Solar is one of those jazz standards you just need to know. It is a tune that will be regularly called on jam sessions and gigs no matter where you are at in the world. So it is important that you not only know this tune well, but also feel comfortable improvising over it.
Though this tune is only a short 12 bar form, it does present some harmonic challenges that are worth looking into. Let’s go ahead and look at some lines that we can play over the chord progressions in this jazz standard. And by the way, most of these lines are little extractions from our eBook “15 Essential Jazz Etudes”. If you find these helpful, you may enjoy this book as well.
You can reference the entire chord chart to Solar here: Solar.pdf
Take a look at the first line:
The main challenge in these first 4 bars of Solar is the transition from the Cmin7 to the ii-V-I into Fmaj7. Play through it so you can hear how it seamlessly connects leading into the D natural in bars 2-3. Also notice in bar 4 on the C7, that the first four notes outline the C dominant 7 diatonically and the second grouping of four notes outlines a C7alt leading into the Fmaj7.
Take a look at the second line:
In this one, the main transition is from the Fmaj7 to the Fmin7, which starts a ii-V-I into Ebmaj7. Of course the important note of difference between the two chords is the 3rd. The Fmaj7 starts with the 5th (C) to the major 3rd (A), and the Fmin7 is started with the b3 (Ab) to the root (F).
Take a look at the third line:
This a simple but nice line play. Similarly to the previous line, we need to make the transition from an Ebmaj7 chord to an Ebmin7 chord. Again, take note of the key note change: the major 3rd (G) and the b3 (Gb). Also observe how the ii-V line in bar 2 mimics bar 1 with some rhythmic alteration and a few different note choices. This time we are dealing with a quick ii-V-I rather than a long ii-V-I (one chord per bar).
Take a look at the fourth and final line:
Here the challenge is to connect the Dbmaj7 to the Dmin7(b5) which starts the minor ii-V-i in the key of C minor. This particular line uses enclosure to target the G natural in bar 2 (F-Ab-F-G). The line ends on a B natural which of course is the major 7th of the Cmin(maj7) chord.
Study these lines and play through them. It always helps to take a little bit of time to analyze musical phrases. Sometimes understanding intellectually what is happening in the music you are playing can ultimately result in more musical freedom. Knowledge is power right?
And in case you want to practice more lines like these to entire jazz standards, check out our 15 Essential Jazz etudes eBook which is available for C Instruments, Upright and Electric Bass, and Guitar TABS.