I finally got some spare time to have a look at a few music books that are stacking on my desk. The one on the top is Slick Licks That Stick,by saxophonist Bobby Stern.
Some (or many) of you might already be familiar with Bobby,him being the author of The Minor Melodic Handbook:A Jazz Player’s Perspective,published in 2006 by James Aebersold. More recently he turned to self-publishing,and the e-book I am reviewing here is his first work. (There is also Slick Licks That Sticks,volume II,that was released some days ago.)
Slick Licks That Stick contains 167 pages of exercises and etudes,plus an index and some notes. However the book uses the landscape orientation,pages are smaller than the standard A4 and each page contains only 4 staves. Broadly and large,it therefore corresponds to an 80-page book in standard layout.
Unlike most exercise books,it doesn’t attempt to cover every single chord progression or scale. Instead,it contains 10 specific (and partially unrelated) sections,that analyze topics on which the author believes he can provide a better insight,and rightly so. While the quality of the material is high,on the average,there are sections that I like very much and other that I don’t find particularly exciting. Let’s see each section in detail.
Chapter 1:Pentatonic Modes is arguably the least interesting of the entire book. It covers the classic Major Pentatonic (e.g. CDEGA),the Pentatonic b3 scale (derived from the Melodic Minor scale),the Pentatonic b6 scale,and the Pentatonic b2 scale (derived from the Diminished scale). For each scale it displays straight runs over its five modes. I assume that any average player will not even look at these pages once he or she understands the obvious pattern used to build the exercise.
Chapter 2:Augmented Scale Patterns is where the interesting stuff begins. It shows how to use arpeggios and intervals over this often-neglected scale and in this case I do welcome the fact that each pattern is repeated for each key (more precisely,for each of the 4 distinct versions of this symmetrical scale).
Chapter 3:Coltrane Changes shows how to use basic 4-note patterns over a Coltrane change chord sequence. You will find this chapter very useful if you are new to this sequence,yet it might be a bit too basic if you are already familiar with it. At the end of the chapter you can also find some interesting patterns built using the Augmented scale.
Chapter 4:Triad Pairs shows how to alternate a Major triad with a Minor triad a 3rd minor above it. Rather than leading you into creating musical ideas on this sequence,the chapter includes just one series of ascending arpeggios,repeated in all 12 keys. As it is the case with chapter 1,I found that transposing these arpeggios in your mind is a better exercise than reading them on a book.
Chapter 5:Chromatic Finger Busters is exactly what the title implies,that is a series of fast exercises built over the chromatic scale that aim at improving your chops rather than providing complete musical ideas. If played at up tempos these exercises can be truly challenging,and I like them a lot.
Chapter 6:Intervalic ii-Vs includes a couple of ii-V patterns built over fourth intervals and pentatonic scales,and shows how to momentarily play “outside” and then back inside at the end of the pattern. Good stuff that doesn’t sound as “already-heard-of.”
Chapter 7:Melodic Minor Bebop Scales includes runs of the little-used Melodic Minor Bebop scale (e.g. CDEbFGG#AB). Nothing else but straight runs up and down the seven modes of this scale. The same considerations I gave for Chapter 1 apply here as well.
Chapter 8:Melodic Minor 4th Stacks contains non-obvious arpeggio patterns built over the Melodic Minor scale,which can be useful if you are tired of playing using plain thirds.
Chapter 9:Melodic Minor Polymodal ii-V7 explains how to cleverly use modes of the Melodic Minor scales over the classic ii-V7 progression. It contains 15 different patterns (in all keys),all of which sound quite intriguing to me.
Chapter 10:Melodic Minor Etudes contains three etudes on the minor scale. It’s a good departure from the usual all-eight-notes exercises.
The bottom line:Slick Licks That Stick contains some great sections and some less useful ones. The chapters on the Melodic Minor scale (7-8-9) are surely the most interesting one,and they justify the $9.99 price tag,unless you believe that you already master this topic.
I haven’t had a look at the just published Slick Licks That Stick volume II, so I can’t really recommend it. This second volume is twice as thick (369 pages) and sells for $13.99,thus you might find it convenient to get the Volume I and II bundle for $19.99.
For more information and purchase,visit Bobby Stern’s website.
Even if you aren’t interested in this e-book,I