Learn the rhythm and lead styles of neo-soul virtuoso Jairus Mozee

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Jairus Mozee is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer who has received no less than three Grammy awards for his work. He has performed and worked with some of the biggest names in music today including Anderson .Paak, Christina Aguilera and the mighty Prince among many others. Looking through Jairus’ credits, it’s immediately apparent just how in-demand he is.

Like many neo-soul guitarists, Jairus began his musical journey playing guitar at his local church. His virtuosity was noticed from an early age, leading him to play with much older musicians. By age 15, Jairus was playing guitar professionally and doing sessions for B2K. A few years later, at just 17, he was playing for Prince and spent five months in his house band.

Now Prince didn’t employ just anyone and obviously saw the huge talent and potential in young Jairus. It was through this gig and playing with powerful rhythm sections that included bassist Larry Graham and drummer John Blackwell that led to him becoming so sought after.

It also helped him hone his skills as a songwriter and producer. In the following years, Jairus played guitar with one of his idols, the multi-talented Raphael Saadiq, and also worked as a guitarist, bassist, songwriter and producer for rapper Anderson .Paak.

As a guitarist, Jairus Mozee has the chops and knowledge of some of the best in the genre. Like his contemporaries, he is able to play fast lead lines, funky single note grooves and is a master of complex chords and gospel harmony. All of these facets are why Jairus Mozee is such a hot property in the modern music scene.

Technically, Mozee uses a combination of pick-style playing and a hybrid approach. Although he tends to favor alternate picking, he is adept at hybrid picking and sweeping techniques. In fact, he is a master of the fingerboard and is able to effortlessly move chord voicings up and down the fretboard, often fused with melodic lines and sometimes fast.

The examples here are based on an Em7 to Am7 chord progression, while the study piece is a static Dorian E groove. Hope you understand why the legendary Purple One hired young Jairus and helped launch his career.

Get the tone

Amp Settings: Gain 4, Bass 4, Middle 5, Treble 6, Reverb 4

Jairus is usually seen playing Fender Stratocaster or Jazzmaster guitars, usually favoring the neck pickup. Its tone is often clean with a bit of reverb and maybe a touch of slight delay. So a clean tone with some reverb is the best place to start. The neck pickup of any guitar would be ideal, but two pickups or a “middle” sound can also be great.

Examples

EXAMPLE 1 This example shows how Jairus Mozee uses chord inversions mixed with melody lines to create an interesting gospel approach to playing over a simple chord progression from Em7 to Am7. Using inversions in your own rhythm playing can make your games much more interesting.

EXAMPLE 2 follows the first with two bars of single-note lines on the Em7 chord before using diatonic chords on the Am7. The lowest note of each chord is the fifth and the root note is not present. This is a classic gospel guitar line and would be worth experimenting with.

EXAMPLE 3 Mozee is an extremely funky player and this shows how he could play syncopated chords with ghost notes to get into the groove. Make sure the ghost notes are properly muted (using available fingers or flesh) and that the chords sound tight and in sync with the accompaniment.

EXAMPLE 4 This example shows how Jairus can solo over the chord progression. The first lick uses a combination of the E Natural Minor and E Harmonic Minor scales and each note is selected. Lines played on the Am7 chord use the A Minor Pentatonic scale.

EXAMPLE 5 Jairus uses chromaticism to great effect. The opening line uses a simple E minor pentatonic lick that goes up the next one in semitones. The second part of this example features a series of double stops using notes from the A Minor Pentatonic scale.

study room

The first two bars feature ascending and descending triads on the top three strings. These show chord extensions can be used to add color.

[Bars 3-11] A funky pattern using muted single notes and syncopated chords showcases the funky side of Jairus’ playing. The Em6 chord gives this piece an E Dorian tone (EF#-GABC#-D) and ghost notes are played between some of the chords to add an extra groove feel. Keep your hand soft and loose when playing the chords and try not to rush the rhythm.

[Bars 12-15] Some double stop ideas here, alongside another single note line that doubles the bass guitar. Simple, understated parts like these are perfect for accompanying a singer or soloist, as they leave room for the melody, while providing a solid groove.

[Bars 16-19] The solo begins on a high E note before three bars of rapid sextuplet sequences. Bar 17 uses the E minor pentatonic with an added 9th (F#) while bar 18 is built around a D major scale form, implying an E Dorian sound. Bar 19 ends this section with a phrase in E minor.

[Bars 20-23] A series of double stops show how Jairus uses rhythm playing to give his solos a more syncopated sound, complementing bass and drums.

[Bars 24-27] A series of E minor triads are used in bar 24, which Jairus would play with an alternate pick or sweep style; it is worth experimenting with both approaches. A final fast chosen line occurs at bar 25 before neo-soul style chords and slurs appear. The last two bars of our study piece end with some more triadic ideas. Enjoy!

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