BY ANDY ZIKER

A fixture in the Nawlin’s Scene, Johnny Vidacovich gives youth workshops at Tipitina’s, plays with e Trio at Maple Leaf Bar, and most recently joined Nolatet, which includes all-stars Mike Dillon (vibes and percussion), Brian Haas (piano), and James Singleton (bass). Nolatet’s free jazz on its debut album Dogs is the perfect foil to Vidacovich’s innovative textures and greasy eloquence.

Groove Analysis Johnny Vidacovich 1
“There’s No Fire”

The moment the bass lays down quarternotes, Nolatet launches into an ECM feel (straight-eighth groove). Singleton and Haas constantly shift gears, while Dillon plays a fairly static tabla pattern. ough there is no clear time signature, Vidacovich takes it all in, floating gracefully along with his bandmates. Playing brushes with the snares turned off is as unobtrusive as possible, but still allows him to cut through the mix and be playful. Notice how Vidacovich uses call and response, varies his rhythms from quarters to thirty-seconds (leaving just the right amount of space), plays at a number of dynamic levels, and articulates with ghosted notes, flams, and brush sweeps.

Groove Analysis Johnny Vidacovich 2

“Mellon Ball”

As soon as Vidacovich calls out, “Ah 1, ah 2, ah I’ve got 12,” we know we’re in for something special. Again, using brushes with the snares off, he immediately throws out some thematic material in the first four bars: syncopated swung eighths up and down the drums into sextuplets played between the snare and a tom (producing a sustained melody). He makes a similar statement in the next four bars, but this time changes it up with ghosted thirty-second-note sweeps in measure five and a displaced quarter-note triplet in measure six. Check out the dead strokes (produced by plopping the brush into the head), clever use of open and closed hi-hats (with his foot), and how seamlessly he switches to sticks, just in time to end the solo with stick shots in the last measure.

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