Yesterday in San Diego Vinnie Sperrazza and I visited Lynn and Charles McPherson. Among topics discussed were chord scales (I didn’t think Bird played any, Charles gently corrected me) and the right size of the bass drum for serious swing (22 inches is the proper “old school” choice).
We played a bit. At one point I kind of threw in some atonal chords, and Charles told me to keep going: “Let’s play out!”
Lynn then took a video of three choruses of intentionally avant-garde “All the Things You Are.” Charles played with Mingus, who recorded “All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother.” Charles said our trio video would be called, “All The Things You Could Be By Now If Carl Jung’s Wife Was Your Mother.”
We take a moment to find the zone — I might have charged in there a bit too hard — but the second and third choruses have absolutely AMAZING alto playing.
There’s a long tradition of drummers playing brushes on a phone book or a similar casual surface. In fact, Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, and Kenny Clarke were recorded in exactly this instrumentation in 1951. (My harmony above is a bit in the Tristano tradition.) At first Vinnie was on a dictionary (phone books are not so easy to find these days) but Lynn dug up a drum with a rough surface. You can see why I’m telling people about Vinnie: if you think what he’s doing looks easy, try it yourself.
(Vin and I are in San Diego for Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland, which just got a nice rave in the LA Times by Mark Swed.)
Related DTM: A lesson with Charles McPherson