Friday, October 15, 2021

Lifting solos and the DeJohnette Lick

I frequently work with a fantastic world class pianist. As he is also very interested in the drums and has been practicing them, we share a lot of common ground, although my relationship with both instruments would be the inverse of his. One day he invited me to hear his Jack DeJohnette "lick' and then proceeded to splash the hi-hat cymbal once with his left foot! :) Not a particularly difficult physical move, but very evocative of a lot of Jack's playing.

This reminded me of my own struggles to lift ideas from recordings and play them on piano. At this point, I really have no hope of playing solos from many of the pianists I love ( Chick Corea, Red Garland, Bill Evans,  Hampton Hawes, etc.) because I just don't have much technical ability. So, I tend to lift horn player's solos. These solos are often too difficult as well, but I often find a short idea or 2 that I can use. I have frequently found vocabulary from altoist Jackie McLean and Trumpeter Blue Mitchell, for example. Are these streams of fast double time 8th notes? Nope, not by a long shot. What I can gather usually, is short melodic and rhythmic fragments, and then apply them to as many chords/tunes as I can. These little melodic gems have helped my soloing immensely, and frequently help me from getting "stuck" in a tune.

What does this have to do with playing drums? Plenty, I think. Both of the examples I've mentioned here help prove that when learning another artist's vocabulary, you don't have to learn the most difficult stuff (at first) or tons of material. First learning about Jazz and learning a Tony Williams solo? Learn what's manageable, to start. Yes, it's great to learn whole solos to learn about motivic development etc., but just get started with anything. I guarantee it will help you.

Now go splash that hi-hat, and thank Jack while you're at it! 

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