Many aspects of being a good jazz drummer can be addressed through playing along with recordings. This is an important practice tool, especially for those who don’t have outlets for playing with others or don’t perform regularly. There are several key benefits:
• There is no better way to practice a swinging feel and good time, than to do so with Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, or Sam Jones on bass!
• Note how the drummer plays the swing cymbal beat – the “width” of the “skip” – and compare it to yours.
• Drummers such as Art Blakey, Louis Hayes, and Billy Higgins pioneered essential styles for the jazz drummer.
• Learn these grooves from them directly!
• Copying musical gestures, as they happen, is a valid way to learn the traits of the masters.
• Replicate both the accompanying style and the solo vocabulary of the drummer.
Interaction with Soloists:
• Learning when and how to create a dialogue with other musicians can be practiced no other way by yourself.
• Listen for how the drummer reacts to, or instigates, the soloist.
Melody and Harmony:
• Practicing along with recordings gives us exposure to the melodic and harmonic aspects of our jazz language.
• Drummers have less contact than other instrumentalists with these important components, and we must over-compensate for this deficiency.
There are many things that cannot be learned from a jazz coordination book. They are not secrets, however! They are just waiting to be discovered on your favorite recordings. Just play along!