Saturday, May 02, 2015

Groove o' the day: Tony Williams — Lopsy Lu

This is a super-classic bit of 70s fusion, from Stanley Clarke's first self-titled solo record, with drumming by Tony Williams. I got this album used for 3 bucks around 1985, when I was buying everything I could afford with Williams's name on it. Our tune, Lopsy Lu, has a triplet groove with a strong 4 feel, the type of which people don't play much any more, but which is similar to some other things from the period, like Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground and Isn't She Lovely. There's a lot of improvising here, but Tony settles on these grooves for extended periods:



The beats are easy enough by themselves, but the tricky part is playing your face off on the whole rest of the tune, the way Tony does, without having the groove fall apart. A combination of things— I haven't thoroughly analyzed what they are— make it difficult to blow on this feel. Mainly, the dotted quarter note pulse is difficult to play off of, and you really get married to the triplets— you have to play them strongly, which gets to be a burden. It's easy to lapse into a duple subdivision when you're improvising, which to me is a groove-killer in this style. This feel and tempo can feel really unstable, and want to drift badly, but this track starts and ends pretty much exactly at dotted-quarter = 131.

I did do a complete transcription of the drumming on this tune; I may try to send it to Drum! or Modern Drummer, or maybe I'll post it here as a special feature when and if I do a fundraiser. It is a substantial piece of work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this transcription Todd. Am honestly spolit for choice when I visit this site.