Groove Organ Drumming
The Jazz organ groove is all about a certain style and feel... As different organists have different styles, different types of drumming methods are required... but all in all, there are certain stylistic approaches that all drummers should keep in mind if they want their group to sound like a real organ group, as opposed to a group that just happens to have an organist in it.
Some key considerations are :
Some key considerations are :
- If the tune's meant to be swinging (as virtually any 4 beat bop, hard bop, modern Jazz or Jazz standard should), a rock solid high hat is required on the 2 and 4. As you rock your feet back and fourth, you practically want to stomp it. Whatever you do, don't let your ride cymble drown it out ! Its the group's time and pocket. If that 2 and 4 beat isn't going solidly, the tempos is going going to be picking up, slowing down and going in many different directions... In fact, many organists like myself prefer that the drummers set the high hat right up next to them... and some, when the high hat can't even clearly be heard will request a special mic ! ! ! All in all, its important to learn to play that high hat with the right mixture of solid time (yet an ability to let the music breathe as well.)
- There are two basic types of counts in music... a straight count (i.e. 1 2 3 4) and a rolling count (and-uh-1, and-uh-2, and-uh-3, and-uh-4)... Its very important to learn how to feel a rolling count because a lot of Jazz and the swing feel is not about how you play OFF the beat but how you swing on to it...! ! !
- The ride needs to be locked in with the bassline... this means keeping your cymbal pattern relatively simple. Some organists of course have weak basslines and need a bit of help... and sometimes when the pocket is really tight and cooking all you need to play straight four... in otherwords "pom, pom, pom, pom, pom, pom" - - No need for the fancy patterns or syncopation... Just keep the pocket nice hard and tight... lock that bassline in, don't let it escape and don't drown it out with too much air.
- Learn to phrase!!! - - You want to accent transitions in the tune, chord cadences, etc. Don't just play fancy fills automatically to show how hip you are... A drum rhythm is a lot like when you see a building being built and only the metal frame is there... That "structure" is actually THE most important part of the building... its going to determine its form and how well its going to stand... all the other stuff is just filling... So as the drummer you want to provide the musicians not just with back rhythms and fills, but really lay out the structure of the tune... this ranges from rolls that lead back to the one, accenting the one, leading in to the bridge and different technique of accenting intros, ending, pedal points etc. Let everyone know what's going on !
- Fills <-- Go light on these. Use the snare and toms to accent the song form and to create bills, not to prove drumming technique. For a classic text book example of this, listen to Don Patterson's recording of HIP CAKE WALK... it's a 12 bar blues that grooves for almost 12 minutes, with Billy James holding than the greasiest and grooviest pocket in the world playing nothing but straight 4 and virtually no fills with the exception of this spine tingling press roll at the turn arounds. Such tight, greasy and inescapable pockets are the essence of soulfully groovy organ playing. When you get to lot's of fancy tom fills, syncopations and cymbol patterns is begins to sound like "white kid Berklee wanna-be" stuff.
- Accents <-- first, a classic Jazz organ drumming approach is to ghost 4/4 on the kick. The purpose of this is to give the organ's bass line a bit more attack and bottom. The listeners will hear the organ bass, but the bass kick (if harmoniously locked in with the pulse) will create the ballsyness of the groups sound. - - Of course, always be carefully about playing fancy patterns and skips on the drum kit as you don't want the kick drum to class with the organ bassline and break the groove.
- Regarding snare fills... think "backbeat" instead of "polyrhythms" - - A good toe tappin groove (and that's what the Hammond sound is really about) might involve the right pop just where its at. You want to get that "bop bop, bop bop, bop bop" soul pocket strong and hard so people will want to tap their feet and clap their hands... fancy indeterminant fills and strange rhythms might impress other drummers in the room, but they won't do much to grease up the pocket. - - A classic example of this type of playing can be heard on a lot of recordings wth Art Blakey... though associated as a modern Jazz drummer, you'll often hear him playing shuffle rhythms behind the soloists, but not even think of them as such... Modern Jazz ? Shuffle ? Hell yeah ! Listen to MOANIN'. - - I highly recommend listening to Freddie Roach's GOOD MOVE CD (Clarence Johnston) on drummers for an example of hardbop that still has the groove and grits. Also, check out virtually any Jack McDuff CD (LIVE in particular) as well as Baby Face Willettes hard to find "Mo Roc"...
- In the end, learn to shuffle... but remember a shuffle in Jazz is different than the blues/rock shuffle you probably learned at school or in the books. Again, Art Blakey's Moanin' is a good example of a modern shuffle.
- Finally, use your drumming to DRIVE and SHAPE the arrangements. Don't just play patterns, but find ways of pushing and padding the solos and building into the various sections. - - The perfect way to learn this is to get your hands on some good Jack McDuff CDs and note what the drummer (Joe Dukes) is doing at the turn-arounds or the various ways he leads in to different tune sections and how he deals with the shouts... again, notice how instead of playing "fills" the drummer focuses on the pocket, and creating locks, hits and builds with the organ. - - Many drummers have told me that they tend to associate this style of playing with a Big Band Approach... not surprizingly, one of the GREATEST Jazz Organ drummers of all time was Chris Columbo (Check out LIVE AT BIRDLAND with WILD BILL DAVIS) - - and Chris was none other than Sonny Payne's dad ! ! ! (In addition, I'd suggest checking out virtually any Blue Note organ recording with Ben Dixon on drums.)
- BONUS TIP: Any time you play something, listen to it back and ask yourself, "Is there a way I could have done the exact same thing in a more simplistic yet smoother flowing manner? When in doubt, 90% of the time "intelligent simplicity" is the answer to almost any groove (if not life) related problem.