Text And Notation By Andy Ziker | Video Lesson By Nate Brown
Joey Baron paints on a large canvas using a multicolored palette: Labeled as an avant-garde musician (having performed with the likes of John Zorn and Bill Frisell), he also feels at home playing straight-ahead. On Up And Coming, John Abercrombie’s latest effort, Baron straddles the fence between unrelenting creativity and a restraint that comes only with years of experience.
A unique 21-measure song form comes into focus the first time through the guitar solo. Baron clearly demarcates the form while spreading broken swing mostly between three limbs: ride, snare, and hi-hat (along with a few well-placed bass drum hits). Notice Baron’s artful use of space, roaming left foot chicks, and momentum-inducing snare comping. A nifty lick in the last two measures — complete with offbeat open hi-hat punctuation — nudges us to the next solo chorus.
Baron demonstrates that less is more as he doles out a jazz waltz using only ride cymbal and hi-hat splash. This leaves plenty of soloing room for Abercrombie, fills a sonic niche unoccupied by acoustic bass and piano, and creates a delicate but eerie mood. Check out the beautiful recorded cymbal sounds courtesy of iconic ECM Records.
The excerpt here shows the first eight measures of the “head.” Baron oscillates between long sounds (open hi-hat and ride) and short sounds (closed hi-hat and hi-hat chicks), while laying down a straight-eighth flow. Baron is the glue that holds seemingly disparate parts together: He supports the piano (Marc Copland) and bass (Drew Gress), weaves in and out of the guitar melody, and adds to the conversation with closed hi-hat accents.
Soloing over the top of a meandering bass line by Gress and playing off the melody of the tune, Baron manages to play just enough time on the ride to keep the listener grounded, while seesawing between duplets and triplets, hitting big accents, and offering up a polyrhythmic figure in measure six.