Monday, December 27, 2021

Listening: Freddie Waits with Freddie Hubbard

Here's the album I mentioned in that Freddie Waits Latin post— Fastball - Live at the Left Bank. Part of a cache of live recordings made at a club in Baltimore in the 1960s, discovered and released in 2001. This was recorded in '67. It's got Bennie Maupin, Kenny Barron, Herbie Lewis, and Freddie Waits on drums. It's not a real pretty sounding record, it's kind of raggedy at times, and it's really what playing in a jazz group is, in a modern club setting. This is how you're supposed to play. 

Sidebar: Did you know used CDs are dirt cheap? You can go into the record store and get half a dozen records for $25. Basically what used records cost when I was a student. Then you can put them in your CD player and play listen to them over and over for days, the way you're supposed to when you're a serious musician, or serious music student, and then the thing is in your permanent library of music, mentally and literally. The internet is a con, it's false abundance.   

I suggest listening to it many times. Here are some key points of interest:

It's loose
People learning to play jazz out of a book could get the idea that you need to play seamlessly put together drum parts, with everything spelled out to the letter. You've got to have the hihat on 2 and 4, and you've got to feather the bass drum because of x, y, and z historical reasons, you've got to have the “microtiming” of your swing rhythm worked out across the board. Are your comping “ideas” good enough? Textbook correctness, historical accuracy, blah blah blah. 

On this recording, grooves and the obligatory timekeeping parts are not played repetitively— he may do those any time, or not do them. Mostly there are constant variations, propelling the groove and phrase forward.  

And it's loose broadly— there are moments of uncertainty between the musicians. Everyone will be reaching at once, and you can sense there's some question about how it will come out. 

He plays big dynamics 
Waits plays very strong at times, but he picks his spots, and doesn't relentlessly hang at one level— until it's time to do that. It took me a long time to learn this lesson— I was waiting for other people to feed me the dynamics— downwards, mostly, I had no problem getting louder. What you actually do is just play the dynamics where you think they should be, and that creates them, and others follow them. The more you play, the more you learn to make dynamic changes that make sense, that support the structure, and the progress of a solo, as is happening here. 

He plays the form
Everybody talks about comping, nobody talks about playing form. Most of what you hear the drums doing on this recording is not comping. He's playing things that conduct the band through the structure of the tune, hitting/implying whatever arrangement elements are unique to the tune.   

Pensativa especially is one of those tunes with a form that's kind of restricting— I feel kind of stuck playing the arrangement all the time. The Hubbard tune Crisis here is also like that. But they illustrate what I'm talking about playing form— most everything played on them has an arrangement function, during the solos and everything. 

Listen to Crisis: you hear him doing left hand stuff to make the Latin texture during the Latin sections; during the swing sections you'll hear some single notes on the snare drum, mostly you hear big accents on the bass drum and cymbal, propelling us in to the next section. Not stuff that ever gets filed under the heading of comping. You only learn how to do this kind of playing through the Reed-based methods, and/or from doing a lot of real life playing— it isn't discussed in the regular jazz books. 

This is how you play blues
In a jazz context. Blues is not just an easy form to play a lot of crap on, or to slam out an R&B beat. You have to dig a little deeper emotionally, and groovewise. On Echoes of Blue, everything played by all the instruments tells you something about how to play blues on the drums. 

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