Friday, September 19, 2014

Philly Joe Jones - "Tadd's Delight"

We all love Philly Joe's Wilcoxon inspired soloing, but some of the greatest lessons I learned from listening to him over the years were not about soloing, but comping.

Beyond general vocabulary one of the best things I learned from listening to Jones was not what to play, but what NOT to play.  We all go through Syncopation, The Art of Bop Drumming books, and other such resources to practice our comping skills, and early in our training and development the temptation is there to stretch out and try all of these new ideas at once.  It's very easy to overdo.

The most obvious way to learn how to comp tastefully is listening and playing along with records.  For me, playing along with classic Philly Joe records was a great way to learn comping vocabulary.  But after awhile I noticed an interesting problem that I hadn't anticipated.  What I was actually doing was reacting to what I was hearing, which left me playing everything a beat or two behind Philly Joe.  He would play beat 1 and I would play beat 3.  He played the "and" of 2 and I'd play the "and" of 4.  Many people call this "Mickey Mousing", which is common among younger players.  So to combat this I began transcribing the comping patterns.

Here, I've transcribed Philly Joe's playing behind Sonny Clark's entire piano solo on "Tadd's Delight".  First, notice the ride pattern.  Save a few exceptions it does not change.  There are certain types of music where the ride cymbal should have a lot of variation, and that music certainly deserves our attention, but far too often I see younger drummers playing wildly busy ride cymbal patterns where they just don't belong, stylistically.  In this writer's opinion, this is of great detriment to the groove, at least in this style of music.  I also don't get the impression that these younger drummers are playing busy ride cymbal patterns because it's what they really want to play, but rather, they're playing it because they haven't put the time into learning how to comp with a steady ride cymbal pattern.

Next, let's look at the comping pattern itself.  Another common mistake younger players make is to get too busy and too loud far too quickly as a solo builds.  I like to think of a pot of water on the stove.  First there are a few tiny bubbles.  As the heat stays under it the water begins to steam and simmer.  Eventually you get a steady, rolling boil.  But what happens if we leave the heat under the pot, or turn it up more?  It's going to boil over and burn you or make a mess.  It's that rolling boil that we want to maintain, and we need to take our time getting there.  I remember Wynton talking about Miles and the best jazz having a "sustained intensity".  That's what we're after.

One of the great advantages of writing out comping patterns is that it gives us a visual representation of the shape of the music.  With the idea of gradual increase to sustained intensity in mind, take a look at the chart.  Before we even hear a note, we can see this slow, controlled burn.  I've written one chorus per page to help highlight this.  If you just look at the snare drum you notice that with each passing chorus the phrases get slightly longer, busier, and closer together.  Emphasis on slightly.






You should also notice, that Jones isn't wildly improvising all over the place.  In fact, we see a select few phrases with slight variations played over, and over and over again.







They may get a little louder, he may start playing them closer together, and even connecting them, but for the most part it is the same handful of ideas.  And the comping never really gets any more "complex" that than.  That isn't to say that what Philly Joe is playing is easy, but notice that there are no toms, no rolls, no bashing of the cymbals, no crazy, over the bar line phrases.  Just a handful of ideas, tastefully placed and worked around one another while keeping strong, steady TIME.


    

1 comment:

  1. thank you , very clear analysis and right to the point. brgd boet kreiken

    ReplyDelete