A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Wes Montgomery, the composer of “Four On Six,” was one of the greatest jazz guitarists ever. The blues element in his playing, his use of octaves, and his deep sense of “swing” influenced many, many guitarists including George Benson.

“Four On Six” is one of Montgomery’s best-known tunes and first appeared on his 1960 album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery. Looking back at his career now, it’s interesting to view his music in relation to the use of the electric guitar in rock music of the late 1950s – 1960s. There weren’t too many guitarists who successfully led jazz groups at the time, so Montgomery’s achievements are all the more impressive in an historical sense.

Here is a recommended recording:
(for international readers who may not have access to this YouTube link, I’ve indicated the original album name so you can listen to the recording on music streaming services, etc.)

Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One aspect of “Four On Six” that makes it fun to solo on it that the chord progression alternated between the Gm7 “modal” section and the “bebop” section that has all the ii-V’s. Each ii-V is in a different key, though, so you’ll probably need to spend some quality time practicing in each key before you can successfully string them together.

You can also practice this section in a ballad tempo, making sure that you clearly “hear” your way through the chord changes as you create your improvised line.

When you’re soloing over “Four On Six,” enjoy the freedom you have on those 4 measure of Gm7. Whether you’re using the G Dorian mode or playing “outside,” you can let loos here without having to think too much. Then, make sure you’re ready for all those ii-V’s in the following phrase!

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
A transcription of Wes Montgomery’s “Four On Six” guitar solo

Four On Six: Journey Through The Real Book #127

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