How to use this site

The title of each entry links to an MP3 recording of the lick. If your browser supports MP3s, this will open a separate window, where the lick will play. This window will still be here - you may need to drag the new one to one side to see it. Click on any of the transcriptions to open a larger version of it. Use your browser's 'back' button to return to this page.

All the transcriptions here are in concert keys. One day, if I have time, I'll create B flat and E flat versions if anyone would like them. Do let me know.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dizzy Gillespie - Salt Peanuts

And here's something from Dizzy Gillespie himself. Recorded live during the Jazz at Massey Hall concert (on which Charlie Parker plays a Grafton plastic saxophone). I suppose this should really be a real bebop line, full of quavers and semiquavers, to illustrate how Dizzy's style was influenced by Roy Eldridge. But for the publishing project which initiated this blog, we wanted to include something from Dizzy. In the first instance these cards are being published for guitarists, and I thought this phrase might translate to that instrument a little more easily than cascade of notes. I can imagine it being played over a hot club type rhythm, 'Django-style' - perhaps in octaves (though I'm not a guitarist, so don't take my word for it!).
Roy Eldridge - You Can Depend On Me

I think I first came across Roy Eldridge's name when reading Dizzy Gillespie's fine autobiography "To Be Or Not To Bop". Dizzy cited him (iirc) as one of his biggest earliy influences. Trumpeter Ian Smith who provided this lick would agree. We spent a fine evening in a South London tavern, where he dictated this transcription to me from memory, almost note perfect. Ian claimed that Roy's top F in the second bar here, was very consciously included, as it was higher than any note that Louis Armstrong had ever recorded at the time. The rest of this lick very clearly shows the way that be bop is heading in Dizzy's hands. This site shows the tune as being recorded on 8 April 1937. This one says 1936, and lets you stream it, and loads of other things from the same era.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

James Carter - Round Midnight

I don't think anyone would realistically claim that this is a 'lick' as such. It's a great phrase though, over Thelonius Monk's gorgeous ballad (one of my favourite tunes). James Carter seems to have a knack of making complicated things sound very simple. I once transcribed his tune "Stevedore's Serenade" from the album "Real Quietstorm". It sounds like a simple enough tune, but once you get down to the detail, it's full of double flats and other brain twisters. He also has a history when it comes to making people feel insecure about their own abilities - see Kelly Bucheger's tale of how James Carter Ruined My Life.
Hank Mobley - Dig Dis

This comes from the album Soul Station. It's always dangerous to claim a superlative, but this really is one of the all time great jazz albums. As a model of taste and elegance, it's hard to imagine anything better.
Gerry Mulligan - Budo

Gene Ammons - Exactly Like You

Huge thanks to Claus Koch (a great saxophonist I met at the Unterfahrt club in Munich, one mad weekend a few years ago) for telling me about this great piece. He says "almost the whole solo", so if the audio link above whets your appetite, here's the whole thing. Enjoy...
Charlie Christian - Rose Room

This one suggested by Moss Freed.
Cannonball Adderley

Taken from the Miles Davis Album "Round about Midnight / Milestones" (at least that's how it's listed on iTunes these days). Suggested by Simon Bates

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Stanley Turrentine - The Mule"
From the album Midnight Blue by Kenny Burrell.

This one's from Denny Ilett. The lick starts in the 7th bar of Stanley's 2nd chorus. THe audio clip starts from the beginning of the 2nd chorus.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Pat Metheny - Third Wind

Both Luis D'Agostino and Mo Nazam suggested this one. For an alternative transcription, not just of this opening break, but of the whole solo, check out Brent Suntzner's site (where you'll also find a whole load more jazz transcriptions.
Bob Berg - Friday Night At The Cadillac Club

I have to confess to never really listening that much to Bob Berg. I think this stems from seeing him play at Ronnie Scotts and finding it a less than delightful experience. On that gig he made his tenor sound more like a strangulated soprano sax. But I take it all back! This suggestion by Simon Bates and Steve Kershaw is a fabulous romp over a great set of funky changes. I got carried away when transcribing this and ended up with a whole chorus, rather than just a lick.

This is a first draft of the transcription, with a few mistakes - will come back and fix them later...
Bill Evans - Waltz for Debby

Suggested by Ross Wall.
Joe Henderson - Johnny Come Lately

I hadn't come across this tune before I started this project - I don't think it's in any of the Real Books, for example. Then in quick succession I found two versions, one by Ben Webster on a newish re-release by Storyville, then this modern recording from by Joe Henderson and Wynton Marsalis, suggested by Frank Griffith.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dexter Gordon - Cheese Cake

audio version

audio version

You could take almost any bar from this solo, or any other on this album, but here are two suggested by Jake McMurchie
Wardell Gray - Sweet and Lovely

This is really two licks in one - the second bar is much better known as one of Charlie Parker's signature phrases. It's over a slow 4, with the semi-quavers swung.
Paul Gonsalves - J. and B. Blues

This kicks off the second chorus of a joyful solo over a 12 bar blues - it starts in the second bar of the sequence.
Oliver Nelson - Stolen Moments

This is a somewhat ethereal phrase, over a tranquil minor blues. This whole solo is a succession very thoughtful 'developments of a lick', where a very simple idea is repeated, with subtle twists and turns.

I had no idea until looking him up for this blog entry, that the saxophonist, and composer, Oliver Nelson was also responsible for the theme to one of my childhood favourite TV programmes, 'The Six Milion Dollar Man'.
Illinois Jacquet - Flyin' Home

Here's my own first choice - a storming pick up, from the last couple bars of the middle eight of a great rhythm-changes tune.
Miles Davis - Four

The first lick was suggested by Dave Harrison, who instigated this whole idea in the first place.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Stan Getz - Telephone Song

Where to begin...

Well, as a saxophonist, I suppose it's only natural that the first to occur to me are from other saxophonists I've listened to over the years. One of the first things I ever transcribed, which still stays with me is Stan Getz's solo from 'The Telephone Song' on Getz Au GoGo.
Like all jazz musicians, over the years I've learned from those who have gone before, by listening to recordings, and transcribing improvised solos. It's a great way to keep your brain in tune, and to improve your listening and playing skills. Last week I was approached by a music publisher and asked if I would be interested in compiling a set of 50 'Jazz Licks' to be published as a set of cards. It was obvious immediately that this was far too big a task for one person, if there's to be any hope of some kind of comprehensive coverage of the whole of jazz. So, I'm opening this appeal to jazz musicians everywhere to 'send me your favourite licks'.

What's a lick? For this project, we're interpreting a lick as a short phrase, up to 4 bars in length, played as part of an improvised solo or accompaniment. It could be on any instrument. For this particular project, we're not really interested in identifiable 'quotes', ie phrases which are obviously part of the melody - either of the tune being played, or some other well-known tune. Of course, there may be many grey areas, where a phrase is very closely related to a well known tune, but in that case I'll just need to use my judgement to decide whether to include it or not.

It's obvious that there are many many more than 50 great licks in the world. There are a few classic albums which spring to mind where you can probably find 50 just among those tracks.

As I collect the licks, I'll post them here. I also invite people to contribute licks, either as comments, or by email to Please let me know the Album, artist, musician - and ideally the approximate timing of the lick you have in mind - ie where it is in the track. If you feel like emailing MP3s or transcriptions, then please feel free.