Call-and-response is always present in Max’s approach to soloing as well as comping. Here it’s like he’s playing a melody and comping for himself—all of it happens at the same time. It’s a supreme example of theme-and-variation, where he initiates a theme, and answers himself. He continues that pattern all throughout the piece. He takes a motif, flips it around, inverts it, elongates it. Same initial phrase, but it gets longer—different dynamics and so on. Max always said that he didn’t really play melody, that he played form and structure and shape. He meant that within the course of the framework of the song, the harmony and so forth, he was creating those shapes and following the form. But he always did it so cogently, with great clarity. This is a perfect example of that quality.
What he played was individual to who he was, and how he synthesized all of his experiences. He preached that mantra, but he also followed it. He referenced numerous sources—from the Caribbean and Africa, from the church, from Western Classical, rudimental solos, and Wilcoxsen. All of that is expressed when he played, and it’s certainly evident here. You see his technical virtuosity, but you also see how he uses space. It’s as though the things he doesn't play is just as important as what he does. Regardless of what he played, he always used that call-and-response---and there’s so much call-and-response from phrase to phrase within the context of this solo in the way he builds it and creates the architecture, and also in the tones he uses to express it. Sometimes Max goes from left to right, right to left, and then he comes out from another angle. It’s almost looking in a kaleidoscope. You see the shape, then you twist it, which changes that shape. It’s coming from the last one, but it’s still related to what came before it. All his stuff is related to what comes before, and then he recapitulates to the beginning.
October 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
“Onomatopoeia” is a word that describes a sound. M’Boom is an onomatopoeic expression. I’ve always thought of it as bass drum to floor tom and cymbal — MMMM-BUM. Tympany. This piece is a perfect example of seamless transition; not a lot of stops and starts. Themes and phrases overlap and others emerge—one thing happens, an undercurrent of something under it comes to the forefront, this recedes, something else comes in. Polyphony all the time, shifting dynamics, the different instruments introduced in a staggered way. The piece is in 11, it starts off with the chimes, then the vibes and marimba enter, then after that’s established, the tympany and drumset come in, which kind of solo over that hemiola that’s repeating in 11—that’s Omar and Joe on drums, I believe, and Warren on tympany. That’s the first portion of the song. Then they make a transition. They stay in 11, but instead of playing 11 quarter notes, they start playing 4 half-notes and 3 eighth-notes, and they go from the marimba and vibes to membrane. I remember playing this song, and they would always be like, ‘Membrane! Membrane!”—meaning going to the skins. If you’re playing a timbale, play the center of the timbale; if you’re playing congas, the center of the conga. No rims. That creates an interesting counter to the xylophone, which is in a different type of register. Max takes the xylophone solo.
Max always used to tell me, “Get to your shit quick” when you’re soloing. He’d go, “Yeah, you’re making some nice statements, but get to your shit quick.” In live performances it might have been different, but for this recording everyone gets their ideas out quick. Regardless how wild or expressive they may be, there’s always that very clear message, to me—not only from Max, but everybody. Warren Smith takes a solo on tympany after Max, then they transfer the phrase from the membrane to the rims—in other words, to the metal. Then he takes a solo on the membrane of a tympany. It switches up. That theme also occurs in a lot of Max’s work, whether solo or with bands—a juxtaposition of different feelings or sounds or meters against each other.
All the members of M’Boom were adept at making those types of rhythmic changes and comfortable with that variation, to the point where the transition from one to the other was seamless. The different textures create a different feeling for the listener. In certain instances, it creates a sense of power, and then when they go to the metal, it sounds a little more frenetic, more like an anticipation of the climax, which is coming next.
October 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
October 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
September 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
September 21, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
You need to find a place for this 1959 session on any list of unlikely success stories from the 20th century music business. Drums of Passion would sell five million copies in the US alone, most of them purchased by listeners who had no previous acquaintance with what we now call "world music." In one fell swoop, the minstrelized-ethnic-music of Les Baxter, Martin Denny and the other purveyors of ersatz exotica was put out to pasture, and the real thing arrived on the scene. And the general public—mirabile dictu!—was able to tell the difference.
The story behind the story is just as fascinating. A fellowship from the Rotary Foundation allows Michael Babatunde Olatunji to leave Ajido, a fishing village in Nigeria, and come to Morehouse College, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1954 he moves to New York, where he starts performing with his drumming-chanting-singing-dancing ensemble. Legendary talent scout John Hammond was so impressed with what he heard that, breaking every rule of the A&R trade, he signs Olatunji to record this music, unadorned and unadulterated, for the largest label in the land.
The late Tom Terrell has insisted, with more than a little plausibility, that Drums of Passion deserves acknowledgment as the most important recording of the last century. Honestly, just fast forward a few years and see the impact. In the 1960s, John Coltrane and a host of other jazz artists begin exploring the potential of a re-Africanization of jazz music. In rock and popular music, the drums take on a new centrality and intensity. A return-to-the-roots attitude begins to permeate blues, folk music and other genres. The musical riches of the Third World increasingly show up, either in their original form or as models for imitation, on the rosters of the entertainment mega-corporations. Drums of Passion stands out as the turning point that legitimized and accelerated these processes.
This opening track, inspired by the call of a well-known conductor in Nigeria and sound of his train, is a powerful statement of this new aesthetic vision. The immediacy and intensity of this music demands the listener's attention, but one also hears a confidence and pride that expands our consciousness beyond purely musical considerations. Yes, you can put this music on as background music (as no doubt many record buyers have done over the years) but the sensibilities is combines and the passions it contains would soon be at the foreground of modern life. One of the defining qualities of African music is its insistence on integrating music-making into the fabric of day-to-day life, and this recording symbolized a similar reorientation in its new setting. That, my friends, is making more than just a hit; it's making history.
