Lenny White: Basic Backbeat and Complex Conception - Jazz Profiles
In-the-pocket drumming in which a backbeat is heavily placed on the 2nd and 4th beats of each measure in 4/4 time is more complicated than it sounds.
While it is more sustained and less altered than the metronomic time played by a Jazz drummer with its frequent accents, kicks and licks, backbeat drumming requires the drummer to insert these inflections more selectively and with no margin for error.
The backbeat drummer either nails it or foogetaboutit. The space is gone. Better luck next time.
What is required is a long-range conception, one that would be analogous to leaving the cue ball in a pool game in position for future shots, or one that corresponds to thinking many steps ahead in a chess match or one that is parallel to playing the cards in a game of Bridge in the correct sequence to win the points required for the bid.
You gotta know what you’re doing back there or what is supposed to be fireworks will fizzle out and in its place there will be homogenized, rhythmic boredom.
The mesmerizing feeling of the backbeat drumming usually associated with Jazz-Rock Fusion is made even more so by the surprising insertion of bangs, crashes and bombs which momentarily elate, shock and surprise.
These controlled outbursts give shape and direction to the piece, many of which are long jams.
But where do you put these bolts from the blue?
For over forty years, one of the best at laying down a backbeat enveloped in a complex conception of periodic explosions has been drummer Lenny White.
Whether he is performing as the drummer with Miles Davis, or the group Return to Forever or the leader of his own band, Lenny puts on a veritable clinic in this style of drumming.
His pulse or locked-in backbeat is solid, his time is impeccable and his fills are brilliant.
He always knows where he is in the music and he always knows where he’s going.
Spontaneity framed by sustainability and preconception are always present in his playing.
His drumming is alive; it’s lively. It’s basic and sophisticated. It is infectious and informed.
Electronics are a big part of today’s drumming and Lenny knows his way around amplified sound.
Altering the acoustic sound of drums and cymbals using electronic devices containing a sequencer that can be programmed to arrange and alter digitally stored drum sounds must be done with the music as the primary objective.
Lenny understand this and deals with the electronic side of things with care and consideration.
Lenny White Live was released a few months ago on BFM Jazz [302062417-2] and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to call your attention to it with this media release from Chris DiGirolamo of TwoForTheShow Media, some excerpts from the CD’s insert notes and the video that concludes this piece which offers musical examples of what we’ve been describing.
“Drumming Great Lenny White Dips Into the Archives with "Lenny White Live."
One memorable night in Japan features all-star lineup of Victor Bailey, Foley, Patrice Rushen, Donald Blackman, Mark Ledford and Bennie Maupin.
Grammy Award-winning artist Lenny White, an influential drummer and longtime member of the fusion supergroup Return To Forever as well as a prolific producer, has delved deep into his own past and come up with another gem in Live From 97. A document of a tour of Japan in 1997, this powerful funk-fusion outing features an all-star lineup including fellow Miles Davis alumnus Foley on lead bass along with former Weather Reporter Victor Bailey on low-end bass, former Herbie Hancock Headhunters saxophonist Bennie Maupin, the late trumpeter-vocalist Mark Ledford, pianist Patrice Rushen and Lenny's former Twenty-nine band mate Donald Blackman on synths.
Together they show remarkable chemistry on a set of originals that fuses the essence of funk, jazz, rock and soul into an organic whole. This dynamic 1997 performance comes on the heels of two highly successful studio albums by White -1995's Present Tense and 1996's Renderers of Spirit.
The chemistry of the band is apparent from the outset, and the level of interplay remains extremely high throughout the night, resulting in some inspired solo flights by these formidable improvisers. In the best tradition of jazz, the magic happens in the moment on Lenny White Live.
And here are Lenny White’s own thoughts from the insert notes to the recording:
“I first went to Japan in 1971 and it was a beautiful cultural shock for me. Over the following decades, I had many memorable musical experiences with great musicians, but 1997 was special. It was the first time I had been asked to bring a band of my own to Japan. I chose friends that I had lasting relationships with over the years. Good people make great musicians and this made for my most memorable Japan musical trip. I am very happy to share this performance with all of you. I'd like to thank [pianist] Patrice [Rushen], [saxophonist] Bennie [Maupin], Foley, Donald [Blackman, keyboards] and Victor for their friendship and resounding musicianship, and I'm happy to share with all of you the genius of the late great Mark Ledford. He is a great friend and a fantastic musical talent. He is missed, but never forgotten. Many special musical moments are only memories for those fortunate enough to have witnessed the live event. We all thought this was special and now we share it with you. We hope you feel the same as we do ... and by the way, there is no guitar on this recording.”