Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Stop, Klook & Listen: Kenny Clarke 105

Let's pound out two consecutive posts about two of the undisputed fathers of modern percussion, born ten years and a single day apart long ago.
We'll begin with the elder of the pair, and a man who did more than perhaps any single timekeeper to expand the vocabulary.
We think of it all so differently now, as a wide-open creative free-for-all where players of all instruments are free to take it wherever their imaginations lead.
It wasn't always so expansive and open to unorthodoxy though. Back before today's guy hit, time was kept inobtrusively on the hi-hat and the drummer generally stayed out of the way in terms of dramatic gestures to accentuate the music.
That all changed with the 1940s and the advent of Bebop in Jazz. And none of it would have likely ever happened, or became the driving force that it did, without the drumming of Kenny Clarke.
For it's the drummer that principally drives the soloist, and it's unclear whether Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie -- or Thelonious Monk, with whom Klook co-wrote the standard Epistrophy -- would have taken their playing where it ended up going had Klook not been there to bring the whole bag to a brutal boil.
The bass drum accents -- Klook is where the term "dropping bombs" comes from in drumming -- in particular almost defined the Bop approach in a certain way, providing a heightened sense of disorientated, never-the-same-way-once ecstasy behind which it soared.
And the ride cymbal, used for the first time by Clarke to be the main pulse of the sound. We think of timekeeping on the ride as something that's always been that way -- the classic Jazz cliché of the tss-tsstss-tssss sizzling away on the beat -- but before Klook, that was all done on the hi-hat, with the foot.
The new directions he took drums seeped into all kinds of music over the course of the 20th century, to the point where the innovations he introduced in the 1940s are all considered backbone, forever elements of the instrument and its possibilities today.
To celebrate what'd have been his 105th birthday, we've got the definitive edition of a classic 1950s Miles Davis broadcast with Klook: one that's been issued on ten hundred billion inferior-sounding bootlegs but which is brought to you here from another, much better source remastered for even crisper clarity.
Miles Davis Quintet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

01 Woody 'n' You
02 Bags' Groove
03 What's New?
04 But Not for Me
05 A Night In Tunisia
06 Four
07 The Theme
08 Walkin'
09 Well, You Needn't
10 'Round Midnight
11 Lady Bird
12 The Theme

Total time: 56:28

Miles Davis - trumpet 
Barney Wilen - tenor saxophone 
René Urtreger - piano 
Pierre Michelot - bass
Kenny Clarke - drums

vinyl source of the best source ever yet unearthed of this concert, remastered by Richard Russell
261 MB FLAC/January 2018 archive link
I shall return in 24 with the backend of this double drumming duet, bet on it. But today is the day we celebrate one of the true alpha/omega skinsmen, without whom the music of our age would not stock quite the same, simmering sizzle: the unbelievably essential Kenny Clarke, born this day in 1914.--J.
1.9.1914 - 1.26.1985