BY ANDY ZIKER
Though an excepetional soloist, on New Direction, Herlin Riley brings home a groove-first mentality. Infusing his signature New Orleans feel into swing, bop, Latin, and funk, he lays it down with authority and we all benefit. Each composition radiates a ’50s/’60s vibe, reminiscent of jazz artists such as Horace Silver and Art Blakey. Rhythmic interest is high throughout, but you may first be drawn in by the slick arrangements.
In “Crossbar,” Riley uses polyrhythms and a variety of sound sources to create the illusion of multiple percussionists. Syncopated Afro-Cuban cowbell and consecutive hi-hat chicks reveal that we’re in six. However, starting in measure two, the hi-hat changes, with open hihat splashes outlining groups of three. Four-on-the-floor bass drum creates a 3:2 polyrhythm against cowbell and hi-hat. Syncopated rim-clicks fill in the cracks of the conversation between cowbell and bass drum.
“The Big Banana”
This four-bar drum intro leaves your head spinning. A James Brown-style open hi-hat push catches our attention. As soon as it becomes apparent that this is funk in five, an anticipated open hihat shove on the 5 & leaves us floating in midair, until we land on beat 2 of the third measure. Check out the interplay between rim-click and bass line.
New Orleans-style drum solos often involve layers of coordination. The low end becomes as important as anything on top. “Herlin’s Hurdle” is the perfect example to demonstrate how the line between solo and groove is often blurred.