Wes Montgomery was one of the best single-line soloists in jazz history, on the guitar or otherwise. His lines had driving rhythm, interesting note choices and always had a sense of melody and melodic development that has made him stand out against his peers for the past 60 or so years.
In today’s lesson, you’ll be learning how to play a Wes Montgomery ii V I lick over a short ii V I progression in the key of C. As well, we will dig into the theory behind the lick, so you will be able to understand the building blocks of the idea, as well as work on five exercises that will help integrate this lick into your own jazz guitar soloing ideas.
Wes Montgomery ii V I Lick
Here is the lick written in TAB and notation for you to check out before moving on to the background information below.
What’s In This Lick?
There are three concepts in this lick that you can take out of this context and study on your own in order to be able to build Wes style licks of your own when soloing in a jazz context.
The first concept is the F triad being used to outline the Dm7 chord in the first half of the first measure. Here, the F triad, F-A-C, outlines the b3rd, 5th and b7th of the Dm7 chord, giving you all the sounds you need to outline that change without hitting the root at any point.
There is also the use of the G Mixolydian Mode over the G7 chord, the notes E-F-E-C in the second half of the first bar. This is a pretty common mode choice over G7, and it’s one that Wes used often in his playing. Of note, is the pull-off from the F to E, the b7 to 6, which helps propel the line forward rhythmically, moving beyond the note choices themselves.
The last item is the use of the Blues notes in the first and second bar, which come from the C minor blues scale. Playing the tonic blues scale, in this case C since the chord progression is in C major, over any chord in a ii V I is something that Wes did often, and it’s a big reason why he had such a bluesy sound in all of his improvised solos.
Wes Montgomery ii V I Lick Video
After you have learned this lick as written, and in the original key, here are 5 exercises that you can do in order to take this lick further in your self-study.
- Learn the lick in all 12 keys around the fretboard.
- Work out at least one other fingering for this lick and move that into 12 keys.
- Play the chords on guitar and sing the lick in a number of keys.
- Solo over a tune and use this lick every time a ii V I comes around.
- Begin to alter the rhythm, add notes, take notes away and use other improvisational concepts in order to start making the lick your own.
Do you have a question or comment about his Wes Montgomery ii V I Lick? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.