viernes, 30 de noviembre de 2012


El baterista canadiense Barry Elmes tiene en su web una muy interesante tesis sobre Elvin Jones.  El documento es un detallado análisis del estilo del baterista del cuarteto clásico de John Coltrane y de su contribución a la evolución del jazz.  El trabajo viene acompañado de transcripciones que permiten una mejor comprensión de la explicación. ¡Imperdible!

The central contribution that Jones made to jazz drumming is his system of playing time using phrases. As Jones has stated: “The connection of logical rhythmic phrases to each other is always my aim” (Kauffman 1993:90). All other aspects of his accompaniment relate to, and expand, this vital concept. In my view, it is the adoption of this approach by modern (post-Jones) jazz drummers that has enabled them to play more ‘musically’, i.e., to contribute more than basic timekeeping to the improvised  performance. The challenge of hearing and ‘playing time’ in larger units using a variety of phrases, and the challenge it creates for other musicians to play along with it, have become common aspects of learning to play jazz. In other words, while still an advanced  aspect of jazz percussion, most of the proficient jazz drummers playing today employ Jones’s phrasing concept, at least to some degree, and most jazz musicians who play other instruments expect the modern jazz drummer to be equipped with such elements of Jones’s method.


The listener’s attention is fixed, not just by the volume of his ride cymbal, by what he chooses to play on it. Instead of the usual statement of quarter-beat pulse or the common ride cymbal pattern, Jones offers a line comprised of eighth-note phrases that feature both rhythmic and dynamic variation. These phrases are rhythmically designed in the same fashion as those of a melodic soloist: using eighth notes and/or quarter notes, placed on downbeats and/or upbeats. In the absence of pitch capability, Jones infers a certain musicality to his phrases by accenting over a much wider dynamic range than is heard in the drumming of his contemporaries or predecessors. To a large degree, Jones expresses his phrases primarily, but not exclusively, on the ride cymbal.


The rhythmic variation in Jones’s improvised cymbal line seems to turn ‘time-keeping’ into a more musical enterprise for both drummer and other band members. The function  of Jones’s ride cymbal goes far beyond delineating pulse for the band, and in so doing gives more flexibility to the soloist and other supporting instruments. Jones’s phrases usually contain three-beat figures and occasionally five-beat figures(*), often tied over bar lines, thereby removing the compartmentalization of rhythm into individual bar-long units. This latter phenomenon often occurs in the more traditional jazz drumming styles where rudiments (associated with marching band music) play a larger role.

By formulating his phrases in a minimum length of two bars, Jones remains consistent with other rhythm based musics embraced by jazz players, such as Brazilian and Cuban music, where the rhythmic patterns are also two bars in length. Two-bar phrases also seem to be the minimum size required to resolve Jones’s rhythmic statements of call and response.


(*) Rhythmic figures composed of quarter notes and/or eighth notes that have a duration of
three pulse beats (three-beat figure) or five pulse beats (five-beat figure).

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