Recently I've been thinking about licks. When I listen to late 50s Coltrane some ideas pop up again and again. Charlie Parker definitely had his pet licks. I quite enjoy Coltrane's licks though in Parker's case it makes the later work feel kind of redundant, though that might be just me. While Miles Davis has different ideas on different tunes when you hear him play several renditions of the same tune you hear him use the same melodic material. His multiple versions of Four, and the various live cuts of So What are good examples of this. The Workin, Cookin, Relaxin and Steamin set features a lot of reused ideas too, which is understandable, considering that these four albums were recorded in one weekend.
Then there are other players that don't seem to repeat themselves ever, like Clifford Brown, Wayne Shorter and Chris Potter. Potter is particularly impressive in this regard as everything he plays is so distinct that one would recognise it if he played it again, but that never seems to happen.
Just to be clear, not making any value judgements, I love both camps, but this subject is very interesting to me. Anyway, of the artists that you know well who falls into which group? And does anyone disagree with my assessments of Trane, Brownie and the rest?
Someone wrote a Doctorate paper on 'The 42 unique motifs of Charles Parker' or some title to that effect. It was a statistical analysis of his recorded solos and how often and where and when he used these ideas. keys, tempos,...
Some players enjoy using well known motifs. Certainly Dexter Gordon did.
Sidney Bechet used many ideas on a tune for decades but he was a pleasure to listen to. Eric Dolphy was sometimes very redundant on the SAME tune.
Again, just saying.
Steve Lehman (a favorite of mine) has a lick which he's played dozens if not hundreds of times on record. He also played it many times when I saw his trio.
Here's a youtube video with a few instances I compiled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdAzAZEuriU
I don't think I've ever heard it transposed, either. It's just in that one "key" and he uses it everywhere. I like it just fine.
Sorry to inject a negative note of here but , some years ago , a musician (classical) mate was want to describe Jazz "Licks" as cliches. Oh dear. He was far too learned for me to put up any sort of meaningful defence of my beloved music.
Carpe Diem . Quam minimum credula postero.
Most jazz artists will repeat certain themes into their licks and improvisations.
They do it because that's part of their style and flavor.
The way they do it is neither right nor wrong, it just works for them.
I think of the way Sony Rollins will repeat certain licks again and again. It kind of seems like he is waiting for something else come out. Maybe certain rehearsed licks come out when the inspiration isn't there and maybe when the artist is very inspired in improvising they put a new twist on a previous rehearsed lick so the lick comes out familiar but in a different setting with a different band etc... The same goes for any art form. Hemingway, Shakespeare, Lester Young, Picasso -- they all repeated themselves on occasion.
That Steve Lehman thing is cool.
I listened recently to Art Blakey and Horace Silver at Birdland, the one with the red cover and Wee Dot on it. Silver uses the same 10 licks on every track. I typically love HS but this was a step too far for me.
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