Airegin (Sonny Rollins) - Grant Green solo transcription

Grant Green Airegin album cover

Here is a transcription (22 bars) of the Grant Green solo in Sonny Rollins tune "Airegin".

Sonny Rollins composed this tune in 1954 and was first recorded by Miles Davis quintet (Horace Silver, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke, Sonny Rollins & Miles Davis). Wes Montgomery released a version (1960) in the album "The incredible jazz guitar of Wes Montgomery" and Grant Green in 1962 in his album "Nigeria". "Airegin"title derives from the spelling of Nigeria backwards (Airegin). It is in the key of F minor.

There are some interesting tips in Grant Green improvisation :

The use of the F harmonic minor scale over Ab | G-7b5 / C7b9 | Fm | C7#9 | Fm . 

The harmonic minor scale contains seven notes, these are the same as the aeolian mode, except the seventh degree that is raised by a semitone. F harmonic minor scale contains the following notes :


A minor II-V sequence (G-7b5 - C7b9).

A minor II-V sequence consists of playing the second (II) and fifth (V) chords of a minor scale (harmonic, melodic or natural). In this case, it's the F harmonic minor scale, we are now going to build chords from this scale :

  • F minor major seventh (FmMaj7)
  • G minor seventh flat fifth (Gm7b5)
  • A flat major seventh sharp fifth (AbMaj7#5)
  • B flat minor seventh (Bbm7)
  • C seventh (C7)
  • D flat major seventh (Dbmaj7)
  • E diminished seventh (Edim7)

He plays Eb half-tone / whole tone scale over Eb7

The half-tone / whole tone scale as its name implies, is a succession of half tones and whole tones that gives in Eb /

  • Eb-E-Gb-G-A-Bb-C-Db

​This is an octatonic scale it contains eight notes.

3 major II-V-I progressions :

A major II-V-I sequence consists of playing the second, the fifth and the first chord of a major scale. If we take the C major scale we get seven chords constructed from each degree of the scale. This gives :

  • C major seventh (CMaj7)
  • D minor seventh (Dmin7)
  • E minor seventh (Emin7)
  • F major seventh (FMaj7)
  • G dominant seventh (G7)
  • A minor seventh (Am7)
  • B minor seventh flat fifth (Bm7b5)

We have three major II-V-I sequences in three different keys (C, B and Bb)

  • Dm7 / G7 | CM7
  • Dbm7 / Gb7 | BM7 (CbM7)
  • Cm7 / F7 | BbM7

Grant Green plays some selected notes of the mixolydian mode over the whole major II-V-I sequences. Indeed, when you are confronted with fast tempo and shorts sequences, it is more simple and efficient to play only one scale with few notes instead of getting lost in a flurry of notes.

In order of appearance it gives the three following mixolydian scales :

  • G mixolydian 
  • Gb mixolydian
  • F mixolydian

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Airegin Grant green jazz transcription 2

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Last edited: 06/03/2017


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