Monday, June 28, 2010

Frank Foster: A Tribute

Many "old school" Jazz drummers played a scaled-down drum kit which meant that they didn't use tom-toms or additional cymbals; nothing but a ride cymbal, snare drum, bass drum and hi-hat. To achieve a tom-tom effect, they turned off the snare drum strainer using a lever to separate it from the bottom of the snare drum. This set-up was the epitome of the Jazz drummer as time-keeper and colorist: setting the tempo, maintaining the time and shading the music, rhythmically. 

No drummer ever played such a limited drum set better than Kenny Clarke who, along with Max Roach is considered to be the father of modern Jazz drumming. Kenny had the tightest "chang-a-dang" cymbal beat of any drummer I ever heard and it generated a heightened sense of propulsion. In the hands of any, other drummer, the 18" ride cymbal that he used to create this momentum sounded like a trash can cover. Go figure?

Technically, Kenny was a very limited drummer, but his ability to swing any size Jazz group was phenomenal. 

You can hear Kenny's amazing abilities to perfection on this YouTube tribute to tenor saxophonist Frank Foster performing his original composition Gracias along with trombonist Benny Powell, pianist Gildo Mahones, and bassist Percy Heath.

As a point of interest, the "Latin" beat that Kenny Clarke initiates at 0:58 seconds is completely pseudo; an approximation and not at all authentic. 

But then, Jazz is all about originality, isn't it? [I always wished that I could play a ride cymbal beat like Kenny Clarke's - a true original].

The tune on this tribute to tenor saxophonist Frank Foster is Gracias, an original composition that appears on his Here Comes Frank Foster Blue Note CD. He and Kenny Clarke are joined by Benny Powell on trombone, Gildo Mahones on piano and bassist Percy Heath.