Friday, September 23, 2011

Ron Carter on drummers

Here's an excerpt from an old interview with Ron Carter, from Ethan Iverson's Do The Math, concerning some of the great drummers Carter has worked with. Absolutely go read the whole conversation:

EI: In the last ten years or so, we have lost three of the greatest drummers: Tony Williams, Billy Higgins, and Elvin Jones. To me they all play the beat differently, and of course you played with them all. Like you, Tony Williams seemed to push.
RC: That's not exactly right. I know why you say that, but it is because Tony Williams played anticipations all the time: in a certain mood, he would play hits that were a 16th or more ahead of the beat with a lot of frequency. That's why he sounded like he was on the top-side of the beat.
In comparison, Elvin Jones was a "downbeat player." He really played the "one."
EI: I think I have all the records with you and Elvin together. There aren't that many, just a half-dozen or so. Did you gig together more?
RC: We never played live, just in the studio.
EI: Now, to me, there is nothing more swinging than the two of you together, because you are pushing and Elvin is laying back. Like on that Pepper Adams date with Zoot Sims or The Real McCoy…
RC: You know, I just listened to The Real McCoy, maybe for the first time since I made it. I had the original album still wrapped in cellophane. (I probably should have not taken the cellophane off: I could have gotten a fortune for it on eBay.) But someone was telling me that it was one of the great records, so I took off the cellophane and listened to it. I was taken aback. Wow! We really got to it there. I was like: let's try to get there again!
EI: How did you feel at the time it was recorded?
RC: Elvin was very headstrong. I think he had to get used to me a little bit. Now, I don't want to take this outer space, but the fact of the matter is, I play more forcefully than Jimmy Garrison did. I had a bigger sound and had more authority than Jimmy did. Elvin had to get used to it. Once he heard where I thought it was, though, there was no problem: Elvin was a consummate musician. So, in rehearsal, we agreed on a place and said, let's get this going! Yeah, The Real McCoy is a great record.
As for Billy Higgins, if I tried to define it, I would say that Billy Higgins represents the Vernel Fournier or New Orleans style. Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters has it too, in a different genre. They all have the same location of beat "four" to beat "one". It is so light and feathery from "four" to "one," "two" sort of takes care of itself.
EI: That's beautiful, Mr. Carter.
RC: I love drummers like Connie Kay, Kenny Clarke, and Osie Johnson. Unfortunately I never played with Kenny Clarke, but I would have loved to. These drummers sit right where I like it, not rushing or dragging, but with enough snare drum activity that the "one" doesn't feel so dominant.

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