Monday, February 20, 2012

In praise of Philly Joe

I recently did a gig with Cory Weeds where he was doing a tribute to Hank Mobley. I really like Mobley but there's a lot of his recordings I don't have. I wanted to do some "defensive listening" so I picked up the 1963 recording (on iTunes, $9.99! Believe me there's nothing better you can spend your money on.) "No Room For Squares". Here's a quick taste, but definitely buy the recording!

Philly Joe is on this recording, and he's another drummer I find is an endless supply of ideas and inspiration.
I find influences are a fascinating subject because I think we all have a lot of choice in terms of not only who we listen to but what we do with the material that inspires us.
In this respect I often find Philly seems to be a polarizing figure.
Sometimes I get the vibe from some players that really want to "carry the torch" that nothing Philly did can be molded or changed in any way.
The reason I listen to Philly are the reasons I outlined above, not because I think he's a paragon of Bop virtue and should be treated like a museum piece.
My ultimate goal when I check out musicians like him is to eventually play things that are as hip, beautiful, and creative as what he does, not necessarily play the same things.

I also find with the "hip and modern" folks that Philly is often seen as something older and less "now" somehow and if one is to listen and learn from him too much one is destined to sound "old school".
I also listen, check out, and love Philly, because I find his creativity, killing time feel, and huge musical humour and personality are timeless and part of a continuum. Things he played sound as fresh today (to me) as the day they were recorded. I think it's telling that drummers as different from each other as Jon Christianson, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette all site Philly as a major influence.

I believe that once we're dealing with master drumming on this level, it will help you no matter what style you play. It is transcendent!

I also think that some of these players of Philly's level have something to offer us that most "drummers of the moment" do not. There are very few people in their 20s or 30s that are going to have that amount of depth in their playing, at least yet.
(A notable exception would be Tony Williams, who as a teenager was a master drummer, a creative visionary, and a musical architect of the highest order!)

A couple of specific notes on Philly on this album.

-he seems to be playing a lot of time on his hi-hats throughout the recording. I find him similar to Tony in that he often focuses on certain parts of the kit at certain times, almost seeing how far he can take certain orchestrations.
Again, creativity at this level comes along very rarely!

In the example I posted above he plays backbeats for several of the soloists.
Now, if I was talking about this in the abstract, I would discourage people from playing that, but it sounds great!
This is a great example of how if the player's time feel, sound, and attitude are strong enough, it will support any idea they wish to play.
How many people have enough cojones to play that on a gig these days?

Anyway, enough ranting.
Check out Philly Joe, it's drumming for all time!!!!!!!

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