Friday, November 16, 2018

Hell of notes

I want to talk about my own playing a little bit. Here's an item from a little free-jazz show with Portland musicians Ryan Meagher and Noah Simpson a couple of nights ago:

What is going on here? How do you get from practicing notes on a page to that?

The short answer is: you just have to get the sound in your ear and go for it. It's in the same family of playing as Endangered Species on Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny's Song X, something I've listened to a lot in my life.

It's not a display of chops— I'm going for an energy level and a texture and a certain feeling of time, and a certain interaction with the other players. When I'm playing the broken rock beat along with the guitar vamp, I'm not trying to be interesting or clever with the time. In my mind I'm not even looking to particularly feature the drums— I'm more setting up an energetic foundation the others can play over, and with.

People call this rubato, but it's really not rubato. That suggests a kind of variable, expressive tempo, which is not what's happening here— there is a pretty consistent feeling of velocity all the way through. A tempo area, I call it, and syncopations and variations in rhythm have the same effect they do in music where there's an actual stated tempo. When I play slowing-down accents on the cymbal, the feeling is not of the tempo slowing, but of tension vs. the continuing tempo area, which everyone is still feeling even though I'm not stating it at that moment.

I'm playing loud, but not harshly so. I'm not as loud as any given power-drumming funk guy. My cymbals are about at their limit. This was the loudest we played in our ~45 minute improvised set.

Everything I'm playing is easy. Maybe I'll do a post attempting to isolate some of the actual patterns I'm using. I'm really not aware when I'm doing it. Some of them are found in my e-book 13 Essential Stickings.

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