Monday, February 24, 2020

Wynton Marsalis on the difference between African rhythm and jazz rhythm

Ethan Iverson [EI] is interviewing Wynton Marsalis [WM] about his composition Congo Square, which combines the Lincoln Center Jazz Archestra with Odadaa!, a West African drum ensemble led by Yacub Addy. At various points in the interview Iverson plays a short clip for Marsalis. He did so just before this passage:
EI: Now, what is that break?

WM: Carlos Henriquez showed me that one. If you hear it in 4, it’s easy, but if you hear it in 6, it’s hard. But in 4 it is square, right on the beat, but maybe we “place” them a little bit. We have to adjust to the 6 Odadaa! is playing, especially since they are in the middle of a phrase. As conductor, I adjust to the bell.

EI: That’s a mysterious moment; that’s why I like it so much.

WM: The hardest thing is to get us to play with the bell pattern.

EI: The up-and-down of the beat is not American.

WM: No, it’s not, it’s more like a clave. And like Yacub told me: “In order for us all to play together, y’all will have to play with us.” For me, it was a blessing to have Carlos and Ali [Jackson], who spent a lot of time at night working it out; a real labor of love. They would sit up with me and go through rhythm patterns and say, “No, that’s not it.” Then, eventually, “This is it.”
YES! to this:  "The up-and-down of the beat is not American." I learned that from years of playing with the late Ade Knowles when I was living in Troy, New York. Early in his career Ade had toured as a drummer and percussionist with Gil Scott-Heron. I met him when he was an administrator at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and I was on the faculty. "The Magic of the Bell" is a piece I wrote about a particularly magical rehearsal with Ade.

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