One of the smartest people I’ve come in contact with on the Internet when it comes to jazz — and playing music in general — is Marc Sabatella.
Case in point, a rec.music.makers.guitar.jazz discussion on bebop heds and the David Baker bebop books:
For one thing, it’s not like these guys were “using” the bebop scale in
the way we might think about it today. They were using the major and
minors scale, and tossing in some passing tones when it felt necessary.
Baker just codified this practice by putting names on particular
combinations of major and minor scales with passing tones. So one
shouldn’t expect to see anything that looks quite as pat as Baker makes
it sound. Sure, beboppers used passing tones all the time, but in a way
MUCH more varied than would appear from learning a small set of fixed
Second, I think you’ll find more use of this particular devices in
*solos* than in heads, simply because the heads don’t tend to have quite
the same types of long streams of eighth notes in which these passing
tones are most effective. Heads are still great to learn to get a
general feel for the language in terms of phrasing and so forth, but if
you really need to see a lot of examples of people using passing tones
in the way Baker describes, look at the solos in the Omnibook (or
transcribe a few yourself). Personally, I don’t feel the concept of
adding passing tones to one’s lines is so hard to grasp that it really
requires examples in order to be able to do so oneself. Sure you might
come up with something slightly *different* from the ways Bird et all
used passing tones. As far as I am concerned, that’s a *good* thing.
What’s funny, also, is that Marc is a pianist, not a guitarist, but he hangs out on RMMGJ because it’s got about 20 times the activity of rec.music.makers.jazz. I highly recommend Marc’s book, “The Harmonic Language of Jazz Standards,” which offers a new way of understanding harmony in the context of playing the standards in a jazz context. Now it’s all based on standard Western-style harmonic analysis, but with lots of creative ways to look at and understand that harmony, with the goal being the ability to play a standard tune from musical memory, on the spot, in any key, without ever having seen the lead sheet. It’s a lofty goal that I’m pretty sure I’ll never reach, but there’s plenty to learn from the book nonetheless. And it applies equally to guitar and piano, if you’re wondering.