Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Groove o' the day: Jimmy Smith / Midnight Special

In about 1991 I lived in Eugene, Oregon, and every once in awhile KLCC 87.9 would play something that would send you immediately to Cat's Meow (the jazz record store that survived for 30 years in that little town of 100,000 people) and cause you to give up a very dear $15 buying the CD. I typically felt rich enough (and compelled enough) to do that maybe once or twice a month. One such record was Fourmost, by the organist Jimmy Smith, with Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell, and Grady Tate on drums— a very great drummer who just passed away this weekend. What grabbed me was the way Tate played a shuffle, with the hihat on &s of the shuffle rhythm:

I also liked a lick he played at the end of choruses, which I still use today; he would play quarter note triplets on the cymbal and bass drum, filling out the triplets on each note with the left hand on the snare drum:

Except he did it in a way that's very difficult to notate with the snare drum filler, with the quarter triplet inverted:

You could try thinking of it this way, playing the snare drum notes very legato, and dropping them in earlier than you would when playing a strict 8th note triplet timing:

Ending the lick is also weird if you're thinking in quarter note triplet terms. Here's approximately what Tate does on the record— he fudges it a little bit at times:

Here's the recording— I played along with this a lot:

I assumed the main groove was just Grady Tate's hip way of playing a shuffle, but here is Donald Bailey playing basically the same groove with Smith 30 years earlier. My knowledge of organ trio playing is not encyclopedic, and it's similar to what Al Jackson does on the Booker T records, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's a more common groove than I'm presenting it as. No matter, to me it's the Midnight Special groove. Bailey plays a normal swing rhythm on the cymbal (Tate mixes it up with straight quarter notes), and plays the rim click on 2 or 4 only during some sections:

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