Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Not How Fast You Play

It was in the fall of 1983 and I was driving with my brother Owen somewhere on highway 167 near Kent Washington. As we quite often did we were listening to music loudly. I put in a cassette tape of Cream’s Wheels of Fire and Owen began to rant. Not unusual for Owen. But, for some reason I remember this rant. Owen began talking excitedly about Ginger Baker. I don’t remember a lot of details... here is what I do remember...

“Ginger Baker... one of the greatest drummers of all time... madman... above and beyond rock... jazz... Baker... crazy... truly a jazz drummer... rock is lesser... jazz is the higher scale... and Baker is near the top of even that scale.” 

I don’t know where Owen got this information from. He would repeat this rant in different forms a time or two more before he died. I stored it away. That first time I knew little about jazz.

Years later I came to love jazz. I now understand Owen's passion for Baker. This morning I watched a documentary about Ginger Baker. Here is a quote from Ginger Baker from the film...

Independence... the ability to play a different thing with all four limbs. Which is how I play things that sound incredibly fast, when I’m not actually moving anything very fast. Because, all four beats are there in a different place, so what comes out is four times as fast. But, it’s not how fast you play... it’s what you say.

That quote — I’m not sure that Baker intended it as such but for me it is a metaphor. It speaks of life and only incidentally of drumming.

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