The infamous ii V is everywhere in jazz chord progressions. In fact, the ii V defines a sense of tension and release that prevails throughout all western music…
An essential key to understanding how to give your lines a sense of harmonic motion, lies in knowing where to insert a ii V into a static progression.
Activating static measures in a blues using ii Vs
When most people go to blow over a blues, they improvise on changes that look something like the example below.
This is pretty basic and strictly playing these changes will limit your lines tremendously.
Most jazz charts notate a blues with some added chords that I’m sure you’re familiar with. The chords typically added to most blues charts give the progression much more forward motion. See how the inserted chords push harmonically forward, resolving to a target chord?
Yes, in most cases these changes are written in charts as I’m sure you’re aware of, however, understanding this concept is crucial to understanding how to insert ii Vs in specific places that are not written in charts, giving a sense of harmonic motion to rather stagnant progressions.
Before moving on, understand that:
- The added ii Vs aim for a target chord (E -7b5 A7 is headed for D- etc.)
- You can insert and play over these progressions regardless of whether the rhythm section plays these changes.
- You must play a line over these inserted changes that expresses their harmony. Keep it simple.
Ok, looking at the previous example ...