Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Blackwell push-pull
nothing too heavy tonight, just an mp3 and a few thoughts. here--apropos of absolutely nothing, as is the DFSBP norm--is a wonderful performance by the Ornette Coleman Quartet:
(7.19.60 / Ornette - alto sax, Don Cherry - cornet, Charlie Haden - bass, Ed Blackwell - drums)
Ethan Iverson's fantastically thorough interview with Mr. Haden got me thinking about the development of the early Ornette Coleman band--Haden speaks of a "big evolution" starting with the This Is Our Music album, some of which was recorded at the same session as the track above. ("Revolving Doors" appears to be an outtake; i got it from the Ornette Atlantic box set.) he seems to be talking about harmonic progress and whatnot, but the addition of Blackwell (stepping for the awesome but very different Billy Higgins) was its own kind of leap.
i just wanted to quickly draw attention to a feature of Blackwell's drumming that's illustrated particularly well in the above track. Iverson hints at it in the interview when he mentions how Blackwell would "stop the ride cymbal beat much more than Billy Higgins would." an extremely astute observation. one of the most crucial things that makes Blackwell sound like Blackwell, though, isn't just that he stops the ride cymbal, it's what he does to fill that space.
basically Blackwell often plays behind a soloist as though he's trading fours with himself. he'll swing really hard on the ride for a few bars and then move off the cymbal onto the toms and snare, offering this little sort of aside or commentary. he sort of sets up a call-and-response with himself, like "lay down the time, muse a little, lay down the time, muse a little." you can hear this throughout "Revolving Doors," but check out in particular the little tom-tom aside he throws in there at about 2:06. it's like a little mini rudimental drum solo, and then he's back to swinging for a second, and then at about 2:13, he goes off on another little jaunty tom-tom excursion. check out this push-pull throughout the track. there's a really tasty aside at 3:19, for one thing.
you can hear the Blackwell push-pull on tons of awesome records, but don't sleep on the Don Cherry Blue Notes. i remember noting a lot of the push-pull on Complete Communion, a completely outstanding record for like 80 million reasons.
anyway, Blackwell--hell yeah, and rest in peace.