The chant is pretty simple because of the way it is divided. You can divide any chant any way you want depending on where the weights land. A weight is where things meet or shift. In this case, beat 8 is the shift. A rest occurs on beat 9. The kick comes again on beat 11. That’s one way of looking at it. I demonstrate at 158BPM. As with all the chants, repetition is key at a slow tempo. You can also count a 4 half beats (each beat equals two) and a 5. Instead of a hiccup, this chant has a backup beginning on beat 9. The ride has a unique pattern landing on beats 1, 4, 7, 10, and 12. Of course, counting while playing is difficult and I don’t recommend it. However, examining this gives you a clear understanding of the mechanics. The pedaled hat lands with each snare and fills the gap on beat 9.
This performance features Steve Coleman and Five Elements during our three week residency at Blue Whale in Los Angeles. The two and a half hour performance is a raw two cam edit using audio from a portable mp3 recorder. There is no PA system being used on the bandstand and no monitors on the floor. We depend on our dynamics as musicians so we can push the sound to the audience blending at our own levels. Most bands do not do this because they rely on rehearsed music played the same way each night. Not Five Elements. The band is able to shift gears rhythmically, melodically and harmonically giving each night a unique setlist.
This chant is something that should be approached very slowly because it sounds a lot easier than it is to perform. The snare and kick pattern in one bar repeats. The easiest way to look at this is realizing the simplicity of the relationship between the snare and kick. The beginning of the second measure (or repeat) gives the chant what I call a hiccup. When repeating at a tempo around 120 BPM with a click or metronome, each pulse lands on each beat making it easy to know exactly where all the beats are. In other words, the metronome counts every beat. The ride cymbal lands every other beat creating a crossover layer. The hip thing is the turnaround on the second measure with the ride cymbal landing on beat 2 along with the second 8th note on the kick. This takes slow practice and repetition. Then there is the challenge of launching into the chant along with the click to begin with.
Marcus Gilmore is a professional drummer in great demand on the NYC scene. He is the grandson of legendary drummer Roy Haynes. I performed alongside Marcus at the legendary Village Vanguard in Manhattan for a four-night residency in November of 2015 supporting alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. Marcus has performed and recorded with cutting edge bandleaders and here he discusses his career and experiences with artists such as Chick Corea, Vijay Iyer, Thundercat, Taylor McFerrin, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Steve Coleman and many others. In this intimate backstage interview Marcus discusses how he met artists, what it’s like to work with them, and his influences. Marcus tells us how his uncle trumpeter Graham Haynes turned him on to Steve Coleman that brought him to workshops in Midtown Manhattan and meeting the great Rashied Ali (drummer of John Coltrane’s group) who shared a neighboring performance space. Marcus suggests to aspiring drummers to not only check out the drummers, but to listen to other musicians and hear why they are playing what they are playing.