Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Breezin'

Here's something very great: Harvey Mason playing Breezin', written by Bobby Womack, on George Benson's album of the same title in 1976. As far as I'm concerned there's really no higher artistry in drumming than this— I don't care who you're talking about. And it doesn't matter that this is just a light little commercial tune.

Some observations: The groove is very deep, and of a totally different quality than you hear in current music— it's interlaced these with rhythmic microtensions that are the result of live musicians pulling a groove out of the air. The time is not precisely metronomic: the body of the tune starts at around 83 beats per minute, relaxes somewhat over the first couple of minutes, and by the end has settled to around 80 beats per minute. Later in the tune Mason repeatedly accents on the crash cymbal on the e of 1, playing off the primary riff you hear played by the flute— which is very audacious. Not the type of thing you would normally dare to play over and over on a commercial record. I'm basically in awe of the fills. Not just anyone can be that deep in the pocket when filling. Mason is digging in, but he's not playing loud. It's not a hard sound.

Gabor Szabo recorded the same basic arrangement of this tune in 1971 with Jim Keltner on drums. It may be a hipper overall rendition of the tune, but there's something different going on with the groove. There's more forward momentum: the tempo starts at the same tempo as the Benson version, 83 bpm, but speeds up to around 87 bpm by the middle of the track. The bass and maybe the guitar seem to be driving that, with the drums laying back; the snare drum especially is way on the back of the beat. It's not really a comfortable groove for me to listen to. Keltner plays very simply, with no fills at all. On Benson's version the drums are featured in the mix with the guitar; here they're balanced with the tambourine.

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