Soul Jazz – Repeating Licks
Soul jazz is a combination of jazz, blues, and R&B. Some of the greatest jazz guitarists played a lot of soul jazz – Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell. They typically play as part of an organ trio and the music is a very dynamic and exciting style of jazz.
We’ve already checked out a bunch of double stop soul jazz licks
. This time we will look at some repeating licks. A repeating lick is simply a lick that uses the same notes or a phrase repeated. The soul jazz guitarists typically would use these to create excitement and tension. Pat Martino was a master at this, just check out his albums El Hombre and Live at Yoshi’s for a tone of examples. We’re going to look at some licks by Wes Montgomery and Grant Green here.
Wes Montgomery Night Train
Wes turns in a couple of great repeating licks in his recording of Night Train on his album with Jimmy Smith. The solo cooks along and around 2:35 into it he gets into this nice repeating lick from the Bb minor pentatonic scale. He repeats the lick 4 times and then ends with an octave figure reminiscent of big band vocabulary. Check out the recording of this lick to get the time feel down – it can be difficult to switch from eighth notes to triplets, but Wes makes it sound easy and natural. Try playing this one along with the recording to really get the feel.
Wes follows that lick up with another repeating lick using that same octave figure. This figure again comes from the big band vocabulary using a Bb minor triad to punctuate the lick. He swings this one heavily, so again make sure to check out the recording to get the feel.
Grant Green Repeating Licks
Grant Green was a master of the repeating lick. He really used them on his later funky recordings. We’ll look at a few from his solo on Ain’t it Funky Now by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. His first lick happens right around 2:25 in the tune, which is an open solo over an F minor chord. He is using the F minor pentatonic scale with the chromatic note between the 4th and 5th of the scale, sometimes called the blue note. He plays a triplet figure chromatically going from 4th to 5th in triplets. In order to really use repeating licks to their fullest potential, you have to have a good way of getting out of them. Green does that here with some rhythmic double stops (similar to Wes’s actually).
High Heeled Sneakers
Grant Green plays a nice repeating lick in High Heeled Sneakers from his Iron City album. This is a very simple lick in G, but the main point of it is focusing on a rhythmic figure. Using this rhythm with really any note choice will add some excitement to your playing.