Cliche ’til it Clicks

SONNY ROLLINSJust listened to an inspiring interview with Sonny Rollins.  They asked him how he practices.  He said he just picks up the horn and starts playing.  They asked, “What do you play?”  Sonny responded:  “I guess they would be what you might call ‘cliches’.  You just play those until something meaningful begins to surface.”  If Sonny is not afraid to play “cliches,” then it’s probably OK.  So i picked up the tenor and just started blowing over some basic slow F blues changes.  After 10 minutes, this lick started to emerge from the clay.  To you, it may sound like just one more cliche, but for me – as i worked through it in all 12 keys at a moderate tempo – it proved an opportunity to address some fingering and range challenges i might otherwise have missed.  It’s relaxing and fun to play a lilting, swinging lick, knowing your chops are improving as you play.  Kind of reminds me of working through Hanon on the piano (though i’m only on number 8!).


Here is a recording of that lick in all 12 keys @ dotted-quarter = 100.  I quadruple-tracked the tenor to give it a fuller sound.


2 thoughts on “Cliche ’til it Clicks

  1. I remember when Sonny was a teenager coming into the building with Jackie McClean to take lessons with a musician that all aspiring musicians went to for lessons. His name was Andy Kirk, Jr., son of the bandleader Andy Kirk. Sonny had a Caribbean background, so he played a lot of those gigs. The apartment building was a “who’s who” in Afro American history: 555 Edgecome Ave. It was the home of Benny Carter, Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Erskine Hawkins, as well as several doctors, lawyers, and the amazing Joe Louis.


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