Drummed Up

I'm just now getting to this great interview by Ethan Iverson (the pianist in The Bad Plus) of drummer Billy Hart; Iverson put it up on the occasion of Max Roach's death last week. Having been listening to Roach every day at work since he died (mostly the hits with Clifford Brown, but also the immortal Money Jungle with Ellington and Mingus), I found this a phenomenally insightful exchange:


Hart: For me, as a drummer, I feel that they are closer to the source rhythmically. What always happens is these cats bring back some sort of rhythmic truth just when it is getting too harmonic. That’s why New Orleans is important, because it is the closest port to the islands—that is where Jelly Roll Morton got the rhythms. When you think about Rollins, he’s from there, and he plays these rhythms. Coltrane doesn’t play those rhythms, but Theodore ["Sonny" Rollins] does. [Sings some of “St. Thomas.”] Rollins imposed so much of that in post-bop that it has become a part of the tradition. Next time you listen to Sonny again, notice how much of those island rhythms he plays. Also, Thelonious is an island name. I mean, it’s not Greek, is it? [Laughter.] Bemesha Swing. It’s rhythm. Rhythm is at least equal to hamony in the scheme of human evolution. It’s just that the European concept (since it was so devoid of rhythm) related harmony to emotion so clearly that it used to seem like the only way to do it. At this point, we know differently—obviously rhythm can give you that same emotional value.
Iverson: I think my profound attraction to jazz is that is the precise intersection of both values.
Hart: Right. That’s what jazz is. 

Forecast: Significant blowing and drifting, with the possibility of heavy accumulation in rural areas.