Monday, December 07, 2020

Listening: Idris Muhammad grooves

Hey, I've concluded that Idris Muhammad is awesome. There's a lot going on with him, that doesn't necessarily give itself up to the casual drumming listener— it's a very deep fusion of jazz, R&B, funk, and New Orleans drumming. To the extent that those things are even distinct from one another. 

I was listening to Charles Earland's The Mighty Burner, from the album Black Talk! It's just a three minute bright swing groove item. 

This is the kind of situation where it's impossible to play bad time— there's guitar, percussion, and organ all playing strong time, and you couldn't derail it if you tried. You might think this calls for some very simple drumming, hitting backbeats, regular cymbal rhythm, etc, but Muhammad moves around a lot. No backbeats (hihat is on 2 and 4, though), he varies the cymbal rhythm, and is pretty busy playing some aggressive syncopated comping and accents. This is all about propulsion— it's a different way of playing groove from just slamming backbeats.   

He's repetitive in the way he varies the cymbal rhythm, which is a very important clue about his playing. There's a piece of his rhythmic DNA hiding there, a personal clave. Which, I promise, developed naturally over a lifetime of playing— it's not something he worked out. The main thing is that he plays minor variations on these rhythms, suggesting a 2+3+3 beat phrasing over two measures: 

In places he suggests a 3+3+2 phrasing— which is more common in music generally: 

You'll hear drummers do that at the beginning of a solo, or section. Any time you hear someone hitting the 1 and 4 at the top of a chorus (try Philly Joe Jones), see what he does after that— if he goes into straight time, or does something on 3 in the second measure. Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, or any number of other modern players might continue playing groupings of three beats longer than that. 

...aaand since I sell cymbals now, I'm always listen a little closer to people's cymbal sounds. We're hearing another totally classic sound here— very much in the same bag as the Cymbal & Gong Holy Grails. I think it's a 20" K. Actually it's a lot like my own 20" C&G

1 comment:

Jerome said...

This is great. Love Idris Muhammad.