September 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
On the title song "Si o Si" ("Yes or Yes"), Prieto’s particular kind of choppy, stop/start motion is featured. At the intro, he lays down a repeating drum line accompanied only by bassist Flores As the scant melody line unfolds on Valera’s piano, it becomes apparent that in addition to maintaining the complex, rhythmic beat, Prieto’s drum patterns have cleverly mimicked the melody line all along. Peter Apfelbaum smoothes out the sharp edges when his sonorous tenor is heard solo and in concert with Valera’s piano.
When Valera is given room to solo, he intuitively reaches out in a more lyrical direction, a nice respite from the song’s frenetic core. But not for long: Prieto’s fusillade of sounds prods Valera until he lets loose returning you to the cardiac excitement this music generates. Ultimately Prieto closes this composition by slowing the tempo down gradually in a surprisingly restrained refrain presumably so you can catch your breath before he starts it all again.
September 08, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
September 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
August 08, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
Very quickly my conception of jazz began to change. That record dipped jazz in a funk steambath, the same technique used by Miles...but I didn't know that yet. Heck, I bet I hadn't even heard Kind Of Blue yet....or Coltrane! Yet despite my lack of jazz knowledge, it was obvious that this Ulmer guy had something going on. His sound was a roiling mass of barely contained energy. The funk and jazz worked with and against each other to torque up the sonic karma.
Rashied Ali knows all about torqued up music. His post-Elvin work with Coltrane is legendary. On this track it's gratifying to see Ali come full circle, revisiting material from his old Phalanx cohort, Mr. Ulmer. With horns taking the lead melodic roles (instead of the guitar), this version has more bop sensibilities than the original. My ears say the highlights are Ali's incredible, far-reaching drum solo and Lawrence Clark's busting-at-the-seams tenor solo that follows. Ali avoids (as usual) the pulse and comps his ass off underneath Clark. Beneath the squall, there's a lot of beauty — for my ears, one of the defining characteristics of free-ish jazz.
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
A "Funky Blues" (think the 1952 Jam Session with Charlie Parker et. al.) vibe prevails, set up by Barron's bluesy piano, Jackson's throbbing electric bass, and Rich's teasing brushes. Fortune's vibrant, pungent flute solo leads off, followed by Wilkins' unassuming, lightly reverbed electric guitar improv. Nistico's brawny, testifying tenor, shades of Gene Ammons, raises the temperature a bit before an earthy Barron statement that is very deeply ensconced in a soulful, gospel-tinged groove. Jackson's electric bass has the last word, casting a spell both tonally and in the fluidity of his lines. The soothing piano trio wind-down ending caps a performance that presents the more mellow side of what could otherwise be a quite fiery and combative Rich ensemble.
July 24, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
Cowell is a fine composer, and "Effi" is one of his most stirring compositions, a whirling assemblage of motifs that Bartz and Tolliver either share or play separately, with Merritt and Roach providing vigorous—and in the case of Roach, sometimes thunderous—encouragement for the horns' aggressive attacks. Bartz and Tolliver also create compatibly responsive commentaries during each other's passionate, high-energy solos, and the appealing blend of their sounds is never short of outstanding. However, just as Cowell appears to be initiating a much more subdued piano solo, he and the track itself simply fade away abruptly. Thus it turns out that what we have just experienced is the storm before the calm.
July 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
"Pentahouve" commences with Mark Helias's bass intoning the darting staccato theme, before first Ward and Blackwell and then Haynes enter the picture. As the horns replay the intricate melody, Blackwell artfully emphasizes its rhythmic contours. As usual, the singular drummer seems to be continually combining a personal statement with reactive commentary. Cornet and flute engage in an extended dialogue, and Haynes' mellow, muted tone blends nicely with Ward's singing, joyful flute. Blackwell's vigorous unacccompanied solo follows, his mallet work imparting an African quality, while also insinuating New Orleans (his hometown) and martial beats. Best known for his essential work with Ornette Coleman and Old and New Dreams, Blackwell never failed, in any grouping or context, both to energize and enhance a performance, as he does on "Pentahouve."
June 23, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
Hadro and Denigrus are the lead voices here, but it’s Hamilton’s drum work that’s the most riveting aspect. He makes excellent use of shading, timbres and accents to call attention to his drums without soloing or being…well…loud. The primary rhythm he uses is three beats and a mannerly gait on the snare to get to the next three beats. Over time, the tempo increases ever so discreetly to match the enhanced intensity of the song, but you’d never notice without going right back to the beginning of the song. Occasionally, Hamilton switches to a conventional rhythm, effortlessly melding his tom-toms in with Carlstedt’s percussion. Toward the end, he spices things up with some galloping hit-hat.
On a record meant to add dance-club appeal to Hamilton’s work, the most magic happens when the unalloyed Chico Hamilton is allowed to shine through.
June 08, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
Blakey’s signature fills complete the fragmented but lyrical melody of "D’s Dilemma," including his patented pitch-altered triplets (the tension of the drum head manipulated by pressure from his elbow). Jackie McLean and Bill Hardman’s similarly acidic tones and pressing styles made them as complementary as any frontline in Jazz Messenger history. Even at this mid-tempo lope they both remain quite edgy — McLean with his bitter tone and slashing double-timed runs and Hardman cutting through with a metallic bite in his Harmon-muted choruses. Fans of hard bop will enjoy hearing McLean during his formative years and might be surprised by what this solid version of the Jazz Messengers has to offer.
May 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: drums
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