Improvising Over The Blues - Sonny Clark

Sonny Clark's star burned bright and hot but was short lived. In barely a decade, he rose through the ranks as a sideman starting in 1953 for everyone from Serge Chaloff to Dinah Washington and by the time he ascended to the role of leader on seven highly regarded recordings on Blue Note from 1957-1961 he was considered to be the definitive hard bop pianist in jazz. By 1963, he was dead at the age of 31.

In this lesson, a transcription of his solo over his blues head, "Blues Blue," from his 1959 Blue Note recording, "My Conception," is analyzed for his use of blues sound and chord sound.
Lesson Stats
Date added: 2/20/12
Duration: 16:31
Practice Sessions
Practice Session 1 - Six Sonny Clark Licks
Practice Session 2 - Write a Blues Solo
Practice Session 3 - Improvise a Blues Solo
Q: I'm not sure I understand the distinction between blues sound and chord sound?
A: Blues sound is a melody that is made up of blue notes: b3, b5 and b7. A melody that has these notes sounds "bluesy." Chord sound is a melody that is only made up of notes from the chord of the moment: usually 3 and/or 7 on strong beats and does not have blue notes. Lines made up of chord sound outline the chord changes and do not sound "bluesy."
Q: I was taught to use blues scale when improvising over a blues progression. Is this correct?
A: Yes! You should use the blues scale. It will make your solo sound bluesy BUT the blues scale alone can be very limiting. By incorporating chord sound into your solo you can dramatically increase the melodic potential of your solo.
Further Listening
Listen to Sonny Clark play "Blues Blue," from his 1959 Blue Note recording, "My Conception."
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