Bird may be my all time favorite melodic improvisor. His sound, feel and ideas still seem fresh and alive and I enjoy him more and more the older I get. I’m always shocked when I put on a side I’ve not heard for a while and think to myself, “Man, he’s gotten better since the last time I heard him!”.
Here’s a short Bird phrase I learned when I was young, trying to play along with Bird solos while reading out of the Omni Book. It’s one of those lines that you hear Bird play a lot, it also has a classic bebop shape containing triplet pickups and a primary melody grouped in 3 against 4/4 time.
I often find that going back to Bird and/or Lester can really be ear/mind opening – the underlying structure of their ideas, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically seems to still be at the heart of modern jazz improvisation and in a fundamental way has not been surpassed.
You can also use the mp3 below to practice singing the line or working on the material in your head while visualizing the fingerings on your instrument. This is a great way to practice especially if you suffer from RSI or carpal tunnel.