Chapter number five in an ongoing series of commentary from legendary drummer Mike Clark. His storied observations continue to inspire, and provide keen insight into ‘all things music’.
I played double drums on a gig with Lenny White once and he took a solo all poly-outness while I held my place quietly on the 2 and 4. He took it so far out I was hanging on for dear life. But Lenny was right, and here is the kicker...I was proud of myself for keeping my place. But he was the dude that played everything. It was amazing, as Lenny knows where he is at all times… But it really sounded like he modulated into about 80 different time signatures at once.
I love Art Blakey’s playing, his bands, arrangements, his groove… When it comes to swingin’ – Is there anyone that can swing harder? Not for me.
Does anybody but me get tired of seeing and hearing the same 6 or 7 guys playing all the festivals and jazz joints over and over? Who's idea is that? Or if there is a new guy… He has to make up some wild way of playing that most of us had thought of and discarded.
When I play swing no matter how far out I go, I play it on the 2 and 4. Same with funk… No matter where I put the backbeat, the "Thing" if you will is on the 2 and 4. That’s what I do.
I remember when you had to play several different styles of jazz… Usually a few you really liked best. It was hard to make a living specializing in one area unless you had really good luck. Now it’s hard to make a living playing any of those styles. Now I see that several guys stay in one bag for a lifetime and do OK. For me, that would be like eating eggs every morning forever.
Elvin Jones said he wanted to be part of the scene, but didn’t want to play in a conventional way. Elvin really didn’t hear that, and he was severely criticized for it. Being with Coltrane solidified his concept, and his words. How would things be if he didn’t have the good fortune to get that gig? How would things sound today?
I went to a mix when Tony Williams played, I was listening to the playback and the time sounded a bit soupy, Tony walked by the board and pushed the fader up to the top and the track swung incredibly, and it sounded like Tony. The engineer cried and whined about the fact that it red lined. Tony said, “the red line - that’s how jazz is supposed to sound”.
I admit it - when I played with musicians having great careers, I would be kind of nervous since I wanted what they had. While playing with Herbie Hancock, there was none of that. He was so famous I guess my brain processed it differently. In the last five years I’m finally over it. I really enjoy playing with anyone, no matter how much they’ve got. As long as the music is cool… That’s the end of it…I am actually in the moment. It took a lifetime… But better late than never!
When mixing drums for jazz, I would suggest listening to some old Blue Note records as many times as possible. Now the drums are compressed like a pop record and the tuning seems to be in between what used to be jazz tuning and pop or fusion. Also, the groove is in the ride cymbal… So don't turn it down and have it sound like mush.