Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trading In a Latin Tune

Four Pieces of Advice for Developing Your Latin Trading

1.  Study the greats
In order to build your vocabulary you need to spend a great deal of time listening to, absorbing, and trying to imitate some great players.  Two people that I referenced strongly in my trading in this case were Roy Haynes and Terreon Gulley.                                                                                            
In the trading on the bridge you can hear me play some very "Haynesy" ideas between my hands and my foot.  The basic idea I am using is playing groups of three eighth notes, two on the hands and one on the foot, and then orchestrating this around the drum set.  This is the famous diddit-n-diddit-n that Roy uses very frequently in his playing: 

The Terreon Gully reference comes in the last eight that I play when I keep the stick-shot going and improvise around it, something I first heard Terreon do:

Of course, when I am actually playing I am not making these references consciously, it is something that just comes naturally from doing a lot of listening.  If you try to self-consciously force references to other drummers into your playing it will generally come out as stilted and awkward.  

2.  Have a Musical Conversation
Successful trading solos between instruments is a really clear example of musical conversation. When each musician is listening to and responding to the others, a really exciting and vibrant dialogue can emerge.

Spoken conversation is a useful analogy here, since all the dynamics and etiquette of that type of  conversation apply to musical conversation as well.  The first and most important component of any conversation is of course listening.  I have emphasized the importance of listening over and over in this blog because of this.  If you have ever had a conversation with someone who clearly isn't listening to you, and just says what they are going to say regardless of your response, you understand how important listening really is.  Communication is just not possible without good listening.

In the video at the top you can hear how I am listening and responding to the other instruments.  One example of this is how I keep my soloing largely in regular time the first time around, and move to a more double-time feel in the second exchange based on what the other instruments are doing.   Another example of this is how I come way down dynamically in the last exchange, as well as keep the groove on the snare drum to match what the pianist (the great Bill Heid again) did in his solo. 

3.  Remember what song you are playing
In my earlier post about what I call the two songs of jazz I brought up the central importance of always hearing both the "song" of your collective improvisation, as well as the actual pre-composed song.  This plays a big role in successful trading, particularly in songs with somewhat unusual form like "Triste".  If you can't hear were you are in the form you won't know how to anticipate what is coming up next, and can lead to lots of stumbling and confusion on the bandstand.  Notice how we go back to the four bar tag before the bridge and at the end of the last A section in the video, and how I tried to set that section up to make the trading flow. 

4.  Two specifically latin techniques
In latin tunes two techniques that I use very frequently are timbale style sounds (lots of rim-shots on an open snare drum) and more straight eighth/sixteenth note ideas.  Using these techniques helps keep the vibe of the song alive, and provides some nice contrast from more straight-ahead jazz vocabulary.  That is not to say that you can't use your straight-ahead jazz vocabulary in a latin tune and vice-versa, but using these somewhat latin specific techniques is at least a good place to start learning to trade appropriately.

To develop some of this latin technique I use some exercises built on Ted Reed's "Syncopation", as well as some other exercises I have designed specifically for this purpose.  I will try to post some these some time in the near future.  

Left handed brush to stick transition
One other really quick note, you may notice that in the very beginning of the video I play the ride cymbal briefly with my left hand while reaching for my sticks with my right.  I got the idea for this style of brush to stick transition from my great new teacher Chuck Redd.  In certain situations it can be very slick, try it for yourself!