The first time I saw Greg Fishman was when I attended Jamey Aebersold’s jazz workshop. Since then, Greg has come out with multiple educational books for saxophone such as Jazz Saxophone Etudes, Jazz Phrasing for Beginners, Tasting Harmony, and a good number more.
The two books (to date) that make up Fishman’s newest series, Hip Licks for Saxophone, have garnered rave reviews by saxophonists worldwide. I understand that there are so many books out on the market promising to teach you how to become a better saxophonist, but here is a book that truly delivers, as Hip Licks for Saxophone offers the saxophonist so much more than just a bunch of licks. Greg designed the book to be much more than just notes on a manuscript paper.
Hip Licks for Saxophone Volume I
The first volume comes with four CD’s. Two of them are for tenor saxophone and the other two are for alto saxophone. The first CD is the slower tempo version and the second CD is the faster tempo version. What I really enjoyed about this book was Greg’s format of recording a lick once on one track, just to familiarize yourself with the phrasing, articulation, sound, and overall approach. Then on another track, he just has the rhythm section so you can give the licks a try in real-time.
Also, Greg has the rhythm section transposing when switching from the alto CD to the tenor CD to accommodate the range of the saxophone so that the lick still sounds hip.
Besides just playing through the written licks, you have the ability to try your own licks out and see how they fit over the various progressions played by the recorded rhythm section. The set is great for practicing transposition as well. For example, on the first track Greg shows you licks you can play over ii-V’s and has one lick for each of the twelve keys. In fact, there is a rhythm section track that has ii-V’s in all 12 keys that you can use to practice your favorite lick transposed.
Greg has over 150 licks in this book from major, dominant 7th, minor, V7b9, whole tone diminished 7th, mi7b5, and many more. I have been working through the book and have thus far transcribed five of the 150+ licks in all twelve keys to see how they sound over various chords.
Hip Licks For Saxophone Vol. 2
If you enjoyed playing through the first volume of Hip Licks for Saxophone, you will enjoy working through the second volume just as much. This volume is set up exactly like the first volume. The book contains 120 licks and continues where volume 1 ended.
I noticed while playing through the second volume that I could not find any repeated licks and could see that all 120 were brand new phrases over various changes. The licks that stood out to me as different were the licks you could play over V7#11 chords as well as licks you could play over turnarounds – both of which I did not see in the first volume and which also reminded me of Greg Fishman’s Jazz Saxophone Etudes.
The second volume includes both CDs for tenor and alto saxophone, and if you have purchased the first volume in the past, both books combined will offer you 288 licks that you can play through as well as transpose and apply to your own tunes as well as popular jazz standards.
From my personal experience, I found the second volume to be more challenging than the first volume thanks to the new turnaround section. But I believe that this volume is going to be of major help when it comes down to getting complex ideas under my fingers.
Greg Fishman is a rare breed of saxophonist. There are many saxophonists who can teach but might not be extremely accomplished as performers, and vice versa. Greg possesses a combination of both world-class performance and teaching skills.
Hip Licks for Saxophone volumes 1 and 2 are a definite must-have when it comes to refining your craft and getting more out of your playing. When speaking with Greg, he told me he uses these books in his daily practice routine and is constantly finding ways that he can improve.
Please feel free to comment if you have either of these books as well as what you got out of them.
I have included a link to Greg Fishman’s main website if you would like to find out more about his books and private lesson offerings:
To gain a better understanding of ways you can benefit most from using these book, I have included 6 YouTube videos that have Greg demonstrating how to get the most out of his books.