Monday, October 17, 2022

Elvin's march

“I did go through [Harr's snare drum book] as a matter of fact. I went to public school in Pontiac, Michigan, so I didn't do anything extra. [...] I didn't have that advantage of being able to take private lessons, so I had to get everything that I had, at least up to that point, for myself. [...] So I got that book and that night I went home and sat over it and pored over it and read it from cover to cover, trying to make some sense out of it. Finally, all of a sudden I understood what it was. I knew exactly what it meant, what all of it (meant) from page one to the back cover. I pondered over that the next day, and so I learned how to do it. In two days, I mastered that book, and the rudiments.”

- Elvin Jones, Percussive Notes interview

A little piece of Elvin Jones musical lore here today. Elvin has a march beat he plays, maybe most famously on Zoltan, from Larry Young's album Unity— I got this record in 1987:


Here he is playing it with his trio, I don't know this tune— maybe he wrote it?  

[Update: It's Keiko's Birthday March— thanks Ed Pierce! -t]

[Update again: It's also The Long 2/4 by Donald Bird! Same tune, released on Pepper Adams's 10 To 4 At The Five Spot in 1958— I don't know what happened there, but thanks Paul Wells! ]


I'm sure there are other recordings— he also played it at a clinic I attended in the early oughts.

It basically comes straight out of Haskell Harr, book 2— page 80 in my edition. He plays this almost verbatim on both records:  




He's playing bass drum on some of the accents. He plays longer rolls in the middle of the second line, after the repeat sign— 13 stroke rolls with an extra bass drum note at the end. He also hits the cymbals there. On the live thing he ends it with his own kind of roll off— it starts normally, and ends with a big Elvin style fill. 

On the live video he plays the full thing with repeats at the top, and after his solo. On Zoltan he switches to the Latin groove in the fourth measure of the repeat of the B section— the organ march vamp starts at the top of the repeat of the first part, then the horns come in with their fanfare thing in the fifth bar, and then the organ starts the Latin vamp in the fourth bar of the repeat of the B section. The fanfare section is 15 bars of 2/4 total. I wrote out the Latin groove from this tune in 2016. 

There you go— I've been listening to him play this for about 35 years, and just thought to look it up in Haskell Harr today. 

2 comments:

Ed Pierce said...

Very cool find! I was familiar with that quote from the PN interview. Funny to think that one of the hippest drummers of all time had been using Harr's "Biddy Oats" almost verbatim as an introduction to several tunes over a period of decades. The tune he's playing with Joe Farrell is "Keiko's Birthday March," and I think Elvin wrote it. Farrell plays flute (or maybe piccolo) on the original recording of it, I believe.

Todd Bishop said...

Yeah it's right there, never realized it. Just about the most turgid retrograde rudimental book in the world-- I like it a lot, I enjoy it a lot more than Wilcoxon honestly.