Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blues Lick Factory by Jesse Gress -- Book Review

Blues Lick Factory by Jesse Gress is an interesting book with a very novel concept. And as the title suggests, it is indeed a 'lick factory'.

Most books show you a series of seemingly unrelated licks in various keys, leaving the reader with the task of figuring out how to incorporate all those ideas into his/her playing.

Jesse Gress has obviously thought about this shortcoming and responded with a book that addresses this problem.

The first half of the book is dedicated to lick fragments at their micro-level. 3, 4, 5 and 6 note groupings are each given extensive coverage, each in their own chapter. It is then the reader's job to recombine these small note groupings in various ways to springboard into fresh new ideas.

Next, Gress illustrates many one-bar and two-bar blues licks -- again each given whole chapters -- that were created using combinations of the smaller note-groups.

Gress then shows us how to make these ideas sound more hip by targetting 'the blues target tones' in blues progressions. He then delves into fourteen 2-bar turnarounds that can be used as intros, turnarounds and endings. From my experience, one can't have too many turnarounds.

Gress sums up his book with three 12-bar solos and, for those climactic repeating licks, one-bar blues ostinatos.

So why learn licks? Why not just learn scales and be done with it? Put simply, the individual notes of a scale are like words. To convey more sophisticatedly we need to combine those words into sentences. And licks are akin to sentences in a language. To play idiomatically in a style we need a useable vocabulary of licks or ideas, or cliches if you will, that enable us to communicate in that particular style.

And Jesse Gress has provided us with a clever shortcut to enhancing our blues vocabulary. As a bonus, all notated examples are on the accompanying CD.

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