Chronicles of The Lick! (Round 1)

Chronicles of The Lick! (Round 1)

Hi everyone,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I’m going to have some fun and talk about an infamous weapon in the musical arsenal. The “Hot Lick.” A “Hot Lick” can take on many forms and faces, be it Hot (of course), Cool, Skanky, Soft, Crunchy, Salty, Dirty, Screamin’, Sultry, Tasty, and so on and so on… Hot Licks can be found in every musical genre in solos, compositions, and musings. This lick that I speak of is not always the same, but is guaranteed to serve at least one of several purposes:

To wow and mystify;
To impress the uninitiated;
To inflate damaged egos;
To let your competence be known;
And occasionally…
To entrance groupies like the pied piper;

Above all playing of “The Lick” is a statement to everyone present that you know what they want to hear and you know how to F*&#*^@ rock!

Today’s chronicle will focus on a Jazz lick that pervades music history. Like all of “The Lick(s)” out there it has no formal name, but at a close inspection of popular artists and composition it’s influence is undeniable.

I call this lick “Doo Ba Doo Pee Dwee Doo Ahh”

This hot lick has bridged the generation gap and can be found in the music and solos of almost every famous Jazz musician since the beginning of documented Jazz history. This particular lick is so famous that there’s actually a Facebook page, as well as countless youtube videos dedicated to it’s performance. I’m not sure what makes this hot lick so hot right now, but it can’t be denied. I might argue that its because this phrase has really crossed borders. Everyone from Coltrane to Kenny G has put this hot lick to the test… and most of them did it on camera!

So in the interest of music history I’ve discovered a mid-fifties example of today’s lick. Long before the more obvious compositional usages (ie. Branford Marsalis’ “Doctone” or Robert Glasper’s “Mr. Thomas”), Horace Silver embedded The Lick into his badass composition, “Tippin,” from the album Six Pieces of Silver.

The song starts off unassuming enough. It is a bebop melody over the changes to “I’ve Got Rhythm,” a very popular vehicle for bebop musicians. The A section melody plays off of the traditional changes with only slight alterations allowing for a b9 here and there. Not too fancy, but there’s a grooving melody and a swinging band. Then when the bridge hits… out of nowhere there is flagrant use of what? THE LICK! He takes this common phrase, and transposes it through the descending keys of the bridge. First on a II V in G, then Gb, and finally F. He finishes off the bridge with a really hip phrase on the C half diminished chord, erasing The Lick from our minds and we’re back to the last A section.

Congratulations Horace! A most excellent use of The Lick indeed.

No one doubted his ability to rock out, but in case they did, now who can challenge his authority? He has wielded the lick well and is rewarded with our love and support.

Six Pieces of Silver is a recording Horace Silver made in 1956 for Blue Note Records. Horace’s band for this album is a fantastic mix of talent: Donald Byrd on Trumpet, Hank Mobley on Tenor, Doug Watkins at the Bass, and Louis Hayes on the drums. Recorded only a year after he left the famous Jazz Messengers, this album was an early milestone for Horace’s solo career. Besides Six Pieces of Silver, some of my favorite Horace Silver albums are:

Further Explorations
Song For My Father
Blowin’ the Blues Away
The Jody Grind

Joe SM

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