Friday, March 8, 2013

Organisation of Rhythm and Swing

This is in response to George Colligan's post about swinging from his blog "jazztruth". Perhaps my blog could be called " Jazz BS " or something. A discussion ensued on George's facebook page involving other esteemed pianists Dave Berkman and Mike Ledonne. It's an interesting topic and to discuss "how to swing" within the confines of the internet is surely limited but it fascinates many very serious musicians so it's probably valid to try. George was mainly focused on the placement of the notes and transcribing which is surely very important. Ledonne is also keenly aware of controlling accents with your technique and he has spent a great time trying to analyse the technique of some of his favorite "swingin" pianists. Also a great idea well worth exploring. I have thought about this a lot too and experimented with both George's and Ledonne's approach. I spent a fair amount of time memorising solos and playing them along with the recordings trying to emulate the "swing". Most of the solos where Herbie Hancock's but there where a few Wynton Kelly and Kenny Kirkland ones too. It all happened years ago but I still suggest to students that the memorise and perform Wynton Kelly's Freddie Freeloader along with the recording. My teacher Roger Frampton suggested that and it surely was a valuable lesson for me. I don't think you ever get to "swing" it is more of a garden of eden that you can approach. Moving to New York and playing with a lot of musicians with good time helped especially playing Organ. That's probably one reason why George and Mike do such a great job rhythmically having had the experience of playing quarter notes on the bass with a great band and drummer. I have one thing to add which I often think about and that is that the shape/contour of your lines can make a huge difference. A piano is inherently "blurry" ( the instrument is still resonating even after you take your finger off the keys ) and at fast tempos it can be pretty hard to control articulation especially at the end of notes.  Even at very fast tempos you still have control over WHAT you play as opposed to how you play it. That's really the essence of the page of examples and questions above. Do some things inherently " swing" no matter where they are placed or accented / articulated ? I think so. I often think the mystery of the greatness in Charlie Parker is somewhere in the organisation of the contours and rhythms. His solos seem to swing even on paper. Ditto looking at John Coltrane's great Giant steps solo I often notes how he changes direction when the chords change at that generally the whole thing tends to move downwards through phrases. I suspect that some rhythms going upwards will never swing if continued for too long. Over and Out. Sean