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Inner Urge

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“Inner Urge” was written by the great tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. It was composed for his hit 1965 record also entitled Inner Urge. Henderson describes the inspiration of this tune coming from a time where he was “consumed by an inner urgency which could only be satisfied through this tune. During that period I was coping with the anger and frustration that can come of trying to find your way in the maze of New York, and of trying to adjust the pace you have to set in hacking your way in that city in order to just exist.”

This piece reflects this attitude quite accurately. The melody is intense and the harmony is modal; a reflection of the era in which it was written. Be sure to study the original recording to learn the rhythmic hits during the head.

It can be helpful to practice blowing over this tune with a play-along in order to get the harmony in your ears, however, be sure to graduate to just your instrument and a metronome. It is a good goal to be able to play through the changes convincingly without any sort of accompaniment on any tune you are learning.

Videos to learn the melody/changes

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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