Photo by Dave Hodgkinson

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Cracking the Elvin Jones Code


Read my original article here.
Few drummers inspire more awe or bewilderment than the great Elvin Jones. His choice of phrasing and regular use of odd groupings give his solos an unconventional lilt and, having never properly analysed him before, I  was keen to try and crack the code of the Elvin phrasing once and for all. I hope to start posting regular articles on my travels into the unpredictable mind of the man.

First stop is via the excellent Justin Varnes and his 52 lick series on YouTube. In his recent Elvin Jones Brush Lick Video, he sets about transcribing a 4 bar phrase from the track ‘Pretty Brown’ on the album ‘Elvin!’:


As I said before, Elvin’s use of odd number groupings is an important characteristic of his sound, as bars 2 & 3 in the phrase above demonstrate. These are groupings of 9 triplets, giving you a three beat phrase (a not uncommon grouping); Elvin’s brilliance is in dividing this group of 9 into a sub-group of 5 & 4:


Played slowly, this may seem like a fairly straightforward phrase but finding any kind of fluidity with it a higher tempos is challenging. Now lets orchestrate this phrase around the kit:

Vernon also suggests using an alternate sticking which is more common for 5 note phrases – RL RLL. Played preceding the other 4 beats it creates a sticking of: RL RLL RL RL
Here are some orchestrations:

So plenty of material to work on here. Thanks again to Justin Varnes for the great work.