Sunday, November 16, 2008

La Timba No Es Como Ayer........

Speaking from an East Coast perspective, ever since Daniel Ponce pulled out five congas in New York and played all five, nothing has been the same. He and others have certainly challenged the notion of the congas being a time keeping member of the rhythm section and maybe allowed to voice a solo on occasion. The possibilities exploded on the scene with the wave of great percussionists ushered in by the Mariel boatlift. There were some examples of the potential as portrayed by the late great Chano Pozo and the little known Peanuts Taylor (check him out on YouTube) who played as many as six drums at a time. Mongo Santamaria has got to be mentioned. They were few and far between however. Giovanni Hidalgo has blown away all convential wisdom as it pertains to the tumba and its application in various musical settings. He has been followed by scores of great young percussionists including Los Postritos from Puerto Rico under the tutelage of "Mole" Ortiz. This freedom of expression has found a rather new voice in explorations in clave in odd meters. Musicians, when not playing, like nothing better then to discuss music. I have two Internet buddies, Max Garduno from Califas and Conor Guilfoyle from Dublin whom I have dubbed the Odd Couple because of their steadfast dedication to pushing the clave envelope into uncharted waters. We have indulged in an ongoing debate about odd meters in clave for months now. I was taught by traditionalists. I tend to be conservative in my views of just what constitutes clave driven music. They have been working on me however and I'm beginning to see their respective points of view. Conor sent me a video where he plays a straight ahead 4/4 swing time against the rumba clave and it really works well to my ears. These guys are into 5s, 7s and 9s as well and have developed some interesting ideas. Many Latin Jazz ensembles offer odd meter numbers in their repetoires over the last 5-6 years. Listen for them and you'll see what I mean. Willie "El Ruso"

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