LAST MONTH WE LOOKED AT A COMMON
“Th e Lick,” that has been making the rounds in jazz solos
for decades and has recently
become an online phenomenon. Why do we need licks and patterns when we
Licks are always part of our musical vocabulary, whether we admit it or not.
Some musicians say licks should be avoided and we should always create new
melodies and bass
lines in real time. That’s impossible, though! We need licks we can
play all over the bass
and to fit every musical situation we encounter. Licks, and their close
arpeggios, and patterns—are building blocks of our musical
This month, let’s look at a two-chorus solo, packed with
licks, over the harmonic progression to the jazz standard
“Solar.” This jam-session favorite is played worldwide by
students and pros alike because of its short 12-bar form, the comfortably open
sound in the first three bars, and subsequent harmonic movement through several
Note the following:
The opening solo statement outlines the
sound of C minor with the note B,
which is a major 7th (a Cmmaj7 chord). The typical
Cm7 chord would contain
the note Bb (the flatted 7th) rather than
B, but in this chord progression we
Check out the lick on beats three and
We’ll see this pattern in several
spots in the solo. Here the lick uses the 9th, root, 5th, and 3rd of the
chord (the notes D, C, G, Eb).
“Th e Lick” from last
month’s column makes a guest appearance!
This phrase emphasizes the 9th (G) and
7th (E) of the Fmaj7 chord.
Although the Fm7 to Bb7 is a
IIm–V progression in the key of Eb major, this
lick starts on a low Bb and moves up the Bb
Mixolydian scale. The note Gb is
the only chromatic tone outside of the Bb Mixolydian
This line also begins on the low Bb,
which is the 5th of the Ebmaj7 chord. Th e
note G in bar 9 changes to the Gb on
beat one of bar 10. This precisely out-
lines the change from Ebmaj7(the 3rd is
G) to Ebm7 (the 3rd is
Mirroring the lick in bar 9, the line here starts on
a low Ab, the 5th of the
Dbmaj7. On beats three and four, we see a common bebop
pattern: the root,
2nd, 3rd, 5th (Db, Eb,
F, Ab) of the Dbmaj7
This is one of my favorite licks over a minor
IIm–V progression, such as Dm7b5
to G7b9b13 in this case. (Some of the chords
are abbreviated in the notation.)
The b5 of the Dm7b5 (the note
Ab) and the b13 of the G7b9b13 chord
note Eb) are emphasized.
The solo’s second chorus begins with
a short statement on the Cmmaj7.
The A in bar 14 has a hip sound—it is
the 6th scale degree of a C ascending
melodic minor scale, which sounds
good over the Cmmaj7.
This is the same lick that we hear
in bar 3! Using a lick several times
in a solo can sound hip. Overusing
a lick sounds boring.
The lick over the Cm chord in bar 15
is moved up one half-step to out-
line notes in the C7b9#9 chord: Eb
(#9), Db (b9), Ab (b13),
E (3rd), Eb
(#9), Db (b9).
This is a simple inversion of an F
major triad: C, A,
Here is the same lick found in bar
16, this time used over the Bb7b9#9
Compare this pattern over the Ebmaj7
to bar 9.
Here is a melodic sequence with the
notes changing to fit the chords.
Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie made
this lick famous back in the ’40s.
It’s still a slick way to end a solo,
even for bass players!
Miles Davis claimed to have written “Solar,” and
he even copyrighted the tune in 1963. Davis had a penchant for appropriating
musical compositions from others, and recent evidence has indicated that the
original “Solar” melody and similar
harmony were composed and recorded under the
title “Sonny” as early as 1946 by guitarist Chuck
Wayne. Regardless of who wrote the changes to
“Solar” or “Sonny,” it’s a
bop chord progression
that sounds great when you just outline the harmony. Take time to analyze the
theory behind the
tune, and then work out some licks that spell the
All great bassists have trademark licks and
patterns that define their styles. Which are
your favorite jazz licks? Weigh in at the www.musicplayer.com
Discuss all aspects
of bass playing with
John at the music-
Down Forum. Also
visit John’s website
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