz guitarist who placed his stamp on the bebop, post bop, and jazz funk genres during his career. Because of this mastery, Grant is an easy choice when looking for inspiration in the practice room, and to take your own playing to the next level.
In this lesson, you’ll focus on one side of Grant’s playing, his dominant 7th concepts. While a full study of Grant’s dominant 7th soloing concepts would be daunting, you’ll zoom in on three main ideas in this article. By working on V7alt lines in major and minor keys, as well as the dominant bebop scale, you’ll get a glimpse into the playing style of one of jazz’s greatest guitarists.
Check these lines out, work the concepts behind these lines further in your playing, and when ready, learn the sample solo at the end of the article.
Grant Green Soloing – Major V7alt Lines
To begin your study of Grant Green dominant chord concepts, you’ll look at how Grant added altered notes to major key V7 chords. Normally you think of adding altered notes (b9, #9, …) to minor key V7 chords, but you can use them in major keys as well. Here are two examples of Grant using V7alt chords to create tension and resolution in his major key ii V I soloing lines and phrases.
The first line uses the b9 and #9 over the V7 chord in a ii V I progression in Eb major. Notice how the altered notes are then resolved to the root note of the underlying chord. As the root is a very strong chord tone, the strongest in fact, this line has a strong resolution.
This allows for the altered notes to create tension and resolution, rather than just tension, which can cause your lines to sound out of place without that resolution.
In this second major ii V I line, again the b9 and #9 are used over the V7 chord to create tension. These notes are resolved to the note Bb. This time that note is acting as the 5th of Ebmaj7, as compared to the root of Bb7 in the previous line.
Regardless of the placement of that Bb note, it’s again acting to resolve those tension notes, bringing the line back inside the changes at the same time.
Alongside the altered notes, there’s a raised 7th interval over the Fm7 chord, creating a melodic minor sound over this chord change. Playing melodic minor over iim7 chords is something that Grant, and many other great jazz guitarists, did to create tension over that change in the progression.
Grant Green Soloing – Dominant Bebop Lines
Another way that Grant liked to spice up his dominant 7th lines is to use the dominant bebop scale over that chord.
The dominant bebop scale is a Mixolydian scale with an added 7th note, which is the tension note over the underlying chord. By using this scale, Grant creates tension over major key V7 chords, which he then resolves to not leave that tension hanging during the solo.
In this first bebop scale phrase, the Bb dominant bebop scale is used in bar one, in anticipation of the Bb7 in bar two of the phrase.
Notice that the major 7 interval (A) is placed on the 4th beat of the bar.
As long as you resolve the passing note in a bebop scale you can place it anywhere in the bar you please. But, if you don’t resolve that note, either down to the b7 or up to the root, it’ll sound out of place no matter where you use it in your line.
The next bebop line again uses the Bb dominant bebop scale in bar one of a ii V I, where Grant is thinking V7-V7-I. You’ll notice the A (the bebop note) accented on beat two of the phrase, before being resolved into beat three on the Ab.
Grant Green Soloing – Minor V7alt Lines
As well as using altered notes over major V7 chords, Grant also brought these tension notes into his minor key solos. In this section, you’ll look at two ways to bring altered notes into your V7 lines (dim7 arpeggios and adding b9 and #9 over the underlying chord).
One of Grant’s favorite ways to color V7 chords in a minor key is with a 3-b9 arpeggio, which you can see in the line below. By playing Bdim7 over G7alt, Grant highlights the 3, 5, b7, and b9 intervals of the underlying chord.
|Bdim7 played over G7||3||5||b7||b9|
When soloing over dominant chords, you can always play a dim7 arpeggio from the 3rd of that dominant chord to create a b9 arpeggio.
Notice that here Grant resolves that b9 into the root and down to the b3 of Cm7 (Eb).
The next minor V7alt lick uses the b9, #9, and #4 to create tension over that bar in the phrase, before resolving that tension over Cm7. Starting a V7alt line with a b9-#9-b9 triplet is a common way to add those tension notes to your lines.
From there, the C# (#4) is used as a lower neighbor tone, resolving up to the D (5) of the underlying chord.
Grant Green Soloing – Solar Solo
Now that you’ve worked these lines on their own, and studied the underlying concepts for each line, you can bring these lines together over a tune.
In this Solar solo, you’ll use most of the previous lines to create a one-chorus solo etude that you can learn and work into your own playing over this jazz standard.
Notice the double-time lick in the last phrase, which is a lick you’ve already learned, though this time played twice as fast to fit into the space given to those chords. When working on fast licks, such as 16th-note phrases, you can often just take a normal lick and play it twice as fast rather than learn a whole note phrase. This approach is being used here to squeeze that lick into two bars, rather than four bars.