Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brian Blade and Kenny Garrett: Dialogue and Pacing



Dialouge
Brian Blade and Kenny Garrett are two of the most communicative musicians in contemporary jazz, and when you put the two of them together they will burn the house down.  The key to the explosive energy that these two produce is the way that they listen and respond to each other, as if they are in a dialogue.  I chose the video above to illustrate the importance of this conversational back and forth because of the magical duet starting around 2:30.  

Brian and Kenny's playing weaves together like two strands in a cord.  For example, listen to how Kenny's repeated rhythm starting at 3:43 blends and lifts Brian's groove, and how Brian's groove accommodates and pushes Kenny's rhythm in return.  Because of the way they are listening to each other, they always know when to give the other person space, and when to push them.  



Pacing
The other key element of the musical chemistry these two have is their sense of how to gradually build intensity.  
One big critique I have of a lot of the drummers I hear playing with Kenny is that they want to play at full intensity for the entire song.  Even if this kind of playing produces some impressive moments, the overall effect is aurally exhausting. 


The reason that Brian's playing with Kenny seems to have so much more vitality is that he knows how to start low and build gradually.  For a perfect example of this kind of pacing, listen to Brian's gentle entrance at 2:30 and then skip right to the bombastic final chorus at 4:58.  What a contrast! 


In between this low and high point, as Kenny starts to pick up more energy, Brian begins filling and accenting more aggressively as well as just playing more loudly.  At 3:33 listen to how much forward momentum Brian generates with that fill and by going from rim-clicks to the open snare drum.  This kind of pacing is the product of really mature musicianship and deep listening.  


More!
If you love that video above half as much as I do, you will probably want to explore other Brian/Kenny collaborations.  I would recommend starting with the album "Pursuance", and if you have the opportunity, try to catch the Five Peace Band on tour with Brian filling in for Vinnie Colaiuta.  Check out the brief clip below: