[Dixielandjazz] Riffs and Licks - Redux - Learning the Music

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 18 10:22:42 PST 2004

I rehearse almost every week with Tex Wyndham local band, The Red Lions.
We've had a problem getting a trombone player to come every week. So we
invited a young man of 25 who had never played "OKOM" before. He is a
classically trained player, reads like a champ, never heard much
"Dixieland. he wanted to broaden his musical horizons. He works
regularly with a Rock Jam Band and occasionally in a bop group where he
articulates like J.J. Johnson. (slide TB sounds like a valve TB)

Tex advised him to buy some Louis Armstrong CDs and so he bought the Hot
5, Hot Seven. I lent him my Mosaic Eddie Condon CDs. That's all he
listens to, plus he comes to see Glenn Dodson and my Band at live gigs
and has joined Glenn's Trombone Octet (Classical).

Inside of 3 months, this young man has become a respectable OKOM
trombone. His grasp of what to do improves markedly with every session.
At Tex's, he works with the standard chord charts, plays obscure tunes,
and gets them down quickly. I have begun to let him "sit in" on our

I don 't think this is unusual at all. Any well trained musician who has
a sense of rhythm in his genes, can learn to play OKOM fairly rapidly
without going to a whole lot of trouble. By the same token there are
some musicians, who though impeccable classical players, have no sense
of rhythm/swing and will never play OKOM (or any jazz) well.

Point being, forget the riffs, except in ensemble. Develop your own
favorite licks.  Ain't nobody who reads Louis Armstrong licks that plays
them anywhere near as well as he did. "Listen" and "Play". It is not
that difficult. Main thing is to gig.

Remember Tom Saunder's recent post? Wild Bill Davison was a solid jazz
player but he didn't play what we call "Dixieland". So Brad Gowans
taught him the tunes on the job at Nick's in the early 1940s. He then
created his own "Dixieland" style. Others who played "Dixieland" in the
1950s and 1960s without an inordinate amount of listening and/or riff
charts were: Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Coleman Hawkins, Sol Yaged,
Vic Dickenson and a whole bunch of others.  They learned on the job and
stamped it with their own style.

Steve Barbone

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