Saturday, April 27, 2019

Erroneous Impressions

 NOTE: I am aware that Scott K Fish posted the Kenny Clarke footage previously on his excellent blog.   I actually put this blog together a couple of weeks ago ( sure ,Ted, sure! )  and I realized that I'm putting in a slightly different context here so I'll go ahead with my original post....

Firstly, don't get the wrong impression about this post. It's not about this.....

Whew! I hadn't seen that in a while! Also, there's a great version of this tune on last year's "Both Directions At Once".

Now, on to my point.
I'm paraphrasing here, but Keith Jarrett said something to the effect of that if you haven't seen someone live, you don't really know their playing, and if you've seen them only once, that doesn't count. Now for a Canadian of my age, they are many great Jazz musicians I've never seen live. My knowledge of Charlie Parker, for example, was gathered only through recordings. I'm sure seeing Bird live was a whole other dimension!
Mentioning Mr. Parker is a good segue to a great drummer who played with Charlie Parker who I had an erroneous impression of, based on the recordings I'd heard. I was VERY aware of Kenny Clarke's importance in BeBop, Jazz, and drumming history in general. Unfortunately, most of the first recordings I heard were like this.....

Don't get me wrong. I love this record, and I bought in my first year of university and it made a great impression on me. It's just that a lot of the drums recorded on the Savoy label sound sort of dry and pinched, especially the snare drum and cymbals. Add to that a very obtrusive plate reverb on the horns and I find I like these recordings in spite of the sound rather than because of it. Kenny tends to play very sparsely on these recordings and doesn't use a lot of toms or velocity in his playing. It's beautiful and tasteful, but I did find myself thinking that his approach was rather cerebral and reserved. I eventually picked up the "Monk Plays Ellington" recording, which sounded a little more open to me, although he really sticks to playing the time, which sounded perfect to me for that situation.
Then one day piano great Dave Restivo hipped me to THIS recording.....

All of " A Tribute To Cannonball"  is killing" and the drums sound nice and open. The drums are very exciting on this! There is also a lot more "chops" displayed on this recording from Clarke. When I first heard it the difference was so dramatic from the Savoy recordings I thought he'd just played a week opposite Buddy Rich's band or something! Definitely sounds more like someone who is going for it!

Then, just today, I stumbled upon this.....

Wow! Nice aggressive jazz drumming! Lots of single stroke language, toms, and Kenny Clarke sounds as modern as any current drummer! I think this gives a much more accurate view of what Kenny Clarke was playing like on gigs!

I guess the lesson for me is to keep searching out different sources of the great players. Also Clarke's playing, like all of the greats is complex, nuanced, and situational.
If anyone builds a time machine I'd go to 52nd St. in New York in the '40s. I'm sure Kenny Clarke would consistently blow my mind! :)

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