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The Jazz Gym: Part 5 of the Improvisers Workout Program | Major II-V-I Vocabulary

Welcome back to the Jazz Gym. In out last workout we learned some simple scale sequences over our Autumn Leaves progression in the upper register of the bass. If you finished your extra credit assignments, then you know that these melodic sequences have more than one function and sound great forwards and backwards.

This month we’re going to expand our soloing concepts further and develop some major II-V-I vocabulary. This will give us some solid melodic ideas we can insert into any song that has a major II-V-I in it. When properly applied, this kind of melodic vocabulary can really make our soloing sound mature, edited and confident.

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We’re going to use the major II-V-I from the first four bars of our Autumn Leaves practice progression for all of our examples. The good news is every one of these examples can be played in one hand position. Put your middle finger on a Bb on the 13th fret of the A string. Now play up and down a Bb major scale a few times and you’re good to go.

Figure 1
starts on the 3rd of the Cm7 chord, then goes down the scale and connects to the 3rd of the F7 chord. It then goes up the 3 5 7 9 of the F7 arpeggio and resolves to the 5th of the Bbmaj7 chord, then back down the scale resolving to the 3rd. Those thirds sound good, don’t they?

Figure 2
starts on the 7th of the Cm7 chord. It then goes down the 7 5 3 1 of the arpeggio and back up, resolving to the 3rd of the F7 chord. Then it goes back down the 9 7 5 and up the 7 9 3 of the F7 chord and resolves to the 5th of the Bbmaj7 chord. It’s easier than it sounds. Look closer and you’ll notice that there’s only one note difference between the first two bars and that’s the A and the Bb. Play it a few times and you’ll see what I mean.

Figure 3
starts with the 1 2 3 4 5 3 2 1 of Cm7. Next is a simple chromatic line that eventually resolves to the 5th of the Bbmaj7 chord. My former B.I.T. students will recognize this one.

Figure 4 is a good example of sequencing an idea over several chords. I think you’ll like this one. It’s simple and it sounds great.

In Figure 5 we start on beat 2, surround the F by a half step and end up on the 7th of the Cm7 chord. Over F7, we surround the Eb by a half step, resolve to the 3rd then use a scale tone to resolve to the 5th of the Bbmaj7 chord. Next, we play the 5 6 5 4 3 6 5 of the Bbmaj7 chord, then leave at little space and we’re in business.

In Figure 6 we start on the 3rd of the Cm7 chord then work our way up to the third of the F7 chord using a G# to make everything come out on the right beats. Then it’s back down the scale to the 3rd of the Bbmaj7 chord where we finish with a bluesy sounding C# to D that’s resolves nicely to the root.

Your assignment is to play, memorize and internalize Figures 1 through 6. Once you get these under your hands, be sure to go to and practice with the Jazz Gym Play Along. Try playing these figures over the first four bars of our play along, then make up your own or play one of our earlier assignments over the last four bars.

For an extra credit assignment, try learning Figures 1 through 6 in all 12 keys. This will definitely keep you busy and out of trouble, so have fun and play slow. We’ll see you next time.

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