Shelly Manne (1920-1984) was an historically important jazz drummer most associated with the ‘West Coast Jazz’ style. Shelly was so versatile that he also played on hundreds of Hollywood movie, and television soundtracks. While Shelly’s extensive discography is amazing. The list of musicians he has played, or recorded with is literally mind-boggling.
NSMD writer David Barsalou asked internationally recognized drummers - Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Corsello, Kenwood Dennard, Liberty DeVitto, Dom Famularo, Jim Riley, and Ed Soph to share their ideas and opinions on the following quote attributed to Shelly Manne.
Shelly Manne said...
"The ride beat is the easiest and the most difficult thing a drummer will ever play".
Terri Lyne Carrington
“The ride cymbal beat and sound is the signature of a jazz drummer –The most important defining quality; as it is the pulse of the group. It’s a strong part of what creates the ‘dance’ of the track, and its marriage to the bass is best when it’s happy, but sometimes very cool when it is not as well… Meaning, when a drummer may play on top and a bass player behind and vice versa. Sometimes that tension is nice too. Where one puts the accents is critical. If on 2 and 4 it is solid and the hi- hat not as heavily needed on 2 and 4 as well, to avoid redundancy in the accent.
What is nice is when the accent changes constantly, creating a sub-rhythm or even rhythmic melody inside of the ride pattern. I don’t believe the ride cymbal is easy at all to play. It can continuously be refined and can mature over time to be like a fine wine. It demands real swagger to make the educated listener respond. When that happens, the other elements - like left hand comping, fills, etc - are less important.
When the dance is right on the ride, less is more with everything else on the kit. I am currently trying to control the ride playing it with much more subtlety, and an even sound. It is not so easy to create intensity with your ride pattern while not being bombastic with it. That is why I listen to a lot of Roy Haynes these days.
His ride is beautiful in every way”.
“Anyone can learn to play a jazz ride cymbal beat. The problem is making it swing. Shelly Manne's mentor was Davey Tough and to go back to listen to the early recordings of Woody Herman's ‘First Herd’ with Davey Tough playing drums, says it all. It's all about swing”.
“Regarding the ride pattern, I'd say let's make somebody dance today. Whether difficult or a piece of cake, let us this day a huge smile make”.
“The technical part of the ride beat is easy because there really is nothing to it, (ching,chic-a-ching, chic-a-ching). The hard part is where you place it. I believe the mind is technical, and the heart is groove. Now stay there for however long a piece is you’re playing. Everything else you play is inside that ride beat”.
“I had the wonderful opportunity to study with Shelly Manne in 1976 at the Dick Grove Music School in California. I also had the chance to hear him perform live many times at his club, ‘The Manne Hole’ in Los Angeles, and to see him record television programs at Universal Studios. The room for drummers to record at Universal is dedicated to Shelly Manne with a great plaque explaining his dedication to high performance standards.
Shelly had a touch unmatched in our industry. He could adapt his ride pattern to fit the music perfectly. His control of dynamics, and use of either his fingers, wrists or arm was poetry in motion. He was a student of Billy Gladstone, the great legendary player and teacher. It is these techniques I learned from him.
He took numerous difficult patterns in very intense music and made it look so simple and easy. It was not easy, but his years of experience were screaming volumes as he glided with the music.
In lessons he spoke of techniques as a means to expression and then influenced imagination to take charge of your ideas. He said the importance of the ride cymbal in drum set playing is what will set the feel of the groove. Learning the many techniques was the difficult journey, but once learned well...It was so easy to then just feel the music and let it happen.
Listen to Shelly on YouTube to be inspired. Also, watch the old Gene Krupa movie where he played the part of Davey Tough. You will be inspired as I was, and still am with Shelly Manne”.
“Playing straight time is an exact science. Playing swing time is an art form…and the distance between the notes is a big part of the artistry. There is no right answer on where to place them. ‘Swinging’ is a life long challenge.
One thing I learned from playing jazz is that if playing ride cymbal time is important to you then the physical placement of the ride should be a priority as well. I completely changed my drum set up philosophy around this concept, and I have been happier ever since”.
“All I have to say about the ride “beat” is that I am still working on it. Max Roach told me long ago that I should work on only my ride technique for at least a year. So far, it’s been about 50!
Masterful players have many approaches to creating ride patterns.
Don’t take my word for it. Compare Max’s ride playing on any of his recordings with Clifford Brown (or on Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus album) with how he plays “Milestones” on the recording - Booker Little 4 and Max Roach.
Max’s sound/tuning are the same but his time conception is
Shelly’s words are very deep. A ride pattern is “easy” to play in musical situations that are within an individual’s stylistic and technical comfort zones. Out of those comfort zones it is, indeed, challenging and “difficult”.