Rock Around the Clock

 

So I recently picked up a new jazz box, an ES300.   When I was researching about the guitar as well as discovering that Django used the model on tour with Ellington in ’46, I also found out that it was the guitar that ‘Rock around the clock’ was cut on.  In a break in practice today, I thought I’d have some fun and have a go at playing the iconic solo. The guitar player on the record, Danny Cedrone was a session player and paid just $21 dollars for the session and died (aged 33) 2 months later after falling down some stairs. I also didn’t know that it was originally a B side and only found popularity due to being used in a film (Blackboard Jungle). The solo is also lifted off an early Bill Haley and his Comets tune from 1952, called ‘Rock the Joint’.  Danny never got to enjoy the popularity of this song or his solo, are the chromatic runs the influence of Django?

This tune is just a blues in A. For the A chord it uses an inversion with the major 3rd in the bass (A/C#). For the D chord it used a D9/F# and similar for the E it uses an E9/G#. If you listen carefully he often slides down the chord shape at the end of each rhythm phrase. For those attempting the solo, the first few bars (the crazy bit!) are all semiquavers/16th notes. I found it easiest just to keep the right hand going alternate picking. Try to avoid having a tense picking hand or too firm a grip on the plectrum. For the final chromatic run, for me it works best with fingers 1,2 and 3 instead of all 4. I think this comes from my Gyspy jazz playing, as this is often how chromatic runs are played.

Gypsy Style Licks

I’ve been working on my jazz vocabulary recently and have decided to share some of these lines. Some of these take inspiration from Charlie Christian whilst others are my own lines. There are a mixture of Major sixth lines, dominant 7th and pentatonic style lines.

Jazz Licks for Lulu Swing PDF

It can be quite hard learning new lines and actually putting them to use in jam or gig situation. I think the following helps:

  • Learn them in more than one key and more than one position
  • Analyse what is going on harmonically e.g is it just chord tones or are there extensions/chromatic notes etc?
  • Practice them in a context of a song. For these licks I’ve applied them to the gypsy jazz standard ‘Lulu Swing’

I hope they are of use to some budding gypsy jazz players out there! Dennis Chang (Canadian Gypsy Jazz educator) has a great YouTube backing track for practice use which can be found here. A link to a chord chart can be found here. To leave you here is a video of Django’s grandson David and Sammy Daussat playing ‘Lulu Swing’.