Further thoughts on Toot Toot Tootsie – by Phil Dwyer

Phil Dwyer is has been a leading musician and educator in Canada for over 30 years. He founded and operated the ground-breaking Phil Dwyer Academy of Musical and Culinary Arts and is entering the final year of a degree in law. He plays SeaWind saxophones exclusively. In 2013 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2015 was named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music.


A while back I posted on a particular Sonny Rollins phrase and how it related to my approach for developing technique, style, and vocabulary. A few further thoughts on that topic. If you want to be an improvisor you have to practice improvising. So, if you were to take a look at the Sonny thing discussed previously and wonder what you could do next here are a few ideas that involve taking one simple idea and, by exercising your creativity muscle, transform it in different ways so you get maximum value. For example you could do this: ; this ; or this.

Those are just examples off the top of my head, obviously there are a lot more possible variations. Along these same lines, here are a couple of other fragments that I use as warmups but which are also – in various forms – part of my vocabulary. The first one is a bit of a Freddie Hubbard tune called Happy Times. Here it is as it appears in the tune. And this is a variation that I use as an “all keys” warmup. Once again, as with the Sonny phrase, use your own imagination to see what kind of variations you can come up with and how you could apply them.

Finally, the opening phrase¬†of a great Bud Powell tune called Wail. If you took a half-dozen phrases from Bud Powell tunes – Dance of the Infidels, Bouncin with Bud, Parisian Thoroughfare for example – and put them through the ‘theme and variations’ process you would be well on your way to developing a great bebop vocabulary.