Friday, June 13, 2014

Transcription - Eric Harland, "Triumph"

Hold on to your butts!

This video of Eric Harland from the Jazz Heaven DVD, The Yin and Yang of Jazz Drumming has been floating around YouTube for a couple years now just waiting to be transcribed.  As of late I've noticed it pop up on discussions boards a few times and figured now was as good a time as any to get a pen to paper, or fingers to keys, as it were.

Marcato markings signify rim shots.  It's a habit from my drum corps days.
E-mail me if you'd like a PDF.

Upon first listening to this I just thought, "Ummmm….OK".  How does he improvise something like this?  How does a groove like that just flow out of him?  But once I began transcribing, I felt a little better.  Taken in small chunks it was actually fairly easy to write out.  And by the time I got about 12 bars in I saw it.  There is actually some method to the madness here.

I remember a good friend of mine pondering jazz soloists, and wondering how they just "made stuff up as they went".  As most of you know, it's not really like that.  It sounds cliché, but a solo really is a conversation.  Musicians have a vocabulary; a big bag of ideas and phrases from which to pull their material.  They take multiple ideas and string them together in a cohesive fashion, just like a sentence.  Harland does the same thing here.  Admittedly, I didn't notice it right away.  It was going by so fast, and voiced in so many places around the kit that it didn't even sink in.  But if you look at bars 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 30, and 31, you'll notice a lot of similarities.  There's a pattern there.  And to a lesser extent, some of the same ideas and stickings can even be seen in some of the fills.

Now, please don't get me wrong.  I am in no way, shape, or form trying to take ANYTHING away from Harland.  I'm not saying for a second that what he is playing is easy.  He's got chops for days which he executes with the utmost finesse.  The ideas he's playing, pattern or no pattern, are incredibly well developed and musical, and his ears are absolutely massive.  What I am saying is that dreaming of playing something like this is by no means a lost cause.  There is some great material in here from which to draw plenty of inspiration.

I'm not 100% sure of the form of this piece.  It may be through-composed.  So I went up to where the head seemed to end and the tune moved to where we might have heard a soloist were this played with a whole band.  Besides, lately I've been more interested in smaller chunks of material.  Rather than taking a book and trying to systematically working my way exercise by exercise through 50 pages of similar material, I'd rather have more digestible bites.  Give me one page that I can work on right now, today.  Something that I can get handle on in a few hours, and get really solid in another day or two.  Then on to the next thing.  Much like the idea of a random practice schedule.

I once gave a master class with my trio and someone in the audience asked our piano player about his practice routine.  He said that he basically didn't practice exercises anymore.  Instead, when he heard something that he liked, but couldn't play, he learned it.  Simple as that.  Imagine how quickly you'll build your vocabulary that way rather than spending days and weeks running the same exercises.

So get started with this first page and get everything you can out of it.  Maybe one of these days I'll revisit this piece and transcribe more of it.  Then again, maybe I won't.


    where can i get the track?

  2. I believe you can only get the backing track with purchase of the DVD, unfortunately.