Here’s a nice little bebop lick from Charlie Parker’s solo on “Confirmation.” There are a lot of classic bebop devices at work in these two bars. Let’ check a few of them them out. Please note that I’m thinking of the upper set of chord changes (Am7-D7 Gm7 – C7) for this analysis but the lower set (Cm7-F7-Bbmaj7) work nicely too.
1. The line begins on a non-chord tone but the 16th-notes on the “and” of beat one are a standard way of resolving back to a chord tone on the following downbeat. This works for triplets too. I’d seen this a lot but never really understood it until I read the explanation in David Baker’s book “How to Play Bebop Volume 1.”
2. On the D7 chord the movement from the third (F#) to flat nine (Eb) is a very common sound in bebop. Everything in bar one may be thought of as part of the G Harmonic Minor scale. Personally, I don’t think much about scales so much but YMMV.
3. The C# on the “and” of beat 4 is a just chromatic passing tone that targets the fifth of the Gm7 (D) in bar two. Chromatic targeting of chord tones is another device characteristic of the bebop idiom.
4. The first two beats of bar 2 are made up of the root (G), second (A), third (Bb), and fifth (D) of the chord – although not in that order. This combination of notes known as “R235” is another common piece of jazz vocabulary and is a good balance between an arpeggio and a scale fragment. Jerry Bergonzi’s book “Melodic Structures” is a great resource for mastering the R235 concept.
5. The notes played over the C7 change are unaltered and except for the final F very pentatonic in nature. They also telegraph the F major chord coming up in the next bar. The final F, usually a no-no in jazz improvisation, is okay here because it is an anticipation of the F major chord coming up in the next bar. Parker is known for not always phrasing exactly with the bar lines and often resolves his lines a little bit early or late. This is a great example of anticipating the next chord change with the root (F) of the upcoming I chord.
Have fun working this one into your playing! The lick lays nicely in this position but you should try others too, of course. The articulations will help the line swing but you could try other ways of playing it. I actually prefer picking most of the notes.