James Booker Improvisation Tutorial
In this tutorial we explore the unique improvisational techniques of James Booker including his single melody line tricks, octave tremolos patterns, rolls, licks, and how Booker approached turnaround phrases.
In the previous lesson on “Sunny Side Of The Street” we explored Booker’s block chord soloing technique and now we will examine his other right hand melodic devices.
Single Note Improvisation
James Booker would improvise extensively with single note melody lines. These lines would often walk-up into the chord tones of the chord. Josh demonstrates this idea using an Ebmaj7 chord. James Booker would create melodies like this in all of the keys, and both up and down the piano directionally.
Booker Style Turnarounds
James Booker had some unique approaches to turnaround phrases. He would change the order of the moving voices to create a different type of resolution. Josh demonstrates this with a C7 turnaround phrase. Reversing the order of the notes and adding right hand rolls creates a distinctive Booker-style turnaround.
Tremolos, Rolls, & Licks
A characteristic element of Booker’s improvisational style is octave tremolos either with a pure octave or with an octave encasing the notes of a chord. He would combine this technique with downward rolls which outlined the notes of the blues scale to create tense and exciting right hand improvised phrases.
To create a Booker-style solo, take a lick or short melodic riff and repeat it over the entire 12 bar blues form; even when the lick clashes with some of the underlying harmony.
Transpose Booker's unique approach to turnarounds into a few different keys. Study how he changed the chord colours to create an interesting sense of resolution.
Experiment with the downward rolls. The identical downward roll can be used over both the major and minor chord, as demonstrated with the roll over Amaj7, and then A-7.