Monday, January 06, 2014

Groove o' the day: Tony Williams — Footprints

Here's a Latin-style groove Tony Williams plays at one point in the odyssey of jazz percussion that is Footprints, a tune by Wayne Shorter, from Miles Davis's album Miles Smiles. The tune is in 6/4, phrased like a waltz, as 3/4+3/4:

But Tony's groove at around 2:20 in the track is in 2, based off of a dotted 8th note, or 4:3 (four quarter notes played in the space of three) pulse:

You can read more about how this 4:3 polyrhythm works, if you'd like, but it's not strictly necessary here, and may actually slow you down a bit. Just be aware that he is playing off of a four note pulse, floated over the waltz feel of the bass line.

So here's Tony's groove in its “native” 2/2— you can also think of it as 4/4, like in the second example below. Learn it this way, then we'll figure out how to fit that with the 6/4:

If he plays any bass drum on it, it is irregular and/or inaudible. He plays this hihat part for a few measures, then goes to straight “quarter notes” (thinking of it in 2/2).

Here you can see how Tony's groove lines up with the bass line, and with the “downbeats” within the 6/4. The only notes that will line up exactly are the dotted half notes in 6/4— beats 1 and 4— which correspond with the 1 and the 3 in the groove in 4/4:

We could write out Tony's rhythm literally in 6/4 by dotting all of the notes in the 4/4 pattern, but what would be the point? You can play it as cleanly as Tony does by just learning the pattern in 2/2 or 4/4, and then fitting it together with the strong beats in the bass line— the 1 and the 4, in 6/4.

Finally, the recording. Tony starts playing this groove, and variations on it, at about 2:20. You can hear that it's rather loose. None of this was pre-planned, and I don't believe the players have the mathematics and internal coordination of the rhythms fully worked out. Just the way I like it:


David Story said...

Very interesting. I'm learning this tune. I agree, it doesn't sound like it was worked out, just played in the moment.

thanks for posting.


Unknown said...

Thank you for posting, I had a feeling this wasn't a straight forward tune to play.