on jazz drumming

Donald Bailey on Back at the Chicken Shack


back at the chicken shack grooveHaving Jazz Radio on the background is a great way to listen to a wider variety of jazz than you normally might. Occasionally something comes up that makes your sit up and take notice. Recently for me that was a Jimmy Smith tune called "Back at the Chicken Shack" from the 1963 album of the same name.

What caught my ear was the drum groove! I realised that the Hi-Hat was being voiced as the skip note of the shuffle pattern. This is an interesting and hip way to play a shuffle which gives it a lot of forward motion, but it's also incredibly hard to play well. The hi-hat placement has to be perfect, and steady! 

Turns out the drummer, Donald Baliey, a drummer I didn't know, was dubbed the "King of Organ Trio Drummers", and based on this track alone you can see why. He really lays it down, with the back beat just on beat two, and he doesn't feel the need to add anything at all - there's a lesson in that. He just keeps right in the pocket for the entire track. It's all about the groove. The only really variation is moving the two beats on the "and of 2" and "3" to the tom during the solos.

It's hard to hear that he is in fact playing jazz time on the ride cymbal, until it gets to the guitar solo. The quarter notes really come through and the skip note is really light. You can try playing it with just quarter notes on the ride or with jazz time.

It's also really hard to hear what he's doing with the bass drum, so when playing it experiment with no bass drum, bass drum lightly feathering all four quarter notes -a co-ordination challenge between the feet, and anything else that doesn't kill the groove.

This a great shuffle groove to add to your repertoire. Get it together, try playing along, and see if you can sneak it into your next organ trio gig.

Go back