Justin Brown – Odd-Time Master
After listening Ambrose Akinmusire over the last few weeks, I’ve been inspired to continue developing my odd-time playing. Having posted numerous 5/4 exercises, I now want to start concentrating on 7/4.
Below is the triplet warm-up exercise from John Riley’s Beyond Bop Drumming book adapted into 7/4.
Using the 7/4 swing pattern at the top of the page, play the comping phrases underneath at a mezzo piano dynamic. Make sure to keep the right hand swinging.
As with other odd-time signatures, it’s helpful to divide bars of 7/4 into smaller chunks. A common division of 7/4 is the 4-3 division (counted as one bar of 4, one bar of 3). The swing pattern at the top of the page can be counted easily as a 4-3 division.
Here’s a drum chart for the beautiful track ‘With Love’ from the Ambrose Akinmusire album When The Heart Emerges Glistening. It’s based around a 3/4 feel played with straight 16th notes (although drummer Justin Brown throws in lots of busy triplet phrases for added intensity).
After an 8 bar and 7 bar section at the beginning it settles into an A A B structure:
A (1st time) : 7 Bars of 3/4
A (2nd time): 6 Bars of 3/4, 2 bars of 4/4
B : 7 Bars of 3/4
As the tour takes us through Virginia and North Carolina, I’ve been finding time to write out drum lead sheets for some of my favourite jazz tunes. Writing a lead sheet for a song – a kind of blueprint – will not only help you understand it’s structure, it will also give you an insight into the composers process, as well as helping you to internalise the main melody line. I transcribe any information a drummer will need to play the tune, such as the structure, the rhythm of the main melody line and any pushes or phrasings.
An artist I’ve been obsessing over recently is the precocious New York-based trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and his Blue Note Records album When The Heart Emerges Glistening. The performances on this album are a masterclass in musical prowess and the listening on display is close to telepathic.
Below is a lead sheet for the second track on the album ‘Jaya’:
Jaya album recording:
- The main melody is a combination of bars of 7/4, 6/4 and 5/4.
- I hear the recurring 11/4 vamp section as two bars of 6/4 with one beat taken out.
- The solo section begins with the 11/4 vamp followed by a more frenetic section of three bars of 6/4 and three bars of 5/4.
- After the solo section there’s an alternate melody line for 6 bars, followed by a return to the main melody.
- Drummer Justin Brown masterfully glides through the changes of meter, often disguising the downbeat.