Watch the Jammin' With Jimmy online guitar lesson by David Hamburger from 50 Jazz-Blues Licks You MUST Know

One of the more baffling things about hearing jazz musicians play the blues can be the fact that, nine out of ten times, they don’t play the V IV I turnaround in bars 9-12 that we all know and love. Going back to the 1930s and recordings like the Benny Goodman Sextet featuring Charlie Christian, you can hear the band either just hanging on the V for two bars before returning to the I, playing a bar of ii and a bar of V in the same spot, or actually rocking back and forth, ii V, ii V, for both measures, before returning home (in the key of F, for example, that would be either two bars of C7, a bar of G minor to a bar of C7, or two bars consisting of Gmin to C7, Gmin to C7).

By the bebop era in the 1940s and 50s, you can hear musicians setting up the ii chord by going first to the VI7 chord the bar before, in measure eight. This works because if you imagine for a moment that ii (say, that Gmin in the key of F) is temporarily the i chord, and ask yourself "okay, what’s the V of Gmin?" the answer is "D7!" But once you’ve established that, there are various ways to work with, around or through that new set of chords. For example, in the lick at hand, we take the changes one step further, saying "well, if Gmin is i, and D7 is V, what’s ii?" Since the answer is "Amin7," the changes here walk up from F through Gmin7 to Amin7, then slip chromatically down through Abmin7, the biii chord, to land on Gmin.