2/8/2012: I found these thoughts sitting, unpublished. Figured I’d put it out there, fairly unedited, just to complete the entry and open it up for feedback.
The guitarist/banjoist from the Carolina Chocolate Drops last night got me thinking….he functioned like the drummer for the group, in addition to providing accompaniment you’d expect from a guitarist. All sorts of different ways to create a variety of sounds and percussive effects. And groove. I’ve found that there’s a gap in many modern guitarists really providing a rhythmic backbone for a band- not that many of them are not capable, rather, it’s just rarely a primary focus.
There are a litany of greats who selflessly propelled and elevated the groups they played with, including Oscar Moore, Ray Crawford, Freddie Green, Steve Cropper, Jimmy Nolen, etc by finding gratification in serving the group with infectious groove and pulse, and not merely from soloing or over-comping.
Now, the guitar is merely one particular instrument where the extensive attention to soloing and emphasis on complex harmony has had an especially significant impact. Yet these concepts are bigger than the guitar. Positive examples of the kind of driving and exciting rhythm that the aforementioned musicians provided can be found all over the web, from performers of almost any instrument.
I deem today, RHYTHM day! Here are some of my favorites (admittedly, a focus on stringed instruments within these examples)e:
BOTH Danny Barker and Baby Dodds:
Lil Hardin Armstrong and Johnny St. Cyr with Louis Armstrong. A great example of shared rhythmic responsibility within a group of 5. Remember all of those analogies to the ideal American Democracy? Those are based off of the sacrifice that group members show towards each other to allow others to shine, alternately, and the give and take between various powers. The groove that St. Cyr lays down behind Louis’ vocals is powerful. Just like those who offer tireless work, effort, and love on the behalf of others, it deserves recognition.
James. Self Explanatory. Powerful:
Some beautiful music from Cuba featuring Arsenio Rodriguez that also highlights the power and possibilities of rhythm from stringed instruments, in this case the Tres. Great balance between accompanying the congas, participating in dialogue, and soloing: