When learning jazz guitar we can often get distracted by all sorts of information out there, so it can be helpful to remember to go directly to the master’s and learn from them. I recently listened to a version of Mr. PC by McCoy Tyner and John Scofield and within just a few seconds had all sorts of ideas to work on.
When transcribing solos for the purpose of your own creativity and innovation the idea should be to take the general concept not necessarily memorize a solo note for note (although that can be good for technique and really getting inside a player’s head). With this in mind I noticed a couple things right off the bat with John Scofield’s solo.
It starts out at 0:31 in the video with a descending Bb triad in 2nd inversion and on to a G. You could consider this a Gm7 as well. A Bb triad or Gm7 arpeggio is a great way to play over Cm7. These are chord tones with the added D and F (9th and 11th of Cm7). So the rule that you can take from this is to play a triad on the m7th (Bb) of the chord, of m7 arpeggio on the 5th (G) of the m7 chord. These are often called upper structures. Notice the use of rhythm and how the Gm7 is mixed up.
As the Cm7 moves to the iv chord (Fm7) many versions of the tune call for a C7 which is the dominant 7 of the Fm7 (a fifth above F). For C7 we can consider it a C7b9 which is 4 dim 7 arpeggios at once depending on which note you start on (Db, E, G, Bb). Scofield plays a diminished 7 arpeggio starting on the 3rd (E) so that ie E, G Bb and Db to approach the C over Fm7.
He then repeats the same Bb triad again anticipating the Cm7 a bit early, but the notes work over Fm7 as well.
So how can we use the 2 ideas that occur within the first few seconds of his solo?
Work on superimposing the Bb triad or Gm7 arpeggio over the Cm7 chord in different inversions, mix up the notes. Then use the same idea over the Fm7 – so you’d be using the Eb triad or Cm7 arpeggio. Or you can use the G minor pentatonic over Cm7 (pentatonic starting on 5th of m7 chord) and C minor pentatonic over the Fm7.
Use the diminished 7 arpeggio but start on different notes to approach different target tones. For example for a bit of an outside sound use B, D, F Ab (B dim 7) over Fm7 to approach the note G on beat 1 of Cm7. I like to think of diminished 7 arpeggios as 7b9 chords. So we are approaching Cm7 with a G7b9. Practice targeting different notes using this approach.
It’s amazing what we can learn and how we can get inspired from the masters. If you need help understanding solos and making them your own please don’t hesitate to hire me for private webcam guitar lessons.