EPIC Michael League Lick!

We all know Michael League as the power house bassist behind Snarky Puppy, but did you know he also has some serious jazz chops? The kind of chops that make these kind of faces…

Oh yeah!

We’re going to take a look at a lick that I took from a jam with Cory Henry (that you can listen to here), the lick comes in at 06:55 and is a swinging chromatic line that makes the crowd explode, you can’t miss it! Let’s check it out.

Download the backing track from the video here!

So why is this lick so awesome? Let’s break it down.

1. Target notes on strong beats.

A G Lydian sound is implied in the opening bar by targeting the first four scale notes (G A B C#), these notes all land on the beat giving them more weight than the other notes in the bar. The backing track I’m jamming to in the video is over an A7 groove, the target notes would then be b7 (G) R (A) 9 (B) 3 (C#).

2. Approach Patterns

League uses a variety of approach patterns to arrive at his target notes, all of which come from the bebop tradition. Ascending and descending chromatic approach notes are used along with an enclosure.

3. Sequence

The repeating pattern in the first measure provides a solid foundation for the lick which helps engage the listener, the ascending pattern also builds excitement.

Learn more about Using Sequence In Your Improvisations here!

4. Harmonic Structure

The second measure outlines an E major chord before descending the E Mixolydian scale. (NOTE! The D natural in this run is pretty difficult to hear and could well be a D#, making it and E major scale but D natural seems a better fit!)

Using this technique League is implying a | I | VI7 | progression. At this point in the lick, Cory Henry (the awesome keys player) lays out giving League space to bring in whatever harmony he likes before resolving to the G in the final bar.

5. Long Double Time Line

This lick is played in double time, or all as semi quavers, rather than the expected quaver based lines commonly found in jazz. Playing in double time you burn through your ideas in no time at all! League glues together three separate ideas (chromatic approach notes, scales fragments, scale runs) to create one long line, as each idea comes to an end the excitement is built further by the delayed resolution as he runs seamlessly into the next phrase.

Download the backing track from the video here!

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