Another artist I’ve been listening to a lot recently, not least because he’s had some of the world’s best drummers in his band, is Kenny Garrett and his album Songbook.
On ’2 Down & 1 Across’ Garrett is accompanied by what is widely considered to be his finest group, with Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts on drums, Kenny Kirkland on Piano and Nat Reeves on Bass. Have a look at the drum lead sheet below. The Rubato sign at the beginning of the tune signals a set of chords cued in free time by Garrett. From there on it has a fairly conventional structure, all in 4/4 time.
Here’s a drum chart for the Wynton Marsalis classic ‘Delfeayo’s Dilemma’ from his album Black Codes (From The Underground). I first came across this tune on Kenny Garret’s Triology album before tracking down the Marsalis original. It’s a 28 bar structure with a 4/4 meter, but be aware of the single bar of 3/4 thrown in late in the cycle. Notice how drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts plays ‘off’ the main melody line to provide rhythmic interest. Also, at the beginning of the second time through the head (0:27) Watts plays a 3 over 4 swing pattern to give the illusion that the tempo has temporarily slowed.
For musicians nowadays, the internet has become an indispensable educational tool and the opportunity to see as well as hear so many great players can provide plenty of inspiration for study. On a recent journey into the depths of YouTube I was drawn to the playing of the great Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts and especially his performances with Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis & Kenny Garrett. Playing in videos such as the one below sees Watts in characteristically adventurous mood:
Below is a phrase that, although not a direct transcription of his playing, I think captures a characteristic of the ‘Tain’ phrasing. It’s a variation of the triplet paradiddle-diddle played as a 3 beat phrase with rolling triplets that move over the bar line.
- Firstly, work through the phrase slowly, until it feels comfortable in your hands. Try and ‘ghost’ the snare and kick, with the the ride cymbal as the most prominent voice.
- Next, play the phrase as a 4 bar loop between the ride cymbal and snare drum and repeat.
- Now work through the different orchestrations of the phrase: Numbers 1 through 5.