I always liked the introduction to the Dizzy Gillespie tune “Bebop”. A close friend and wonderful alto player Gabe Eaton and I learned this tune back in the early 90′s and played it frequently while living in Japan with our band “Dig”.
The line reminds me of something slightly baroque that Sonny Stitt might play over a minor progression.
The intro melody basically alternates between a minor triad and a diminished 7th chord (or the V7b9 seventh chord) and so is fairly easy to hear and grasp theoretically.
I’ve discovered that open minor sections such as those found during “So What” and “Impressions”, are good opportunity to utilize this Minor to diminished 7th chord schematic.
After becoming comfortable with this Diz intro it’s fun to improvise between the triad and the diminished or b9 7th chord freely. Also, adding the natural 6th to the minor triad, adds an interesting color.
Bird may be my all time favorite melodic improvisor. His sound, feel and ideas still seem fresh and alive and I enjoy him more and more the older I get. I’m always shocked when I put on a side I’ve not heard for a while and think to myself, “Man, he’s gotten better since the last time I heard him!”.
Here’s a short Bird phrase I learned when I was young, trying to play along with Bird solos while reading out of the Omni Book. It’s one of those lines that you hear Bird play a lot, it also has a classic bebop shape containing triplet pickups and a primary melody grouped in 3 against 4/4 time.
I often find that going back to Bird and/or Lester can really be ear/mind opening – the underlying structure of their ideas, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically seems to still be at the heart of modern jazz improvisation and in a fundamental way has not been surpassed.
You can also use the mp3 below to practice singing the line or working on the material in your head while visualizing the fingerings on your instrument. This is a great way to practice especially if you suffer from RSI or carpal tunnel.
Often when I’m home improvising over a tune, I’ll stumble upon a simple melody and wonder whether or not I can play it through the keys. I might be able hear the melody clearly in my mind, can sing it easily and can play it in one or two keys without too much effort but on closer inspection, I discover that I have a hard time playing it through all the keys. At this point in my practice, I feel I’ve found a sort of dualism between what I can hear (honest self expression?) and what I can play (the mechanics of expression) and so I take a bit of time to play the melody through the keys. It seems that if you’re trying to play from your minds ear when you improvise and you hear a distinct melody but can’t play it on your instrument, you may be missing an opportunity to connect with something meaningful and honest. Could playing exactly what you hear in your mind constitute “finding your voice” on your instrument? At the very least you’ll have discovered something fun to work on for the next few minutes… Lesson 44 is one such melody; a fairly mundane line which I heard and probably absorbed from someone else and yet very clear in terms of its melodic and harmonic content.
I recommend singing the melody first in a key that’s comfortable for your range. This will really speed up the internalization process and help make the melody part of your inner voice.
One variation rhythmic variation is to play this melody in all triplets, starting on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd triplet of any given beat in the bar.
You can also use the mp3 below to practice singing along with the melody to get it in your ear, or if you suffer from RSI or the like, you can sing along while reading the music or visualizing the fingerings on your instrument and practice without further injury.