Friday, February 07, 2020

Listening to Keith Copeland

Let's listen some more. This is Charlie Rouse playing After the Morning, a tune in 3/4 by John Hicks. The great Keith Copeland, who left us too soon, is on drums. This is normal modern, mainstream jazz drumming to me— having obviously assimilated a lot of developments since Philly Joe Jones's day.

It was recorded in 1981, and the drum sound is quite dated now: there's a 20", non-tonal bass drum, and a wet, Steve Gaddish snare drum sound. Drum sounds today are very cute in comparison. And Copeland is playing with a somewhat Gadd like energy, very deep in the pocket. It's a sound and feel I associate with people who have also played a lot of R&B— with a lot of bottom. There is a lot of activity with the bass drum and snare drum, and they really drive the groove. A lot of what he plays you would get by doing normal jazz triplet methods with my book Syncopation in 3/4.  For the most part he's keeping a straight waltz rhythm happening with the cymbal and hihats. It's kind of an exceptional level of independence, given how expressive he is with the two drums. In my listening, I feel like most players don't bother with it.

The tune has strong harmonic motion, and he's largely playing in support of that. It's a good example of playing actively but not intrusively. He does interact with the soloists, but when his rhythms line up with them, he doesn't do the obvious college student thing of continuing it and making a big climax out of it. He lets the parts diverge, and finishes the phrase differently. And he doesn't obviously jump on the soloists' rhythms to begin with.

Courtesty of Daron in the comments, here's another great version of this tune, played by Hicks, Cecil McBee, and Elvin Jones.


daron nelson said...

and for a totally different vibe! Listen to elvins version on a cecil mcbee record called power trio or something to that degree! Elvin!

Todd Bishop said...

Oh, thanks Daron! I've heard that record, but didn't make the connection that it was the same tune. I need to find a chart for it, or make one.

David Cavendish said...

I spent time studying with Keith at Berklee. His concept was to encourage experimentation and creativity while giving diligence to tradition. His hands technique was classic orchestral etude level and his 4 way co-ordination was integrated into all styles of performance. His personal focus suggested there was always more work to be done.

Anonymous said...

One of my great drumming/musical memories is seeing the Heath Bros., Percy & Jimmy, at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase on Rush Street in Chicago, probably in 1980...I was a young impressionable 19 year old kid/aspiring "drummer"....They had a 5 piece ensemble and a young Keith Copeland was the drummer....To say it was a "Holy Shit!!" moment of drumming revelation to me is an understatement...K.C. was so IN COMMAND of his instrument (a simple 4-piece Sonor drumkit) and absolutely DROVE that ensemble....They GROOVED so hard...And then he soloed...And it stunned me that anyone could be so good at his chosen instrument....Mr. Keith Copeland was ONE HELL OF A DRUMMER AND AN EVEN BETTER MUSICIAN!!!
R.I.P. Mr. K.C., I will ALWAYS remember that night and your influence on me!!
Lee Hinton