Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mickey Roker on the bass drum

Mickey Roker is kind of an under-appreciated player— by me, too. We often focus on the ultra-modern star-type players, but he was a very hardworking musician in his day, and there's a lot to learn from him about what works in a jazz setting. You can hear on yesterday's recording (you bought the record, right?) that he plays the bass drum rather strongly through the swing sections of the tune. He talks about that a little bit with Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, in an interview Iverson has posted online. I like that Roker doesn't say feathering the best drum— a term which just annoys me, and I use only begrudgingly:

EI: When you are playing this fast, are you feathering the bass drum? 
MR: I almost always pat the bass drum because that’s the bottom of the drums. I’m from the old school. We used to play with no bass player and you had to pat the bass drum. I am so used to that. Sometimes I get too rambunctious with it but I don’t want to sound like Papa Joe Jones. That’s why I like cats like Vernel Fournier. Nobody played that bass drum like that guy, you can hear it all the time. Some drummers tune their bass drum at too high a pitch and you can hear it but it gets on your nerves. But if it is down and damp, it don’t get in the way of the bass player. 
EI: Do you think you are feathering here? 
MR: (listens to track) No, I am not playing it here. Well, it’s hard to do that on something fast. You can’t do that on something that is extremely fast, unless you are playing without a bass player.

The track they're talking about is Three Little Words, from the album Sonny Rollins on Impulse; the tempo is around 300 bpm.

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