Album: We Three
Last winter I attended the Mike Garrick Winter Jazz Academy. It was created to provide an opportunity, in those fallow days between Christmas and New Years, for some low-key tutorials and jam sessions (as well as some surprisingly boozy evenings). My drum tutor for the week was an old friend of the late Mike Garrick's, Alan Jackson. Alan's illustrious career has included studying under Philly Joe Jones and featuring on numerous classic Garrick albums.
Alan could best be described as a member of the jazz 'old school'. Not in the sense of him having been around for a long time (although 40 plus years in the industry will certainly teach you a thing or two) but old school in the sense of the simplicity of his approach; best described once by Roy Haynes as 'If I can hear it, then I can play it'. The myth surrounding this more traditional approach is that, because less time has been spent on the mechanics of the instrument, you won't gain as deep an understanding of the drums as a result. This seemed at odds with the level of musicality and communication i'd heard from Alan that week so I was curious to find out more about his (and other similar players') approach.
On returning home I began to try and reconcile these two approaches in my head. On the one hand I had no interest in abandoning my current practice method but was my dissection of the instrument stifling a purer form of expression? How could I learn to play in a simpler way when everything i'd worked on upto this point had been in the pursuit of higher and higher levels of complexity? I concluded that maybe these two schools of thought aren't mutually exclusive. Allowing yourself to be more instinctive and simplistic doesn't necessarily mean abandoning sophistication. Infact if you've put the hours into developing the technical side you should be perfectly equipped to execute your musical impulses. With this in mind I started looking for examples of playing that had this simple, unambiguous quality. Roy Haynes' solo on 'Reflection' is a great example of a melodic, tempered solo that doesn't outstay it's welcome (32 bars!). Although this solo may not drop any jaws you'd be hard pressed to find anyone that was disappointed to hear playing with this level of musicality.
Listen to it here (the solo starts at 2:32)