For this month’s drum lesson we are going to analyze a lick played by one of the fathers of bebop drumming: the great late Philly Joe Jones.
I first learn this lick when transcribing Philly’s playing on the track “Half Nelson” from the record entitled “Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet.”
It is a great album and I would insist you to check it out if you haven’t. Philly’s playing is a masterclass on bebop drumming throughout the album. The track Half Nelson is especially a great tune for learning soloing language. On the intro and trading section Philly plays some of the classic Philly-isms that became an essential part of any jazz drummer lick repertoire.
The lick we’ll be studying in this lesson is somewhat simple, and it is one of Philly’s trademark licks. He plays this lick in many of his solos on different records. The lick works great on many different tempos; medium up, fast tempos and everything in between.The sticking is really cool and allows you to be creative with orchestration. It can be tricky at faster tempos, but once you learn and internalize the sticking, it is pretty easy to incorporate it into your playing.
This is the lick, which Philly plays in the 8 bar drum solo intro of the tune. Precisely on bar 5 of his solo.
The lick, as I see it, is composed of two different parts, let me break it down for you.
Basically, the first two beats of the lick, Philly uses those two different stickings depending on where he is coming from and the orchestration he is planning to use. Also, it is important to notice the upbeat as the starting point. That is something Philly does a lot. These 2 beats are classic Philly. If you keep analyzing more of his solos, you’re going to find this as a strong trait in his work.
Here we have the last 4 beats of the lick. In this part, Philly uses a really nice sticking, which gives the phrase that unique sound. If you try to play this only using single strokes, it will never sound the same. So, the important part here is to learn the sticking.
He plays R L L on the first triplet and then beats 2 and 3, he plays a paradiddle-diddle, or it can be analyzed as an inverted 6 stroke-roll as well (for those of you who know your rudiments).
I’m saying this because when he plays the phrase at fast tempos it definitely sounds like a 6 stroke-roll.
Towards the end of the tune, at minute 3:14, there is a trading section. Philly plays this lick and some variations several times. Those two little phrases we got breaking down the original lick are used to modify it.
Philly repeats, adds or takes out some of these little parts in order to stretch the phrases. Also, he changes the placement of it in different ways, which even though he is playing the same notes, it sounds like it is something completely new.
On the first 8 bar solo in the trading section, on bars 3, 4, 5 and 6, Philly plays the lick twice. The first time he plays it as the original, however, he changes the orchestration.
As you can see, Philly moves the right hand on the and-of-1 and on 3 to the rack tom. Immediately after that, Philly throws in a different variation of the same lick.
This one is a really smart way to stretch the lick. The first 4 beats of the phrase is part 1 of the lick repeated twice. The first time on the snare and the second time moving the accent to the floor tom. Then, the last 6 beats of the phrase are part 2 of the lick also repeated twice.
As you can see, he is using small pieces of the lick to elongate and modify the original idea.
On the second 8 bars of his trading, we see the reappearance of the lick, this time with a slight variation at the beginning. This is what happens on 4, 5, and 6.
So, now we are seeing different notes and a different sticking at the beginning of the phrase. On the and-of-4 of bar 1 and beat 1 of the second bar, the sticking is L RRL. It is the second option I gave you above on lick Part 1. If you notice, he changes the sticking because of where he is coming from. It makes more sense to play L RRL, because of the notes he’s playing before the lick.
On the 3rd solo section, Philly plays 12 bars of solo (yes, they made a mistake and let Philly take 12 bars so they could align themselves again in the form) and he plays the lick again twice.
On bars 5 and 6 he plays the exact same variation than before, only this time he starts on the and-of-2.
It is the same thing as the second 8 bars solo section, the only difference is the starting point, which makes the lick feel very differently.
Later in the same section bars 8, 9, and 10, he plays it again.
On this occasion, he repeats lick Part 2 at the end again to stretch it out. He marks the beginning of the repetition by moving his right hand to the rack tom.
Finally, on the 4th and last 8 bar solo section, Philly ends his improvisation with the same lick variation but this time he starts out on the upbeat of beat 1. Bars 7 and 8.
Again, he is repeating lick Part 2 and uses it as a device to stretch the phrase.
Here’s a video of me playing all the examples, take a look so you get an idea of how the lick and its variations sound like.
I love this solo. If you have a chance to study the entire solo please do. It is a great example of motivic development and the use of repetition when organizing your ideas.
But for now, make sure you learn this lick and all its variation, and then go and check How To Get The Most Out Of Your Solo Transcriptions Part. 2 for great ideas on how to make these phrases your own and also take a moment to go over How to Develop Musical and Organized Jazz Drum Solos for ideas on how to use these licks in your soloing.
In addition, If you want to explore more on motivic and melodic soloing on the drums check Learning to Solo In The Style Of Max Roach, In which I analyze one of the classic Max solos.
Hope this was useful guys, remember if you wish to share your thoughts and comments, do not hesitate to do so in the comment section below. Also, you can go and follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook and DM me if you wish to ask me any question about the lesson.