Ronny Jordan sadly passed away a few years ago, but left in his wake a wonderful repertoire. Originally from London, UK, this cat became known for his reworking of Miles Davis’ seminal So What. His modern rhythms are strong enough to be club savvy, and he was a pioneer of the Acid Jazz genre, which combines elements of Jazz, Soul, Funk, and Disco – in other words: an awesome genre!
This week we have 4 riffs in the key of D Minor/Major. The tempo is at 105 bpm, which is ‘up’ enough to tap your feet while giving you enough space to swing 16th notes. Here’s a breakdown riff by riff:
This example features a catchy blues intro before settling into chord rhythm using hybrid picking (pick and fingers). To add variety, a single note line rounds off each four bar phrase. Notice how the two chords (Dm and Eb) are made more interesting by using chord voicings featuring 7ths and 9th extensions. Even when accompanying, Ronny is mindful of providing colour in his playing with these types of approaches.
Like numerous other jazz guitarists (most notably Wes Montgomery), Ronny uses octaves to beef up his playing – the lower octave adding warmth and body to the upper octave. It also encourages you to be more melodic and less box shape-based with your phrasing. Notice how the syncopated D Dorian melody is rounded off in the fourth bar with chord voicings in fourths. You can hear Ronny using these types of chords on tracks like So What which up the sophistication quota without confusing the underlying harmony. If you like this type of chordal approach, check out jazz pianist, McCoy Tyner.
This is an appealing way of creating a hook for a song without getting in the way of anyone else in the band (80s soul music being a particularly good place to explore). The best approach to use here is to make sure your timing is precise and notes don’t linger on longer than they should. Notice that the third and fourth strings are used predominantly to keep the sound consistent.
Ronny’s chord knowledge is pretty extensive which this example demonstrates. Fundamentally it creates interest over a static chord progression (here, Dm to F/G) but the approach taken is a little different – the upper step-wise melody was created fist and then this was turned into chords derived from the D Dorian scale. Although this maybe a new approach to chord building for you, it focuses you more specifically on melodic content rather than just chord shapes that get the job done. Needless to say, standard chord playing will seem pretty pedestrian after travelling down this path!
Watch out for 3 more riffs in the same style next week!
As always, below the YouTube video you’ll find the backing track to play along with, and below that, the tablature. Aren’t I nice?!
Feel free to ask questions or just share your thoughts in the comments!