Saturday, September 15, 2012

It don't mean a thing ...

As you browse through posts there are many that are related to technique. Since this and my other blog, Music for Drummers, are mainly aimed at jazz drummers and drumming, you may find the lack of posts regarding achieving a swing feel odd.

The reason I have not attempted to post anything related to achieving that feel is I do not think it can be taught. It can, however, be developed by listening to music that has that feel. Before proceeding, consider this ambiguous definition of swing to understand where I am coming from.

As I said a swing feel can be developed. The best way is to spend a lot of time listening to music that has the feel, then practicing to it.

Musicians from my generation typically have no problem because many of us grew up listing to big band and swing music that our parents inevitably played (and in my case played to death.) I am not saying that we all liked it at the time - I personally hated it when I was young - but it was ubiquitous. It also found its way into our DNA. Moreover, drummers who went on to be the pulse of early R&B, rock and even country came from those swing bands, so other popular music from my generation's youth swung. Listen to Mitch Mitchell with Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Watts with the Rolling Stones or John Bonham with Led Zeppelin to hear examples of early rock drummers who had a natural swing to their playing.

Here are some of my listening recommendations to help you develop a swing feel if you do not already have one:

First is Th'is Jazz -The Best of Jazz

For the price you get a few minutes shy of six hours of music. The selections are not B-side stuff, and span more than a few sub genres of jazz, including swing, bebop, and cool/West Coast styles. I was familiar with most of the music on the album, but discovered a few gems I had not heard before. I also enjoyed some of the seminal work of Miles Davis (such as So What from Kind of Blue), Monk, Lester Young and Bud Powell. The sound quality is very good, adding to the value. If you love jazz you will love this album ... if you are exploring jazz for the first time, this is an inexpensive way to obtain a large collection of some of the best music ever performed to explore and savor. And every track swings. Here are some clips from the album.

Second up is BeBop Jazz Essentials

First, let's address the misleading title: less than half of the music contained in this album is bebop, and some is so far from falling into the bebop genre that I had to scratch my head. A prime example is the very first song, which is performed by Benny Goodman's band. Benny was the antithesis of bebop. Of the songs that do fall into the bebop genre, only a small handful can be considered "essential". So, either the title is marketing hype of evidence of ignorance on the part of the person or team compiling the tracks for the album. However, every track swings and that is the listening objective.

If you don't normally listen to jazz, this album contains some great music spanning swing, bebop, hard bop and straight ahead jazz. Personally there is not a single dud on the album and it has brought me a lot of pleasure and many hours of enjoyment.

If you are looking for examples of essential bebop (or even total bebop) look elsewhere. If you want to enjoy a little over five hours of great jazz spanning a few sub genres, this album is a bargain and does contain some classic cuts in each sub genre.

In addition to providing five hours of musical examples of swing, this album also has some great examples of comping, and, of course, bebop drumming. Here are some clips from this album:

Additonal listening and play-along tracks are provided this page. Although the focus is brush playing, most of the tracks can also be played with sticks, and all will help you develop an innate swing feel.