Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learning Wilcoxon with Philly Joe

Another thing I stumbled across completely by accident here. Writing in Modern Drummer in 2011, Jim Payne tells about studying with Philly Joe Jones- specifically, on working on a Charles Wilcoxon solo with him, Rolling in Rhythm, from Rudimental Swing Solos:

"We broke the solo into four-bar phrases. Philly Joe was very particular about the accents. He played them about twice as loud as the other notes, which were treated more like filler.
The first two bars of "Rolling In Rhythm" are based on 16th-note double-stroke rolls. Starting on the "&" of 3 in bar 3, we have three successive five-stroke rolls. Each roll takes up three 8th notes, creating a three-over-four feel. This motif is used throughout the solo and is a very useful technique for adding rhythmic interest to any style of playing.
Philly Joe would also play the solo on a pillow so there was no bounce at all, or he would use brushes. Practicing that way definitely helps strengthen your hands and wrists.
Measures 5 and 6 are pretty straightforward. Just make sure the accents come out strong. Measures 7 and 8 are fairly easy to play because of the long roll in bar 7. The three-beat five-stroke roll happens again in measure 8. The phrase ends with an accent on 4. The two 16th notes at the end of the line are a pickup into the next measure. When I practiced this solo. I repeated each four-bar phrase until I got it down.
Philly Joe talked about how you don't hit down to make the sound-you pull the sound out of the drums."

Continued after the break...

"Starting on beat 3 of measure 9, the three-beat five-stroke roll appears again. Just repeat it four times, and that's it! Measure 11 starts with another three-beat figure (two 16ths followed by two 8ths) that's played three times. Measure 12 is a long roll with an 8th-note flam at the end.
In measures 13-16, the first three beats are the same, followed by slightly different endings. Measure 15 is a repeat of measure 13, only starting with the left hand.
Measures 17-20 were hard for me to master. I'd never thought of playing accents on the first two notes of a long roll. Philly Joe wanted the accents to come out clearly. Again, he treated them as the main melody notes.
Measures 21-24 are based on a familiar three-beat figure (two 8ths followed by two 16ths), but I had to be careful, because the accents change within the figures. Sometimes both 8th notes are accented; sometimes only the second 8th note is accented.
Measures 25-28 have the same three-beat figure (two 8ths and two 16ths) with alternating accents, and then the solo finishes with some nice accents on the offbeat and a big accent on beat 4.
When we finished playing through the solo, Philly Joe said, "I want you to memorize this page and come back when you've got it down." This really threw me, because I'd never memorized twenty-eight bars of music before. I'd learned many arrangements to songs but never anything this detailed.
This process of memorizing a complete rudimental solo was one of the most important things I learned from Philly Joe. The better you are at memorization, the better off you'll be when it's time to prepare for a gig, especially if you're playing with an established group where the other members already know the material.
I found the trick to memorizing this solo was to break it down into chunks. I started with four-bar phrases and then proceeded to eight-bar phrases. Then I worked on learning the transitions between phrases. I tried to find some key that would make it easy to remember the next line. For instance, measure 3 starts just like measure 1, measure 5 starts with two figures that are like the opposite of the last two figures in measure 4, and so on."

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