Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Uptempo Jazz 4: Anthropology



"Anthropology" comping exercise
In my ongoing quest to develop my uptempo playing, I am going to be doing a series featuring the iconic melody of "Anthropology".  In this first installment I will be playing time and translating the melody into a comping rhythm between the snare drum and bass drum.

Charlie Parker, the composer of this melody, was one of the greatest rhythmic innovators in the history of jazz.  He explained his approach to melody in this way, "I think of melody as rhythm".  This approach could help to explain why his melodies are such an excellent source of rhythmic material!

Step 1
Familiarize yourself with melody to the point where you can sing the entire thing from memory.  You can use the recording above for reference (although you may want to find a slower recording!).  Here is a link to a leadsheet for this melody.
Note
As always with leadsheets, trust your ears more than your eyes.  If something seems wrong with the leadsheet, it probably is.  Also, don't worry about the sixteenth note triplet on the bridge, just turn it into two eighth notes. 

Step 2
Once you have internalized the melody, translate it into a comping rhythm by playing all eighth notes on the snare drum and all quarter notes (or longer notes) on the bass drum, while also playing the ride cymabl beat as well as beats two and four on the hihat.  If there is a group of three eighth notes or more in a row, play all the notes that are on the beat on the snare drum, and all notes that are off the beat on the bass drum.  Be sure to sing the melody as you are playing.

 Guide
R.H.= Spang-a-lang
L.H.= Short melody notes
R.F.= Long melody notes
L.F.= Beats two and four
If there is a group of three or more eighth notes in a row
L.H.= On the beat melody notes
R.F.= Off the beat melody notes


Step 3
Don't  just play through the entire melody as fast as you can yet.  Instead, go measure by measure and take these comping rhythms through a series of doubled tempos, just like in the first uptempo jazz post.  Spend time getting each measure memorized and feeling good before going on to the next measure.  Remember that when you play these rhythms at a slow tempo, you have to phrase them with straight eighth notes to keep the feel consistent when you transition to a faster tempo. 

This step alone could be hours of practicing, so be diligent and you will see excellent results.  Here is a video of me going through this process with the first measure.


 Step 4
Once you feel that you have gotten all the measures comfortable and under control, start memorizing longer phrases and taking them through this same tempo doubling process.  Eventually you should be able to play through the entire melody at a fast tempo.

In a future installment I will try to post a video of me going through some longer phrases.  This whole exercise is going to be featured in the Max Roach section of my forthcoming book "Melodic Syncopation".