9 sept. 2008

Earl Hines, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Bill Evans are the pianists I associate most with rhythmic elasticity. Hines plays in the stride tradition, but with some nice rhythmic variatons. He often sounds very modern for a player of his generation. Monk has a rhythmic conception all of his own that made it difficult for him to comp behind soloists in a way comfortable to them. Evans opened the way for all the Herbie Hancocks, Chick Coreas, Keith Jarretts, of the world.

In contrast, I don't associate this elasticity as much with Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Errol Garner, Nat Cole.

How is elasticity achieved? Rubato, metric modulation (implying a different time signature or tempo), fluidity of phrasing and articulation, maniuplation of phrasal boundaries, obscuring the underlying pulse, etc... Syncopation in and of itself does not have this effect, curiously.

5 comentarios:

Chris dijo...

I've been listening to most of these artists lately and what you say makes sense, though I wonder about Erroll Garner who, at his best might fit into the first category more comfortably. Interesting to me is how the "elasticity" runs deeper into the chordal playing of some players.

Jonathan dijo...

I can't stand Garner, so that might have something to do with it. In particular, some recordings where he plays a chord on each quarter note.

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I don't hear jazz as precisely as you obviously do, but the more you write about elasticity, the more convinced I become that Gould was doing something similar. Here's what Wolfgang Sandner writes in his liner notes to Keith Jarrett's Wohltemperierte Klavier:

"Glenn Gould was among the most intimate experts [on Bach's fugues], but he wanted to know things still more precisely. Obviously, as a pianist he did not even trust his own analyses. He remained in search of clues: He spread out the tones, loosened their coherence, emphasizes side-lines and with his extreme tempi subjected the works of Bach to a kind of stress test."

Book I, Prelude VI. Compare Jarrett and Gould. As far as I can tell, Gould moves the melody to the left hand (bass line) by playing it faster. That's probably not elasticity (in the same sense that I hear Gould's Prelude XIII) but it does indicate the nature of the "stress test".

Jonathan dijo...

How about Pau Casals? Listen to his Bach cello suites, a work he really made his own. If you do this while looking at the score you can see that notes do not have a fixed value. Some sixteenth notes are held longer.

I think I know what you mean about Gould. My problem is that my nervous system reacts to Gould with a certain nervous agitation--which is probably due to that "stress test" to which you refer. My uncle who was a jazz fan in the 40s and early 50s never liked Tatum. The rhythms were too jagged for him.

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I think we react to Gould in the same way. (In fact, I would think Gould intentionally sought that effect.) I think I began really listening to Gould when I was quite generally in a state of nervous agitation (as a PhD student, actually) and his playing just resonated well with my mood at the end of the day.

More generally, Gould conects, I think, with the temper of his age. So did (and do) Powell and Tatum. But temperament is not uniformly distributed.