Friday, February 24, 2012

That Bongo Beat...

Today's lesson deals with a specific Jazz drumming beat that essentially mimics the sound of a bongo drum pattern. It looks something like this (although I didn't notate playing the hihat on 2&4) and it imitates the open and slap tones that a percussionist would usually play on the bongos or congas:

You can hear this groove quite often from drummers playing in organ trios and I think it's a pretty groovy little beat. My teacher Chris McCann, back from my McGill days, first really brought this pattern to my attention by introducing me to a Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves album entitled "Salt and Pepper" that featured drummer Osie Johnson using this beat quite effectively throughout the entire album.

You'll also quite often hear this groove played "backwards" like this:

I asked Winard Harper once about his thoughts regarding the origin of this groove. He replied: "Oh yeah, that's that bongo beat!" He suggested that perhaps it was one of Dizzy Gillespie's drummers (such as Kenny Clarke, Charlie Smith or Joe Harris) that may have come up with this pattern in the absence of whomever percussionist was supposed to be playing with them (Chano Pozo?) This is definitely a question for Kenny Washington the next time I run into him...

Anyways, here's a little rhythmic/coordination game that I came up with that uses this "bongo" beat that was inspired by the polyrhythmic mind twisters that Ted Warren has been coming up with over at his fine blog Trap'd:

Play either of those swingy bongo beat patterns from above (with the hihat on 2&4, of course) and try adding the bass drum pattern below (which is in dotted quarter notes):

Play the same counter line against the hand part with:

- The hihat

- The bass drum and hihat in unison

Here's a tricky pattern that divides the foot pattern between the bass drum and hihat and implies a different time signature in kind of a shuffle-like pattern:

- Play this pattern again, but reverse the bass drum and hihat parts.

It's kind of tricky but take it slow and, above else, make it swing. I've heard both Bill Stewart and Billy Martin play ideas similar to this. Once I even heard Jason Marsalis play a very groovy and inspiring drum solo based on this ostinato pattern with his feet and essentially played a drum solo in two tempos at the same time!

It's enough to make one dizzy...

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